Nine Things You Possibly Didn’t Know About U2 and Japan*

December 2, 2006 · Print This Article

By Paul Rowlands
2006.12

It has been over eight years since U2 played a concert in Japan, but here they are.

Speaking to my Japanese friends, it seems U2 are still known as a “big” band, but an “old” band, their latest album, 2004’s “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” is “cool,” and [they] have a reputation for being a first-class live band. Perhaps this is a good indication of U2’s enduring worldwide popularity as they were able to sell out three shows in a big venue—Super Saitama Arena in Tokyo, next to the John Lennon Museum—after originally announcing one show (and then cancelling) earlier this year.

Here is some random trivia to whet the appetite of anyone attending U2’s final Japanese show for the Vertigo tour on December 4. Below, you will see that U2 actually has quite a special relationship with Japan, and that things tend to happen when they visit!

1. Japanese CDs usually have bonus tracks, to encourage people to purchase the Japanese edition instead of the cheaper import alternative. These special editions are usually released three days before the rest of the world. Here are just two notable bonus tracks that have appeared on the Japanese editions of U2 albums:

“Pop” — “Holy Joe (Guilty Mix)” from the “Discotheque” single. The enclosed booklet features an extra page with the song’s lyrics and early sketches of the Popmart stage.

“All That You Can’t Leave Behind” — “The Ground Beneath Her Feet” a song penned by controversial author Salmon Rushdie after the book of the same name, from “The Million Dollar Hotel” original soundtrack album, a film written by Bono.

2. U2 was appearing on an unidentified TV show in November 1983, performing “New Year’s Day” when Edge’s guitar broke down. The band then apparently had to improvise the end of the song.

3. The Passengers’ album, “Original Soundtracks 1,” features Japanese singer Holi on the track “Ito Okashi” (aka: “Something Beautiful”). Here is a translation of the lyrics:

Let’s talk about something beautiful
Of this earth, something very close to you
About something tasteful
Something exciting
Certainly something interesting.

4. U2′s shows in Japan to date, 18 overall:

War tour:
Osaka (Festival Hall), 22 November 1983.
Nagoya, 23 November 1983.
Tokyo (Sun Plaza Hall), 26/ 27/ 28/ 29 November 1983.

Lovetown tour:
Yokohama (Sports Arena), 23 November 1989.
Tokyo (Tokyo Dome), 25/ 26 November 1989.
Osaka (Castle Hall), 28/ 29 November 1989.

Zoo TV tour:
Tokyo (Tokyo Dome), 9/ 10 December 1993.

Popmart tour:
Tokyo (Tokyo Dome), 5 March 1998.
Osaka (Osaka Dome), 11 March 1998.

Vertigo tour:
Tokyo (Saitama Super Arena), 29/ 30 November and 4th
December 2006.

5. BAD LUCK:

For U2’s November 23 1989 show in Yokohama, the band’s gear was flown from Sydney, Australia, where they had just played three shows. The 747 was hit by a flock of
seagulls, and so the band’s equipment only arrived hours before the actual show.

At the Osaka tour stop during the Popmart tour, the band’s infamous disco ball lemon stopped midway down the track. U2 couldn’t even dismount out of the back like they did in Oslo, Norway and Sydney. Eventually the back-up system kicked in, and the band played on.

6. U2 has left long gaps between playing concerts in Japan. The band visited in 1983 to promote “War,” but skipped the country on the tours to promote “The Unforgettable Fire” and “The Joshua Tree,” only to return six years and one day after their first ever Japanese show on the Lovetown tour. There was then a four year gap until U2 visited on the Zoo TV tour and three years and three months until the Popmart tour. The longest ever gap is eight years and eight months. As the band didn’t visit during the extremely popular Elevation tour, and has waited to come to Japan until the end of the current Vertigo tour.

7. Apparently after Zoo TV ended in Japan, the band was frazzled, as noted in the recently-published “U2 by U2” and “U2 at the End of the World” by Bill Flanagan, which many fans call “the orange Bible.” For example, Bono woke up in a yakuza-owned establishment with a python crawling around the room, and The Edge and Larry Mullen, Jr. were thinking of continuing the tour. As Mullen once said, “…you can’t finish a tour in Japan.”

8. U2 worked with renowned Japanese DJ/electronica producer Satoshi Tomiie who supplied keyboards and programming duties on David Morales’s “Lemon” remixes in 1993. Tomiie is the owner of house music label SAW.

9. A minor controversy erupted when the “Zoo TV Live From Sydney” concert was aired on Japanese TV. Many fans in the country became offended by a report that the phrase "BOMB JAPAN NOW," appeared among various random phrases displayed during "The Fly." In fact, the phrase never appeared, being entirely a figment of the imagination of the reporter who brought the story to light. The show’s designer, Willie Williams confirms that the phrase was never part of the video piece, "All three of those words are present individually somewhere in the barrage of text," he says, "but not in this order and are separated by hundreds of other random words.

We can only wonder what U2 has in store for Japan this time around.

Many thanks to Willie Williams for a clarification of events in regards to the ‘BOMB JAPAN NOW’ controversy. – Updated August 19, 2007

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