With a chorus of “America the Beautiful,” the Japanese paid a warm tribute to former President Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, at a gala benefit concert Sunday.
The concert, organized to benefit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, began and ended with the patriotic song and featured Perry Como, Placido Domingo, the Harlem Boys Choir and Japanese stars Yuzo Kayama and Toshihiko Tahara.
“You’ll never know, Ron, how much we need you. Please come here with Nancy to stay,” went the final tribute, set to the tune of “You Are My Sunshine.”
The concert was organized by the Fujisankei Communications Group, which is sponsoring the Reagans’ visit. Reagan and Fujisankei have refused to confirm reports he is being paid $2 million for his appearances.
The Reagans waved to the audience and performers and sang along with them in a final chorus of “America the Beautiful.”
Scenes of events during Reagan’s presidency were shown on huge video screens near the stage. The scenes were subtitled with phrases praising Reagan for “restoring public confidence in America” and helping to “maintain peace throughout the world.”
The audience of more than 10,000 paid $35 to $70 to attend the event at Yokohama Arena, 18 miles south of Tokyo.
“I thank you for your interest in the presidential library. . . . I want to thank all of you,” Reagan said in brief comments after the concert. “I’m at a loss for words.”
Earlier, the Reagans toured a mountainside art museum in Hakone, 63 miles southwest of Tokyo, owned by Fujisankei.
Reagan stopped along the way to shake hands with Japanese museum-goers but did not respond to reporters’ questions about his reported fee.
Fujisankei, Japan’s largest media group, owns the newspaper Sankei Shimbun, the Fuji Telecasting Corp. and Nippon Hoso, Japan’s biggest commercial radio network, among dozens of other companies.
Like its chairman, Nobutaka Shikanai, many of the company’s media outlets espouse conservatism and nationalism. At the time of Emperor Hirohito’s death and the controversy it spawned over his role in World War II, the Fuji TV network generally carried few critical views of Japan’s imperial system.
The network’s low-brow programming contrasts sharply with the company’s impressive art collections, including its outdoor sculpture garden in Hakone.
Today, Reagan begins the two-day official portion of his visit, during which he will meet with Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu, Emperor Akihito and other Japanese leaders.