Beatles’ 1966 Tokyo Visit Remembered

A number of events were held in late June and early July in Tokyo to commemorate the 40th anniversary of The Beatles’ historic five-concert stand at Nippon Budokan Hall in Tokyo in 1966.

Most of the events involve the Capitol Tokyu Hotel, which was the Tokyo Hilton when the Fab Four stayed there in the Presidential Suite. For a limited time, fans can book the suite for 115,000 yen ($1,000) a night, which is about one-fourth the usual rate. The hotel is quick to note that almost all the furniture in the room is the same The Beatles used in 1966.

The hotel is scheduled to be torn down in November and the management understands that many boomers have certain feelings for the building simply because The Beatles stayed there, according to Kyodo News.

But there’s more. The Capitol Tokyu has flown in The Return, a Beatles cover band from the U.S., to play dinner shows in the hotel’s Pearl Room, where The Beatles held their Tokyo press conference.

In addition, the Sony Building in the Ginza is exhibiting photographs of “The Beatles in Tokyo” that were shot by Shimpei Asada, the official photographer for the 1966 visit. Major tourist attraction Tokyo Tower recently purchased the four wax figures of The Beatles that appear on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and installed them in its museum.

There have also been numerous TV specials and magazine features about the Budokan stand, which was a watershed event in more ways than one.

Built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics mainly as a way of showing off Japan’s homegrown martial art judo, which was included as an official event for the first time that year, Budokan had never been used for a pop concert before.

The Beatles’ scheduled appearance angered many right-wing groups that thought Budokan, strategically located between the Imperial Palace and Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead, was too sacred a place to host something as crass – and foreign – as a rock concert. In fact, the man who booked the group for Budokan had a change of heart shortly before they arrived in light of numerous street protests and tried to cancel the contract.

As in most matters of this kind, economics prevailed in the end, and Budokan is now more famous for rock concerts than for judo matches.

– Philip Brasor