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One million and counting

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

TOKYO(Reuters): Sixteen years after the Rolling Stones first toured Japan, the venerable British rockers are set to play this week for the one-millionth fan to hear them in the cavernous Tokyo Dome. The band will kick off the Asian leg of their ''A Bigger Bang'' world tour tomorrow at the 50,000-capacity venue, which has hosted more Rolling Stones concerts and drawn more fans than any other venue where they have ever performed. The show will be their 23rd at the Tokyo Dome, home to baseball's Yomiuri Giants, since the band first played in Japan in 1990.

''I can't believe we are playing to the millionth people in Japan this week,'' flamboyant singer Mick Jagger told a news conference in Tokyo yesterday. ''That's going to be very exciting to me,'' Jagger said. The group is scheduled to play a total of five concerts in Japan, including two at the Tokyo Dome. Jagger, known as a cricket fan, expressed interest in the World Baseball Classic, whose championship game this week pits Japan against Cuba. ''The two teams are really different,'' Jagger said. ''Japan is a very professional team and Cuba is an amateur team.'' Asked later to predict the outcome, Jagger diplomatically forecast a victory by Japan.

The Rolling Stones, known for chart-topping hits like ''Satisfaction'' and ''Honky Tonk Women'' during a career spanning more than 40 years, are back in Japan for the first time since 2003, after tours in 1995 and 1998. Jagger said he looks forward to playing for the first time in Sapporo, on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, and revisiting Nagoya in central Japan. Guitarist Keith Richards said he hoped see Japan's renowned cherry blossoms.

Jagger added, ''Yes, this time we're going to actually see the cherry blossom-the transient cherry blossom.'' After Japan the band, including drummer Charlie Watts and guitarist Ron Wood, plans to make its mainland China debut in Shanghai on April 8. Two shows planned for China in spring 2003 were cancelled because of the SARS epidemic.

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