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Japan welcomes Jacko with open arms

TOKYO, May 27 (Reuters) - Pop star Michael Jackson appeared in public in Tokyo on Saturday for the first time since his acquittal on sex-abuse charges last year and was welcomed by an adoring crowd.

india Updated: May 27, 2006 21:25 IST

Pop star Michael Jackson appeared in public in Tokyo on Saturday for the first time since his acquittal on sex-abuse charges last year and was welcomed by an adoring crowd.

Neither heavy rain nor scandal could prevent several hundred Japanese fans from flocking to catch a glimpse of the 47-year-old entertainer as he arrived at a Tokyo stadium to receive a music award.

The crowd held up signs that read We love you, Michael and Welcome to Japan and some sported his trademark glitter glove as Jackson stepped out of a black limousine, surrounded by several bodyguards.

Jackson, in a jewellery-embroidered black blazer and tight black trousers with a simple white T-shirt, did not speak but waved and raised a forefinger to acknowledge a group of reporters before he was whisked inside along a red carpet.

Jackson has remained largely in seclusion since his trial on child molestation charges.

He is in Tokyo to receive a Legend Award at MTV's Japan Video Music Awards ceremony on Saturday, according to spokeswoman Raymone Bain.

He will also will spend time in Tokyo touring the city, visiting orphanages and meeting with Asian business leaders, Bain said, adding that his trip kicks off the first in a series of planned visits to Asia.

"I look forward to my visit to Japan because I have so many fond memories of my visits there," Jackson said in a statement.

Jackson moved to Bahrain shortly after a jury cleared him last June of charges that he had sexually abused a young boy at his Neverland Valley Ranch in central California.

Although keeping largely out of public view since then, the performer continued to make headlines in a dispute with the state of California for his failure to pay employees at Neverland and maintain proper workers compensation insurance.

Last month, Jackson reached agreement with creditors and Sony Corp. to refinance some $270 million in loans, and avoid default, by giving up half of his prized stake in the Beatles' song catalog.

Days later, a Bahrain-based music label announced it had teamed up with Jackson to produce a new album by the singer, his first studio collection since the release of Invincible in 2001.