Tokyo Amid a lavish party filled with fans, impersonators, orphans and handicapped children, Michael Jackson said Thursday that he wouldn't change the path of his career, despite "deliberate attempts to hurt me."
The reclusive pop star, in Tokyo for several "fan appreciation events," was the guest of honor at a party where about 400 people paid $3,500 each for a buffet dinner, a show featuring several Japanese Jackson impersonators and a chance to take photos with Jackson. More than 100 orphans and handicapped children were invited for free.
Wearing sunglasses and dressed in a black-and-gold Roberto Cavalli suit, Jackson appeared on the stage at the end of the six-hour party to read a brief thank you.
He did not perform. But in comments to The Associated Press, Jackson reflected on his career, which he is trying to revive after his 2005 acquittal on child molestation charges and a series of other legal battles over his personal finances.
"I've been in the entertainment industry since I was 6 years old," he told AP. "As Charles Dickens says, 'It's been the best of times, the worst of times.' But I would not change my career."
Jackson, 48, appeared relaxed and comfortable back in front of his fans. He said he was not bitter over his succession of difficulties.
"While some have made deliberate attempts to hurt me, I take it in stride because I have a loving family, a strong faith and wonderful friends and fans who have, and continue, to support me," he said.
Those fans have been out in force since Jackson's arrival in Tokyo on Sunday.
A screaming mob greeted him at the airport, and organizers said tickets to the two main events - Thursday's VIP party and another, larger party directed at his main fan base today - sold briskly. Jackson was also scheduled to tour a U.S. Army base just south of Tokyo on Saturday.
Jackson, one of the best-selling artists of all time, has lived abroad since his acquittal, forsaking his Neverland Ranch in California for Bahrain, France and a castle in Ireland.
But in a telephone conversation from Las Vegas with the Associated Press in January, he said he had returned to the United States and planned to stay there for the time being.
Even so, Japan continues to be his home away from home. This is Jackson's second trip to Tokyo in less than a year.
"Japan is one of my favorite places to visit in the world," Jackson told the crowd Thursday, reading from a statement. "I want to thank all of you for making me the biggest-selling artist in Japan."
Some of the paying customers Thursday said the tickets were a bit too steep. "It is expensive," said Yoko Iizuka, a copywriter who works in Tokyo. "But I've loved his music since I was a kid."
Others were eager to fork over the 400,000 yen.
"You can't put a price tag on this," said Jenny Sasaki, who arrived in a fur coat and sequined gown. "I love Michael Jackson, his music, his sensitivity and his humanity."