The Day the Rolling Stones Finally Played Japan
When the Rolling Stones' 1990 reception at Tokyo's Narita Airport was described as "reminiscent of the welcomes they'd seen during their British Invasion days," it wasn't hyperbole. In fact, their subsequent Feb. 14, 1990 show at the Korakuen Dome was -- rather incredibly -- the first time the Rolling Stones had ever taken the stage in Japan.
They played a set that leaned heavily on old favorites, though several songs -- "Mixed Emotions," "Sad Sad Sad," "Rock and Hard Place" and "Can't Be Seen" -- from the current Steel Wheels were sprinkled throughout.
Visa problems had kept the band away during a previous attempt to play Tokyo in 1973, according to Rolling Stone. They'd planned to mount a series of shows dubbed the Stones Touring Party, then continue into Australia and Hawaii -- before Mick Jagger's application was rejected over a misdeamenor late-'60s pot bust with Marianne Faithfull. Ironically, all of those years later, it was Jagger who cracked open the door for a long-awaited Japanese appearance by the Stones, when he was granted permission to mount a solo tour in 1988.
Some 50,000 fans were there as the Rolling Stones debuted two years later, at a ticket price of 10,000 yen -- or roughly $70 back then. This was the first of what would be 10 sold-out shows, as the Rolling Stones' estimated gross income ballooned to some $30 million for just two weeks of work.
For all of those successes in Japan, however, there were behind-the-scenes issues. Keith Richards' mother-in-law suffered a heart attack while they were in Japan, and remained at a Tokyo hospital even after the rest of the group returned home.
More pressing, however, was Bill Wyman's situation. Caring for a seriously ill parent, he hadn't arrived until Feb. 11, missing a series of rehearsals dating back to Feb. 6 as well as the introductory news conference at Korakuen Hall on Feb. 9. Wyman's dad passed away two weeks later, and this would ultimately be remembered as his final tour with the band he'd co-founded three decades earlier.
The Rolling Stones elected not to ship the huge stage back home afterward, instead selling the parts for scrap. A live document from this trek, titled Live at the Toyko Dome, didn't emerge until 2012.