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Friday, June 25, 2010

Japan fans to 'Beat It' in memory of Michael

Staff writer

One year after the death of pop icon Michael Jackson, the tears may have stopped, but the devotion continues.

As music lovers reflect on June 25, the first anniversary of Jackson's death, the King of Pop's Japanese fans have organized a variety of events to pay tribute in their own way.

Foremost among the commemorative events is "Zenkoku Douji Beat It!!," a simultaneous worldwide dance performance to Jackson's "Beat It." It could be the largest unofficial dance tribute ever in Japan. On June 26, (which will be June 25 in the United States due to the time difference), a Japanese fan group called "Tribute to Michael Jackson" will perform a series of street dances throughout Japan. The group was originally founded via Japanese social-networking site Mixi, and its members have performed Jackson dance tributes before.

This time, the group is coordinating simultaneous dances in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Sendai, Nagasaki and Otaru, Hokkaido. Five-hundred people have so far expressed their intent in participating and the number has continued to increase as the performance approaches.

The dance tribute has garnered interest from a variety of age groups — potential participants ranging from elementary school children to senior citizens.

"It was unexpected that so many teenagers and 20-something fans joined our events, even though they were not born in Michael's golden age," says Kouichi Oshima, the dance-event organizer. "They have been introduced to Michael's great stage presence and spirit by their parents and have become fascinated with him."

Tribute to Michael Jackson is also coordinating performances in Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Taiwan and Ukraine. The group's event schedule and performance videos can be found on their blog at ameblo.jp/beatit2010.

If you're not much of a dancer, you can view some of Jackson's personal items at Tokyo Tower (mjlifetimecollection.com). The collection will be on display until July 4.

Juliana's Urban Development Group, which organized the exhibition, is also offering a small number of Jackson devotees the opportunity to spend the night with the belongings. The July 25 event, "One Night with Michael," will be open to fans selected by phone interview.

"Japanese people's characteristics, seen in their reactions toward Michael Jackson, are unique in the world," says Matt Taylor, the representative of Juliana's Urban Development Group. "The nature of Japanese people is that they are so sensitive to the subtleties of other people's feelings, so they strongly (identify with) Michael's philosophical messages."

Many other Jackson tributes are being held over the weekend. Fans looking for a place to dance can attend a memorial party at Club Air in Tokyo's Daikanyama district on June 25 (air-tokyo.com). Many TV programs over the weekend will feature the artist's performances and videos for those who want to stay home.

It's plausible that Jackson could end up with some new fans after the weekend commemorations are finished.

"This anniversary is already a chance for existing fans to rediscover Jackson's glorious deeds and grieve his death," says Sunao Umoto, a representative of The Michael Jackson Official Fan Club Japan (mjfc.jp/). "Numerous people actually have turned into new fans through these kinds of events."

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