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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 June, 2003, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
'Beckham-Sama' is gone in 15 seconds
Stephen Chittenden
BBC correspondent in Tokyo

A thousand excited schoolgirls bunked off lessons for a day at Tokyo's Narita Airport on Wednesday.

Find out who pays David Beckham what

Their project: to get a glimpse of their prince, "Beckham-Sama", as he arrived with his wife Victoria at the start of a promotional tour of the Far East.

But this was a test that most were to fail, as the grinning couple flashed through the arrivals hall in the blink of an eye.

Many of his fans had travelled for hours, and waited even longer in the airport. Viewing spaces were claimed with a sheet of newspaper on the floor.

Waiting for Becks

The crowd soon filled the arrivals hall, and spilled upstairs to the balcony. The fans had used their mobile phones to exchange information on when their hero was to arrive, via a web bulletin board.

Beckham makes a fleeting appearance before fans
Beckham makes a fleeting appearance before fans in Japan

Others simply watched breakfast TV, which told everyone where to gather.

Many here don't even know his first name, but everyone knows "Beckham". His face is on TV adverts, posters and in shops.

It sells oil, chocolate and phones and that's what he's here for - meeting sponsors' commitments with a series of public appearances.

So the tension grew when it became clear that his flight from London had touched down.

This was announced by the arrival of a dozen vast security guards. Their job was to keep the crowd calm and at bay, but they only succeeded in making everyone more twitchy.

Moods like this are dangerously infectious, and sure enough even the gang of reporters behind the ropes began to get the jitters on a story which ought simply to read: "Footballer and wife get off plane".

Screaming

But of course it was much more than that, and the screaming let you know it.

Thousands of young Japanese wait to get a photo of the England captain
Beckham's appearance in Japan caused near-hysteria

The balcony crowd saw him first, so they screamed. Downstairs joined in, and David appeared, looking every one of the 30 million euros that Real Madrid are believed to be paying.

That's also two million for every second he appeared on view at the airport, as he and Victoria strolled into the hall in a grand sweep.

They smiled, the girls screamed, we shouted, but the Beckhams kept walking and were suddenly gone.

And it seems that's how they want it.

No one outside the Far East will be allowed to see or hear those public appearances because they don't fit in with the "Western" image. No BBC reporters will be allowed in.

It is a long way to come just to watch someone grin and stroll by, even if it is the world's most famous man.




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