Remembering Ishihara

A week after Michael Jackson’s death, another passing of a singing superstar was commemorated in Tokyo – 23 years after that passing, in fact.

Yujiro Ishihara died in 1987 at the age of 52 and remains one of the biggest stars in Japanese pop history.

The 23rd year after a person’s death has special meaning among Buddhists, and the temple in Yokohama that holds Ishihara’s remains was afraid it would not be able to accommodate all his old fans wishing to pray for Ishihara. So they rented the National Stadium in Tokyo and erected a replica of the temple on the field.

Only 35,000 seats were made available inside the stadium, but thousands more lined up outside to get in. The crowd spilled over into nearby Meiji Park, and organizers estimated that 120,000 people showed up to pay their respects.

The event included speeches and tributes by celebrities who were close to Ishihara as well as 120 monks chanting sutras for a full hour.

Commentators compared the event to a rock concert, and some of the more elderly in attendance fainted from heat stroke and excitement. Eventually, those outside the stadium were allowed in to lay carnations in front of the temple. A choir, split into three groups, also sang Ishihara’s string of hits for a full 12 hours.

Though no admission was charged and the organizers spent a huge amount of money, they didn’t necessarily end up in the red.
Souvenirs related to Ishihara sold briskly. Pundits said Ishihara may be more popular now than when he was alive.