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January 25, 2022

January 25, 1980: Paul McCartney Is Released From a Tokyo Jail and Deported From Japan

Paul McCartney and his family arrived at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport on January 16, 1980. The occasion was a planned 11-city concert tour by his band Wings. Instead, Paul’s visit was limited to a nine-day stint in the Tokyo Narcotics Detention Center, which ended on January 25, 1980.

McCartney was found to be carrying nearly half a pound (200 grams) of marijuana in his baggage upon arrival at Narita—an amount that Paul would later assure Japanese authorities was intended solely for his personal use.

“I didn’t try to hide it,” he said  in an interview a few months later. “I had just come from America and still had the American attitude that marijuana isn’t that bad. I didn’t realize just how strict the Japanese attitude is.”

By 1980 was Paul McCartney so famous that he believed that he couldn’t get arrested? Those things just don’t happen to him. That while the laws were strict, the officials would turn a blind eye to him because he was Paul McCartney who was doing a huge tour in their country and therefore would bring a lot of money? Paul said about when the official found the pot (which wasn’t really hard to find since was laying right on top of his clothing).

“When the fellow pulled it out of the suitcase, he looked more embarrassed than me,” McCartney recalled. “I think he just wanted to put it back in and forget the whole thing, you know, but there it was.”

The amount was large enough, however, to warrant a smuggling charge and a potential seven-year prison sentence. Given Japan’s reputation for rigorous enforcement of its strict anti-drug laws, it was by no means a foregone conclusion that McCartney would escape trial and possible imprisonment, yet he was released and quickly deported from Japan on January 25, 1980, prior to making any appearance in court.


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