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The BBC's Charles Scanlon in Tokyo
"Yoko Ono donated most of the items on display"
 real 28k

Monday, 9 October, 2000, 08:56 GMT 09:56 UK
'Happy Birthday' Lennon
Musuem display
The memorabilia includes guitars and lyric books
The world's first museum dedicated to the life of John Lennon and the re-release of two of his solo albums mark what would have been the 60th birthday of the former Beatle on Monday.

Japan was a very important place for John

Yoko Ono
His widow, Yoko Ono, opened the museum, which contains more than 100 items of memorabilia from the singer's life.

The release of John Lennon/Plastic Ono band and Double Fantasy albums will include the track Walking on thin ice, a song he completed the night he was shot by Mark Chapman in 1980.

Lennon's half sister Julia Baird will plant an oak tree in Peace Gardens, Liverpool - one of John Lennon's favourite childhood haunts - as part of the commemoration.

The Lennon museum is set in the corner of a sports arena in a suburban area north of Tokyo - an unlikely spot for a museum dedicated to someone who spent most of his life in Britain and the United States.

Special place

But his widow, Yoko Ono, says Lennon had a special love for Japan.

Museum exterior
The opening marks Lennon's 60th birthday
"Japan was a very important place for John because John's son was half Japanese, but also we felt that we were somehow bridging the difference between East and West," she said.

Yoko Ono donated most of the items on display, including hand-written song lyrics, John Lennon's first guitar and a pair of his wire-rimmed glasses.

The museum is divided into separate zones featuring different aspects of the singer's life.

Beatles' songs play and visitors can watch a film about Lennon's life.

Yoko Ono with museum director Jiro Kikuchi
Yoko Ono, who donated most exhibits, with museum director Jiro Kikuchi
In Liverpool, Mrs Baird and pupils from Lennon's former primary school will plant the tree before visiting Walker Art Gallery where Lennon developed a love for art.

The school children will sing Happy Birthday in memory of the Liverpudlian singer.

Yoko Ono recently donated 30,000 to the gallery for refurbishment.

"Planting a tree in John's memory is the warmest way to celebrate his birthday," said Mrs Baird.

"You can have fireworks and parties, which are all very dramatic, but planting a solid English Oak tree is permanent and a new life.

"It is a fitting tribute to John."

Lennon was shot dead on 8 December outside his Manhattan home where he lived with Ono.

His killer Mark David Chapman lost his first bid for parole last week.

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