TOKYO, SEPT. 11 -- Miki Ikeda caught the first morning train downtown to stand vigil outside one of Tokyo's poshest hotels today, all in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the man Japanese newspapers have dubbed "Typhoon Michael."
But it was not to be. Michael Jackson, who arrived here Wednesday to kick off his much-publicized "world tour," remained cloistered in his $2,000-a-night suite, which reportedly had been redecorated at a cost of $500,000 to make him feel more at home.
And 20-year-old Ikeda, wearing a black miniskirt and the trademark black bowler and one white glove of a true Jackson fan, was left instead to contemplate the very real typhoon somewhere off Japan that was forcing her to stand in a dismal drizzle.
Not to worry, Ikeda said, as she and about 40 other young fans and Japanese reporters stood at a respectful distance from the hotel and peered politely -- this is Japan after all -- into every Mercedes pulling in or out. She had already seen Jackson once, when he arrived at Narita International Airport, and had tickets for all 13 of his concerts in Japan.
Her idol's well-publicized personal eccentricities aside, Ikeda said, "I just think he is great."
Similar die-hard fans throughout Japan have made Jackson the best-selling foreign rock star here these days. About 370,000 people will see "My-ke-ru," as he is called here, perform. Madonna's June trip here drew fewer than half that number.
The $45 tickets to Jackson's concerts sold out within hours and the trend-conscious Japanese have been buying his new record, "Bad," at unprecedented speed.
At Yamano Record store, located on the main street in Tokyo's busy Ginza shopping district, salesman Eiji Horiki said that about 1,000 people snapped up copies of "Bad" -- at $20 a tape or disc or $23 for the CD -- the day it went on sale. It set a record for the store, which for weeks has had a 1 1/2-story Michael Jackson photo adorning its front, with several more human-sized versions inside.
"He has everything," said Horiki. "His songs are on the cutting edge. He can sing ballads as well as he sings hard rock and his dancing is superb." (Yes, they breakdance in Tokyo.)
In a city often thought of as the high-tech capital of the world, "he perfectly fits in," Horiki said.
Jackson's popularity in what is probably the second-largest music market in the world (after the United States) clearly played a role in the decision to start his tour here. Jackson's manager was quoted saying the singer wanted to show his appreciation for the "loyalty" of his Japanese fans.
"Michaelmania," as one daily newspaper here called it, hit about two weeks ago when Jackson paraphernalia began sprouting all over Tokyo: T-shirts, hats, gloves, stuffed animals, key chains and hard-cover books containing inside only the hand print and signature of "The Gloved One."
There were some particularly Japanese items as well: hand towels emblazoned with Jackson's name, and Michael Jackson official telephone cards, a hot new collectors' item that can be used in some public telephones in place of coins.
The three companies sponsoring the tour in Japan, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT), Pepsico Japan Inc. and Nihon Television, have fed the "Michaelmania" with offers of free concert tickets for those who use their products.
NTT, which has just been privatized and must now compete with new telephone companies for customers, promised that anyone signing up for NTT services would be entered in a special NTT lottery for concert tickets. The company immediately got 200,000 takers.
Pepsico set new sales records in July and August after it also set up a lottery for concert tickets that Pepsi buyers could enter.
And a Nihon Television contest to select four "Michael's girls" who would appear on Jackson-related television programs drew scores of young women.
Similarly, when a disco in a young, upscale section of Tokyo held an "MJ look-alike" night, it was mobbed with college-aged men and women who produced fairly convincing images of Jackson -- down to military-style jackets and the shiny, wavy hair with a solitary curl on the forehead.
"Japanese people no matter how tired they are from Madonna are going to go crazy for Michael Jackson," declared one photo magazine this week.
By Wednesday, when Jackson and his entourage of 150 landed here, that prediction seemed well on its way to becoming true, with even a sports newspaper bannering a "MICHAEL" headline over a breathless story of Jackson's comings and goings.
One magazine also printed full-page photos of the renovations done by the Capitol TokyuHotel that the magazine said were done because Jackson's manager felt the imperial suite was "too Japanese" and needed to be made more "gorgeous."
Included in the redecorations, the magazine said, was a $36,000 Sony audio-visual system and a Persian rug allegedly made for the shah of Iran that was worth about $250,000. The hotel declined comment and refused to confirm whether Jackson is staying there.
Even the sober Asahi Evening News succumbed, running a story on Jackson's pet chimp Bubbles. The article reported that Bubbles arrived on an earlier plane than his famous master, wearing a red-and-white striped shirt and denim overalls. He seemed calm in the face of many photographers, and he, too, was being given a hotel room that had been rewallpapered just for him because he "does not like the smell of tobacco."