By JAY BERMAN The New York Times
Halfway around the world from where John Lennon lived and died, a museum dedicated to him is attracting the kinds of crowds he enjoyed while performing with the Beatles more than three decades ago.
TOKYO Halfway around the world from where John Lennon lived and died, a museum dedicated to him is attracting the kinds of crowds he enjoyed while performing with the Beatles more than three decades ago.
The John Lennon Museum, in the Tokyo suburb of Saitama, has had nearly 200,000 visitors since it opened on Oct. 9, which would have been Lennon's 60th birthday.
Most visitors are Japanese, but a museum official, Rie Endo, said others "have come from all over the world, for instance the U.S., England, Canada, Brazil, Korea and Australia."
What they see when they travel north about 45 minutes from Shinjuku Station in downtown Tokyo is a serious, almost scholarly look at Lennon's life, from his birth to his final days in New York. His widow, Yoko Ono, cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony and has provided the museum with about 100 of the 130 items on display.
The location seems unlikely. The museum, which cost $16.6 million to build, occupies two floors of a new sports arena, concert hall and convention center, the $620 million Saitama Super Arena.
The displays are divided into chronological zones. They cover Lennon's childhood and his teenage years; his Beatle days and his early days with Ms. Ono; his peace efforts; the creation of the song "Imagine"; his life in New York; the "lost weekend" years of 1973 and 1974, when he and Ms. Ono lived apart; their reconciliation; and his return to writing and performing.
Music by Lennon and the other Beatles appropriate to each era is played in the background to augment what the visitors see. Most of the explanatory material in the display cases is in Japanese, but anyone familiar with Lennon's life or music should have no trouble picking up the rest by context. And there are pamphlets in English and other languages.
Several of Lennon's favorite guitars, including the Gallotone Champion he was playing on July 6, 1957, the day he met Paul McCartney, are on display. There is also his Rickenbacker 325, which he used in the Hamburg and early Liverpool days of the Beatles, as well as a replica of the white piano he played when he wrote "Imagine."
Adjacent to the entry hall is a small theater where a seven-minute video shows highlights of Lennon's career.
Many Lennon fans will immediately recognize the clothing on display, including the black leather jacket he wore in Hamburg, as seen in so many of the Astrid Kirchherr photos; a collarless jacket from the "Meet the Beatles" era and a replica of his "Sgt. Pepper" uniform. (Nearly all the other items are original.) There is also the New York City T-shirt he wore in a 1974 photograph seen all over the world in postcards and posters, and a United States Army sergeant's shirt he wore while performing and speaking against the Vietnam War in the early 1970's.
But many of Lennon's everyday items offer a more personal feeling, like three pairs of his round-framed glasses that are scattered among the displays. Near the end of the exhibition, in a section about Lennon's life in New York, there are a wallet, a wristwatch, a lighter and a leather cigarette case containing six cigarettes.
For some visitors it appears that one of the most poignant displays might be a glass box sitting on a table. The box, about 9 by 12 inches, contains several dollars in change, a rolled-up $5 bill wrapped around a couple of other bills, and a handful of guitar picks. The effect is as if Lennon could drop by to stuff the change, wallet and other items into his pockets and strap the watch on his wrist.
For those who identify him most with his words, there are several original lyric sheets handwritten by Lennon on hotel stationery, manila envelopes and lined notebook paper, including the words for "Julia," the song Lennon wrote about his mother.
Some lyrics appear with nothing changed or crossed out. Others show the work of this songwriter's mind. "Help," the title song from the Beatles' second film, is scrawled, as though Lennon was in a hurry.
"Help me if you can, I'm feeling down, and I do appreciate you being 'round," it reads, except Lennon had first written "and I would appreciate," but crossed it out and inserted "do" above it.
One of his best known and most respected ballads, "In My Life," was written on the back of a manila envelope on display, just 16 lines on a torn, spotted envelope, but words known around the world.
"Imagine," perhaps the song most closely associated with Lennon, is there, written in brown ink on New York Hilton memo paper. There are no changes, as though Lennon wrote in one draft the song that became a documentary on his life.
There is also a replica of his famous white piano, along with other artifacts designed to resemble the living room of the apartment he shared with Ms. Ono at the Dakota on Central Park West. And there is the original of another solo Lennon song, written just weeks before his death in 1980, called "Woman." It was both a thank you for reconciling with him and an apology to Ms. Ono after their separation. One verse is particularly poignant, because he had so little time left: "Woman, I know you understand, the little child inside the man, please remember my life is in your hands."
The exhibition ends with a display of Lennon's best-known quotations, in an almost churchlike setting, called "Forever." Various words are written on solid walls and transparent floor-to-ceiling panels.
Visitors can walk among them, examining them at their leisure. Finally they are asked to write their reflections about the museum on a piece of paper provided and to place it in one of several boxes adjacent to photographs of Lennon from particular times in his life. Some 60,000 of the visitors have offered comments.
Beatle Me This, Beatle Me That
"After all is said and done, you can't go pleasing everyone, so screw it"