In Japan, Fans Ask 'How can it be true?'

ABC's Noriko Namiki reports from Japan:

Japanese fans started to write comments on line early Friday morning as soon as they heard the news. A website called "Moonwalker" serves as an unofficial fan club, and was full of postings. “TV has been saying Michael is dead. How can it be true? This must be a lie and he is going to perform in a concert soon,” one fan wrote.

TV stations carried live reports from Los Angeles and even comments made by some Japanese politicians. “He often drew public attention. It is extremely regrettable to hear about his sudden passing,” Takeo Kawamura, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary said about Jackson’s death at a regular press conference. “I grew up listening and watching The Jackson Five. Therefore the news of his death leaves me with a feeling of sadness,” said Tsutomu Sato, Minister of Internal Affairs and Communication when asked by Japanese reporters about Jackson’s death. One of Japan's commercial television stations, Fuji TV, added a two-hour evening program as a tribute to Jackson. Music stores such as Tower Records in Tokyo quickly set up special displays carrying Jackson’s CDs.

“Japan always had a tremendous fan base for Michael Jackson,” said Dave Spector, a TV commentator who saw Michael Jackson in Japan back in 2007. “Like many other countries outside of the United States, Japanese fans are not judgmental and they regard him as an artist before anything else. That is why he would like to come to Japan as well and he always had a great deal of fun out here.”

Jackson visited Japan in March, 2007 to attend several events including one called “The Premium V.I.P. Party with Michael Jackson" where the singer managed to garner $3,500 a ticket. Those who could afford and get hold of a ticket had an evening with a red carpet welcome -- cocktails a buffet dinner and most importantly, an opportunity to meet, shake hands and have a photo taken with their favorite King of Pop. Jackson indeed had a strong fan base in Japan. In 1987, he drew more than 450,000 in a series of 11 performances across the country in his Bad Tour. He returned to Japan for a few more performances. HIStory World Tour in 1996 became Jackson’s last big gig in Japan.

Spector said, if Jackson was still alive, Japanese fans might have seen another performance as Jackson himself was contemplating the idea of performing in Japan. “There was some discussion even with Michael directly when he was here last with everyone like -- Gee, would it be great to start off his comeback in Japan? -- that was, of course, before the London gig was decided.” Jackson never made it to either London or Tokyo. “Now the music industry is so fragmented, I do not think there is ever going to be someone who can have a hit like Thriller anymore,” said Spector. “There is a certain sadness not only about Michael Jackson’s passing but due to the fact that there is not going to be another superstar like him in our age. Many Japanese fans were not only loyal to Michael -- they worshipped him. This is going to be a tremendous loss especially to them.”

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