FREDDIE AND MISTER ITAMI

FREDDIE AND MISTER ITAMI 🇯🇵

Mr. Itami was Freddie’s personal bodyguard in Japan for years.

Mr. Itami recalls how generous Freddie was, always buying him things whenever they went shopping together, and how shy Freddie was in the early years when they first met.

He and Freddie remained close until 1986.

“In Japan we needed protection because you couldn’t go down into the lobby of the hotel – it was infested by really nice people waiting for autographs. We each had a personal bodyguard, and mine was called Itami. He was the head of the Tokyo bodyguard patrol and his entire job was to pamper and cosset me throughout the tour and make sure no harm came to my person. He was very sweet and gave me a lovely Japanese lantern, which I treasure.” (Freddie Mercury, 1975)

“When we were reunited at the Plaza Hotel in Osaka on May 15, Queen’s last night, Freddie decided he wasn’t going out today. I happened to see Roger in the hall who said ‘I’m going to go out for a bit’. So, I decided to join him. We went into town, had a few beers, then came back to the hotel.

Then one of the staff comes to me and says ‘Itami-San! Freddie was looking for you, apparently he wanted to go out.’ I was like ‘this is bad!’.

And it turns out when I came back at the hotel with Roger and his bodyguard, Freddie saw us from the hotel cafe. I went to apologize, but Freddie didn’t smile back.

The next day was their last day, but Freddie wasn’t even looking at me. Oh my god I made a big mistake. The following year, when Freddie came to Japan alone, he gave me a Japanese sword. Probably because he knew I was practicing. So maybe our relationship was mended with this gesture. Ah ah!” (Itami-San)

📰 Tokyo Patrol interview – Queen Fan Club fanzine, 1st November 1985 🗞

When did Queen have the most fun?

[Itami-san, Freddie’s bodyguard and head of security]

Let’s see… I think when we went for a drink in Roppongi. They went to a small izakaya-style pub for a drink.

[Chiba-san, Roger’s bodyguard]

Roger kept the pace for everyone by pounding with the pepper dispenser.

[Oki-san, Brian’s bodyguard]

Usually they always had an “encore” of drinks, but in the meantime Brian was there to do an encore for them singing. If I’m not mistaken, it was the night of April 1, 1976.

John didn’t go with the others, right?

[Yamada-san, John’s bodyguard]

No, his driver also went to pick him up as he did for all the others, but then he took the wrong road and got lost. So John sat drinking sake all by himself in the hotel bar.

During the interview the bodyguards seem really relaxed and joking with each other, as opposed to when they are on duty. Even though Queen in concert couldn’t have the security to cover their backs, there was really no need to hang on to them. Rather than they had to keep an eye on the fans in the front rows of the audience, lest they make reckless gestures!

Itami-san and the other bodyguards seem to have played oshikura manju with Queen a lot. Itami always won! And they said that “Itami is the strongest because he has the shortest legs.” General laughter.

Oshikura manju is a very simple Japanese group game that is used to keep warm on the coldest days. Sometimes it can no longer have an end, because it ends only when the last contender remains alone inside the playing area.

📰 Interview with Mr. Itami, Freddie Mercury’s bodyguard in Japan, 2015 🗞

“Go give four people a lift.” Forty years ago, on April 17, 1975, four members of the British rock band Queen arrived at Haneda Airport. Applause from thousands of fans. I was appointed their bodyguard and I went crazy with my assignment.

At that time, I had been working separately from the head of the security agency for three years. I was guarding a rock band for the first time. A bodyguard was assigned to each of the four members, and I took charge of lead singer Freddie Mercury (1946-1991).

• Without forgetting the help of those behind the scenes

I acted as Freddie’s bodyguard when he came to Japan six times to perform in 1975-1985, and alone, the seventh time, incognito in 1986. The rock star, who wrote musical masterpieces such as “Bohemian Rhapsody” and died at forty-five years old, he loved Japan and was a kind person who appreciated the work of those who worked behind the scenes.

During my high school years I was in kendo and in high school I participated in the championship as the leader of the National team. I introduced myself to Freddie as a “kendo champion”.

During the first week, he didn’t open his mouth (he didn’t speak). He was shy, but at the same time he looked at people sternly. He must have looked sharp. After the second part of the tour, he became more talkative. I was born on September 12, 1946 and Freddie was born on September 5 of the same year, so we had a week difference. However, he was an adult who spoke politely to his fans and felt much older doing so.

Among the four participants, Freddie walked the most. In most cases, the purpose of such walks was shopping. The first purchase was the purchase of his beloved cat. He said, “I want an old Japanese cat figurine.” I phoned and managed all the shops in Tokyo, but there were no stickers. Eventually, Freddie found it himself in an antiques shop, where he went during a break between a visit to an exhibit in Kyoto. “This is it, this is it!” I can’t forget his happy face.

On his next visit to Japan, he began looking for ancient Japanese works of art. He liked: porcelain items such as Imari plates, Ukiyo prints, kimonos. While inspecting the pottery, he carefully examined the product. It happened that he bought (traditional) women’s clothes and then he appeared with them on stage.

• Purchase of ancient art objects

“Itami, isn’t it ukiyo hacking a fake?” – these are the questions I had to hear. I didn’t have an answer, but he would have easily bought antique works of art that cost millions of yen. Regular reading of books and magazines on Japanese art confirmed my opinion.

“Itami, let’s go to Harajuku.” Again, I thought, but this time the purchase was for me. “Choose your favorites.” It was a first-class branded wristwatch. I chose the cheapest watch, but he said, “This is better” and he gave me a premium watch. Before that I was only given all kinds of lighters.

After demonstrating Western martial arts on a baseball field in 1982, I was delighted to throw a surprise party to celebrate their 10th anniversary. A big cake had to be transported from the hotel to the baseball field, the driver told me “It’s a secret” and told me to shut up. In rehearsals, due to problems with music, I was nervous, it was scary and it seemed that we would not be able to finish, but I was a person who was attentive to the little things.

While I was on tour with the band in 1985, I made a small mistake. “Freddie won’t go shopping today,” the manager said, and I believed his words; me and drummer Roger Taylor went out for a drink in Osaka Station’s underground mall.

We went back to the hotel together and the visitor looked like Freddie. “Freddie was looking for you,” the staff said. He seemed to want to go shopping. I apologized in a panic later at the party. That year there was no usual gift, he said “Bye bye” with a sad expression on his face, and he went back to his homeland.

• Photos taken with the camera hanging from the neck

It so happened that this year was the last year of the band’s tour. I regretted it very much and in the fall of 1986 Freddie came undercover and addressed me again.

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