by Junichi Yano, translated by Mikihiko Hori

The following scanned images are from a Japanese magazine called “ASAHI GURAFU (Asahi Graphic)”, from February 12th, 1971, published by the Asahi Shinbun Company.

The featured article entitled “Life with just two people in Kyoto – John Lennon, a Beatle, and Yoko Ono”, covers John & Yoko on their visit to Kyoto, during their Japanese holiday of January 13-25, 1971.

Humans are most human when they are in nature. There was free space for just two people 

Japanese Kimono. Japanese Bonbori (hand-lamp). Everything is fascinating. (John is) kind to Yoko, but quite a cocky husband. They struck “Kaiun no Kane (The Bell of Better Fortune)” at Enryakuji (Enryaku-temple). We surely will continue to have good luck!

When he sees something he likes, he would raise his fist like Banzai. When he found the land developed for housing lots on a shaved mountain, he furrowed his brow and screamed, “Kusobaka (*1).”

(John) called over to a monk who was practicing Kangyo (winter austerities as spiritual exercise) to give him alms. When the monk received a 10,000 Yen bill, he was doubly surprised. 

“There it is, there it is.” John who wanted to buy a wooden sword brandished it happily.

The town of Kyo viewed from Hiei was fogged like Koharu-biyori (*2) (an Indian summer day). (John) whispered, “Ah, this is the town that made history!”

Life with just two people in Kyoto

Out of the blue, the Beatle, John Lennon, and Yoko Ono paid a secret visit to Japan on January 13th, 1971. They visited Yoko’s “old home” in order to meet Yoko’s family for the first time after they were married. On the 25th, they left the Haneda airport and left a message for the fans, promising to visit Japan again. During the six days of their visit, they enjoyed their private life in Kyoto without being disturbed by anyone else, except when one friend of theirs (who took these photographs and wrote this text) paid a visit.

Memories in Japan as a sign of love

John told me to put my legs into a kotatsu (*3) while he was greeting me hurriedly, and opened up a book of Haiku (R.H. BLYTH = HAIKU) which he was reading, and showed me a piece in it.

Osoki Hi ya
Kodama Kikoyuru
Kyo no sumi

The slow day;
Echoes heard
In a corner of Kyoto.

“This is how I feel now,” John said. And kind eyes with a little sorrow from deep inside his customary glasses started smiling.

Yoko added by his side, “He’s been fascinated by the Haiku book since yesterday.”

Kyo’s winter grows dark early. It is only 4 p.m., but the sun starts going down on the west mountains. John and Yoko were watching it silently. “It’s been a while since we could settle down like this. John is also very pleased with it,” Yoko said quietly.

John turned to me all of a sudden, and said,
“Matsushima ya
Ah Matsushima ya
Matsushima ya” (*4)

Ah Matsushima

He pronounced each word accurately, and told me that that was one of his favorite Haiku pieces. I asked him why he liked that piece, and he said, “Isn’t it the same feeling as Yoko, ah Yoko, Yoko? Isn’t that so?”

Three of us looked at one another with John’s words and started laughing in spite of ourselves.

Bashfulness shown to a person who just met for the first time had completely disappeared, and I started having friendly sentiments, like meeting an old acquaintance of ten years again.

When I said something like, “It is beyond my happiness to see that the attractions of music match with the attractions of personality,” he said, “I always wish to be so. People in the world are all the same. I believe that people can all love one another.”

The reason that the Beatles and John & Yoko are wanted in the contemporary world must be coming from there.

John Lennon’s interests in Japan were extraordinary. It must be coming from the fact that it is Yoko’s home country, of course. However, it would be rather appropriate to say that such a creative instinct as his had smelled it out.

He wanted to know and see every extraordinary thing about Japan such as Haiku, Zen, Buddhism, Noh (*5), Gardens, etc. Yoko also noticed it, and she was touchingly attentive to him.

John was also aware of her solicitude, and he seemed to care for it.
He did not express any dissatisfaction about the inn. Following the menus for the meals at the inn as they were, he ate everything gladly like Yu-Dofu (*6), Oden (*7), Tsukemono (*8), Miso soup, saying “tasty, tasty,” as if he were Japanese. He was pleased enough to have some lunch that had been ordered from the outside restaurants.

