Tokyo’s Budokan arena was built for judo, not rock ’n’ roll. But after the 1964 Olympic Games, the stadium took on a new life as a mecca for musicians. The Beatles played five shows here in 1966, followed over the years by Bob Dylan, Cheap Trick and Janet Jackson. The Budokan developed a reputation as a venue that brought out the best in musicians, and the best wanted to play there.
On a February night in 2015, the Budokan hosted an audience of more than 8,000 to celebrate a local band’s 15–year anniversary. Its members strode onstage amid blue lights, lasers, cheers and a sea of waving hands, many clutching glow sticks. The two front men, one wearing sunglasses, the other playing a low–slung Gibson Flying V guitar, sang in a seamless mix of Japanese and English. This wasn’t surprising: They lived in Japan and had families there. But it may be a little misleading to call them locals.