Paul McCartney arrested and jailed in Japan

Wednesday, January 16, 1980
Timeline More from year 1980
Narita International Airport, Tokyo, Japan

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On this day, Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney and their four children flew to Tokyo for the upcoming Wings Japan tour. At the airport, customs officials found 219 grams of cannabis in Paul McCartney’s luggage. They arrested McCartney and brought him to a local jail while the Japanese government decided what to do. He was to stay ten days in jail, before being released and deported without charge. From

Former Beatle Paul McCartney was arrested and jailed in Japan for possession of marijuana on this day in 1980.

The musician had landed at Tokyo’s Narita airport with the rest of his band, Wings, his wife Linda and their four children prior to a short tour of the country when the drugs were found in his suitcase.

Customs officials discovered nearly eight ounces of the drug in McCartney’s belongings, at a time when possession of that amount could be punished with a sentence of seven years’ hard labour.

He was arrested, handcuffed and questioned for an hour by narcotics officers, who then transferred him to the local jail, while his family and band members were placed in a hotel. Japanese authorities held him there while they decided what to do with him. […]

When the fellow pulled it out of the suitcase, he looked more embarrassed than me. I think he just wanted to put it back in and forget the whole thing, you know, but there it was. I didn’t try to hide it. 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. I made a confession on the night I was arrested and apologized for breaking Japanese law, but they still wanted to know everything. I had to go through my whole life story—school, father’s name, income, even my medal from the Queen.

Paul McCartney

Well, to this day I have no idea what made me do it. I don’t know if it was just arrogance or what. Maybe I thought that they wouldn’t open my suitcase… I can’t put myself back into that mindset now.

I could almost persuade myself I was framed. I don’t think I was, but when you see the news footage – the guy opens the suitcase and there, right on top… It’s like a pop-up book – here, check this!

It was the maddest thing in my life – to go into Japan, which has a seven-year hard labour penalty for pot, and be so free and easy. I put a bloody great bag of the stuff right on the top of my suitcase. Why didn’t I even hide it in a pullover? I look at the footage now, and I just think, ‘That couldn’t have been me’

Paul McCartney, from Wingspan book, 2002

We were about to fly to Japan and I knew I wouldn’t be able to get anything to smoke over there. This stuff was too good to flush down the toilet, so I thought I’d take it with me.

Paul McCartney, 2004

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

Last updated on May 3, 2020

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