In Jim Jarmusch's 1989 cult film Mystery Train, a young Japanese couple visits Memphis, Tennessee. Enamored with Elvis Presley and 1950s American youth culture, the young couple wanders around Memphis, most likely making a stop at 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard.
Like so many fans before him, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is making the same pilgrimage to Memphis. And like all of those that came before him, he is going to Graceland, Presley's former home and final resting place.
Koizumi might be better known for, say, his risky albeit successful campaign to privatize Japan's post office and state bank, his efforts to modernize the Japanese economy or his landslide reelection last year.
But his mane of grey hair betrays the fact that he is a rock 'n roller at heart. The dynamic Japanese leader, who shares his birthday with the King, has released a charity compilation of his favorite Elvis tracks and even helped raise money to erect a statue of Elvis in Tokyo in 1987, the 10th anniversary of Presley's death. Koizumi's favorite song by the rock and roll legend: “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You.”
Elvis lived at Graceland from the late 1950s until his death in 1977 and the house is loaded down with pop lore. Fans on the tour are able to see the infamous Jungle Room, the TV room with its three televisions (which Elvis would allegedly shoot from time to time) and the bar/poolroom where his “Memphis Mafia” entourage would while away the hours.
Adding to such storied history, after Koizumi and President George W. Bush toured the house last month, it reportedly became the only private residence in the US to have hosted a joint-visit by a sitting president and foreign head of state. Not counting the White House, embassies and presidential residences or retreats, of course.
Last year, Graceland was sold to CKX, an entertainment company that hopes to continue the commercialization of the already over-commercialized house. Plans include a larger visitor center and the addition of a second hotel in an attempt to create the “total fan experience.”
No word on what Koizumi thinks of the additions, but he'll certainly enjoy the pilgrimage all the same.
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