When ‘Typhoon Marilyn’ Came to Tokyo

Heather Howard has accessed the Yomiuri Shimbun archives on Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio’s Far-East adventure for The Japan News.

“‘Typhoon Marilyn Monroe comes to Tokyo.’ She certainly did, with a force so powerful it sent some of her fans tumbling into a pond at the Imperial Hotel.

On Feb. 2, 1954, the morning edition of The Yomiuri Shimbun reported — under that typhoon headline — that Monroe had arrived at Haneda Airport the day before with her new husband, baseball great Joe DiMaggio. The trip was part honeymoon, part business: DiMaggio had been invited to coach Central League teams during spring training that year.

Fans began gathering at Haneda Airport two hours before their scheduled arrival. When Monroe and DiMaggio’s Pan American flight finally touched down — four hours late — the fans pushed past police and flooded onto the runway, surrounding the plane.

A group of Japanese dignitaries was waiting to greet them at the base of the stairs, but that plan was abandoned. Monroe appeared, carried by DiMaggio, bringing what The Yomiuri described as an ‘ecstatic reaction.’

However, the crowds of people made it impossible for them to get to customs, so they retreated back into the plane. After nearly another hour they finally exited through a cargo door and headed in a U.S. Embassy car for the Imperial Hotel.

The brouhaha, however, was far from over, as fans even climbed trees along her route. Monroe and her party had been scheduled to parade through the Shinbashi, Ginza and Hibiya areas of Tokyo, but that too was scrapped due to the chaos at the airport.

Monroe was forced to use a rear banquet entrance when she arrived at the Imperial, according to a history of the hotel. When it looked like the crush of fans, irate at not seeing their idol, would break the glass in the lobby doors, Monroe showed herself from a second-floor balcony at the hotel’s request. This calmed the ruckus, but as she was greeting the crowd, the history tells us, ‘two or three fans fell into the pond in front of the [hotel’s] Wright building.’

That seems like a fortunately small number. One of the photos accompanying the Yomiuri article shows a veritable sea of people outside the Imperial Hotel, with some fans having even climbed up on the roof.

Monroe and DiMaggio traveled to other parts of the country as well. When they stayed in Fukuoka for four days, about 5,000 people gathered outside their hotel there.

Nor was the fuss limited to fans. Over 300 journalists attended a press conference the day after Monroe’s arrival, and in Fukuoka, local journalists who had learned where Monroe and DiMaggio were dining one day abruptly opened the door to their room at the restaurant, took her picture, and with just a ‘thank you’ fled the scene.

Monroe ultimately departed Japan with DiMaggio on Feb. 24 from Haneda Airport. The furor of their arrival had clearly made an impression: This time the general public’s entry was restricted, Japanese plainclothes police stood guard along with military police from the U.S. Air Force, and there was at least one armored car on the apron. “

Marilyn and the Women Who Changed History

Marilyn is featured in this one-off special from Elle, joining Sarah Bernhardt, Ella Fitzgerald, and Brigitte Bardot among forty ‘Women Who Changed History‘. (Her photo was taken during a tour of Brady Airbase in Fukuoka, Japan in February 1954.) The magazine is available now in France for € 6.95.

Marilyn was also the subject of L’Autre là, la Blonde, a play starring Marie-Line Rossetti as an older Monroe, staged last week at the Balcony Theatre in Avignon.