The ‘Budokan’ and Doing ‘A Beatles’! (29.3.2023) 

Richard Hunn (1949-2006) relocated to Kyoto, Japan during 1991 as part of an immense life change. Ostensibly, he was travelling to the ancient City of Kyoto (spared US bombing during WWII) – on an academic mission to study the origins of Chinese Ch’an in Japan. This School of (Mahayana) Chinese Buddhism believed to have been introduced in 520 CE from its native India – would be re-interpreted and re-constituted to become what is known in the world today as ‘Japanese Zen’! The point is that Japanese Zen reflects the Japanese culture it has been absorbed into – and in so doing deviated away from its purely ‘Chinese’ cultural roots. Richard Hunn, whilst teaching me in person (and at a distance) – how to read write and interpret Chinese ideograms – intended to unravel this complex bundle of contradictions, and to do this effectively, he had to be physically ‘in Japan’.  

By 1996 Richard Hunn had re-married and was teaching English in Kyoto. His partner was an ethnic Japanese woman – and both were very happy together (I know Richard’s widow and she is a fine woman). A few years later, whilst sat in my living room in South London, Richard would describe his new life set-up as doing ‘a Beatles’ – referring to John Lennon’s intimate relationship with Yoko Ono. Interestingly, Lennon had met Ono in late 1966 – thirty years prior to Riichard marrying his new ‘Japanese’ spouse during 1996. When photographs of John and Yoko are viewed – most people see two diverse and complex individuals who were engaged in a highly public relationship (they were married from 1969 until John’s murder in 1980). Both had been married before (as had Richard) and many raised an eyebrow at how each treated their former partners (rumour has it that Yoko prevented her own son she had with John – Sean – from attending his own father’s funeral).  

Racism is a plague upon humanity which has probably killed more people than any single (medical) disease! Whereas today, at least in the high-density cities of the UK ‘mixed’ marriages between non-White and White individuals is fairly common and accepted as normal – in the 1960s things were very different in the UK. People had mixed for decades, this much is true of British working-class culture, but the British Establishment was not always that accepting. Quite often the political right-wing and far-right would be encouraged to physically, psychologically and emotionally attack any and all couples who chose what was termed at the time as the disgusting habit of ‘race’ mixing! In many ways, John and Yoko as a mixed couple was a ‘Revolutionary’ statement in and of itself, one that must not be confused with the personality of Yoko Ono or her actions with regards to the Beatles and her alleged involvement in their eventual splitting as a group. 

The Japanese Flag is Added to Appease the Racists!

Where today we see an ‘interesting couple’, some of our recent ancestors saw only degenerate integration between incompatible races! Many forget (or do not recognise) this important issue in contemporary times when discussing the history of the Beatles. As a couple, both John and Yoko must have experienced terrible prejudice and discrimination – with Yoko Ono having to bear the brunt of ‘White’ racism and discrimination whilst living in the West (whether she would openly admit this reality in public is another matter). Sadly, whilst distancing himself from the political left’s intention to change the external world – John was murdered by the very ignorance embedded in this (‘unchanged’) world! Whether any of the reasons for his death were ‘racist’ in nature is a matter of debate. What is known is that John moved further toward the political left during the 1970s whilst living in the US – so much so that the US government was preparing to ‘deport’ him for his sympathies toward International Communism! As matters transpired, an American lunatic with a gun beat the US government to it! 

John Lennon had been to Japan with the Beatles about five months before he met Yoko Ono in New York. The Beatles made their first visit to Asia at the end of June 1966. They played two televised Concerts at the ‘Budokan’ on June 30th and July 1st, 1966. This is actually the ‘Nippon Budokan’ (日本武道館) located in the heart of Tokyo. The name means ‘Japan Martial Arts Training Hall’ and this venue was built and opened in 1964. Although Japan was still officially ‘Occupied’ by the US Military until 1972 (following Japan’s Unconditional Surrender during late 1945) – the Americans tolerated a certain level of right-wing Japanese ultra-nationalism amongst the population – providing it was contained to being aimed at Communist China. Yoko Ono’s family is said to have been supportive of this ‘racist’ ultra-nationalism – which she rebelled against by having relationships (and children) with ‘White’ men. At one point, Yoko Ono even allowed her husband to have an 18-month affair with his ethnic ‘Chinese’ secretary – the American-born May-Pang (龐鳳儀 – Pang Feng Yi). 

John and May Pang – c. 1973-1975!

The problem was that this Japanese fascist ideology could not always be so easily contained, and it often still manifested in its old anti-White orientation (an important and powerful component of the Japanese fascist ideology that had justified and inspired Japanese military aggression during the 1930s and 1940s)! Prior to the Beatles going on stage in Tokyo – the ultra-nationalists of Japan had stated they were outraged by this ‘spiritual’ pollution of what should be a ‘Japanese’ only ‘sacred space’! As threats of racial violence were issued, the Japanese Police and Military mobilised to ‘protect’ the Beatles – who were strictly confined to their hotel rooms for their own safety! This experience shocked the Beatles who never left the relative safety of Europe (and the US) again – although the spectre of death would eventually visit John Lennon not in Tokyo – but in New York.