The footage of The Beatles, recorded in black and white and without sound, lasts for 35 minutes and is now free to view on YouTube without any restrictions. The video was made in 1966 by the Japanese police for security purposes. In the images, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr can be seen descending the steps of an airplane, smiling and wearing traditional kimonos, before the footage resumes at a Beatles concert in the Nippon Budokan arena in Tokyo, played before a raucous crowd.
The footage features a curious detail though: while the Fab Four can be clearly made out, the faces of those people accompanying them have been pixelated out, due to matters of respect for privacy. For many years, the question of the image rights of the other people caught in the rare footage proved a major obstacle for Japanese Beatles fans, advocates of the right to information and the police.
Fans of the band took the matter to the Supreme Court of Japan in an attempt to have an uncensored version of the footage authorized, arguing that it represented an “historical document” and that it was absurd to blur the faces of people recorded more than 50 years ago, who are almost impossible to identify today.
However, the court rejected these arguments in 2018 and finally ruled in favor of the suggestion of the Japanese police to make the footage public but in its original version, with the faces of the Beatles’ mystery companions obscured from view.