Paul McCartney is arrested in Japan for marijuana possession

Wings’ 11-date tour of Japan was scheduled to run from 21 January to 2 February 1980. On 16 January Paul and Linda McCartney and their four children arrived in the country.

Paul McCartney’s previous application for a Japanese visa had been turned down in 1976. This time he was allowed into the country as it was a brief tour.

Upon their arrival at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, however, customs officials found 219 grammes of marijuana, with a street value of 600,000 yen, hidden in Paul’s luggage and inside the hood of one of his children.

Paul McCartney is arrested in Tokyo, Japan, 16 January 1980

McCartney was arrested, handcuffed and questioned for an hour by narcotics control officers. It was then decided that further questioning would take place the following day.

Now known as prisoner number 22, McCartney spent the night in the local jail. The rest of his family stayed in the Okura Hotel, along with Denny Laine, Laurence Juber and Steve Holley of Wings.

It’s really very silly. People certainly are different over here. They take it so very seriously. Paul is now in some kind of detention place and I have not been allowed to see him. As soon as they get someone nice like Paul, they seem to make a field day of it!

I’ll never come back to Japan again. It’s my first trip and my last!

Linda McCartney

The arrest put the tour in jeopardy, and Wings’ music was immediately banned from all television and radio stations across Japan.

Wings’ Japanese promoters announced that a decision on the 11 concerts would be made the next day. On this evening they told reporters: Almost 100,000 tickets for the concerts have been sold, representing a possible loss of well over 100 million yen.”

McCartney was imprisoned for a total of 10 days until 25 January 1980. He was released without charge and deported to England.

The other members of Wings had left Japan on 21 January. The dates of the tour were to have been Budokan Hall, Tokyo (21-24 January), Aichi-Ken, Taiiku-Kan, Nagoya (25-26 January), Festival Hall, Osaka (28 January), Osaka Furitsu-Kan, Osaka (29 January), Budokan Hall, Tokyo (31 January to 2 February).

Last updated: 9 February 2023
Wings live: Hammersmith Odeon, London
UK album release: McCartney II by Paul McCartney
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