He said, “I like Japanese Furo (*9) very much. There is no problem in using a Japanese toilet, either. This place is quiet and comfortable.”
One of his daily works was to watch a live TV telecast of Sumo (*10) at dusk. With Yoko’s explanations and interpretation, he watched each match excitedly. He was especially fond of Wakanami, a small Sumo wrestler, and John was very glad, shouting when the Sumo wrestler won after having restarted a round.

I wonder if they could recover from the fatigue of a trip to Kyoto to avoid the eyes of cruel cameras? As a wife and being Japanese, Yoko must have wanted to show a beautiful Japan to her husband.

“Although Kyoto is still quiet and nice,” Yoko said, “after an absence of a while, I noticed that Tokyo has turned really terrible. The air smelled really bad. Only the outsiders can notice it.”

“I thought Los Angeles was terrible,” John said, “but Tokyo is worse than that. I wonder why Tokyo citizens can remain silent. I think each person must complain more.”

When I showed my frowned face, he consoled me by saying, “England started getting better since the Industrial Revolution. It took a hundred years and complaints by each citizen. Japan would be better more rapidly, I believe.”

It appeared to be really fun to spend a day by walking in the mountains, the city, and temples in Kyoto. They repeatedly said, “Wonderful” and “Fantastic,” while they were eating Botan-nabe (*11) in Kibune (*12).
And they cried broadly watching “Sumida-gawa” (*13) by Utaemon (*14) and Kanzaburo (*15) at the Kabuki-Za (*16) in Tokyo.

It was the essence that was discovered by a foreigner who did not understand Japanese words.

“I will bring the real Japan to London. One day, Japanese people might visit me to see Japan in me.”

This sounds like his own style of joke. But it seems to be the words of his gladness that were born from the fulfillment of his expectations about Japan. And it is also a sign of his abundant love for one Japanese woman, Yoko, who fills up his heart. Yoko, on the other hand, is a splendid woman who can respond to his expectations. (J)

Biwa-Ko (Lake Biwa) Ura-Hie (the back of Hie) that overlooks the mountains in Hie. They whispered to each other, “It would be quiet and nice to build a house on the snowy mountain.”



Translator’s notes:

(*1) “Kusobaka” : “Kuso” means “shit,” and “Baka” means “stupid,” or “fool,” so two together mean, I would say, “shitty fool,” or something like that. John must have learned this coinage “Kusobaka” from Yoko.

(*2) Koharu-biyori : An Indian summer day, a balmy autumn day.

(*3) kotatsu : A fixed foot (body) warmer (with a quilt over it)

(*4) Matsuhima : Matsushima is a group of islands in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. There are some 260 tiny islands (shima) covered in pines (matsu) – hence the name – and is ranked as one of the Three Views of Japan.

(*5) Noh : Noh is a major form of classical Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 14th century. Together with the closely-related kyogen farce, it evolved from various popular, folk and aristocratic art forms, including Dengaku, Shirabyoshi, and Gagaku.

(*6 )Yu-Dofu : Bean curd boiled in water

(*7) Oden : Japanese hotchpotch

(*8) Tsukemono : Pickles

(*9) Furo : A bath, a bathtub

(*10) Sumo : Sumo is a competition contact sport where two wrestlers or
rikishi face off in a circular area. The sport is of Japanese origin and is
surrounded by ceremony and ritual. The Japanese consider Sumo a gendai budo: a modern Japanese marital art, even though the sport has a history spanning many centuries.

(*11) Botan-Nabe: Pottery food using the meat of wild boar.

(*12) Kibune : One area in Kyoto.

(*13) Sumida-gawa : “Sumida River”. A famous Kabuki – Noh play.

(*14) Utaemon : Utaemon Nakamura VI. A famous Kabuki actor (1917 – 2001).

(*15) Kanzaburo : Kanzaburo Nakamura XVII A famous Kabuki actor (1909 – 1988)

(*16) Kabuki-Za : The Kabuki-Za Theater in Tokyo, Japan

Translated by Mikihiko Hori