Monday 24 April 2017

Budokan Concerts and Foreign Bands

The Budokan lit up at night with the golden "onion" dome visible on top
The Budokan, with the famous golden "onion" dome on top
Last Friday I went to the Budokan (left), one of Japan's most famous live venues. As the name suggests though, its primary purpose is not music but martial arts (=budō or 武道) and the venue was in fact originally built to host the judo at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic games. When The Beatles became the first band to play here in 1966, some people complained that hosting a Western music concert would "defile" the sacred martial arts arena. Housing around 15,000 spectators and with a distinctive octagonal roof with a gold "onion" (tamanegi) on top (made famous in a song) and unique overlapping wings inside (see video below), the acoustics are excellent.

Unfortunately, the band didn't do the arena justice at all - the singer was horribly out of tune - reflecting the fact that many older Western groups see Japan as a cash-cow and continue to tour even when way past their sell-by-date. Japanese audiences though are eminently polite and booing and walk-outs are unheard of. Indeed, they are "almost over-appreciative" (in the words of Eric Clapton in the notes of his 1980 Budokan live album) and even fumbling attempts at speaking Japanese and audience interaction are typically met with screams of approval.