He played to packed streets in New York. He wowed 'em in Bonn and Washington. But Mikhail S. Gorbachev's road show has inspired only mild "Gorbymania" in Tokyo.

True, the engaging Soviet president is playing to a tough crowd. Japan's fear and mistrust of its giant neighbor runs deep, predating not only the Cold War but also this century.And Gorbachev, like an aging vaudevillian with a creaky act, is also finding that the old charming smile and one-liners - perestroika, glasnost and global peace - may be wearing as thin abroad as they are at home.

The pro-Gorbachev fever that drew thousands into the streets of Western cities during a series of summits in the late 1980s all but died with the Soviet crackdown in the Baltics this January.

Dampening it further has been the worsening domestic weakness of Gorbachev, who comes to Tokyo hat in hand looking for aid.

Still, measuring Gorby-booms is an inexact science, and boomlets have certainly sprung up since his arrival in Tokyo on Tuesday with his wife, Raisa, for the first visit ever by a Soviet leader.

On Tuesday evening, Gorbachev made one of his patented motorcade stops to press the flesh, drawing cries of "Gorby, Gorby" as of yore.

About 2,000 people jammed a Ginza intersection to get a glimpse of Raisa Gorbachev touring, and awed comments such as "She's pretty!" testified to her star value.

It was just like old times, except that an hour later, 3,000 rightists marched through the same area, chanting "We hate the Soviet government!"

Some carried crudely drawn posters of Gorby's head being bloodily sliced off with a samurai sword. All demanded the return of four small Soviet-occupied islands the Japanese have made a point of national honor.

"A `Gorby-boom' is highly expected," Hiroshi Kimura, a Soviet specialist, wrote sarcastically in a column in the leading Mainichi daily. "All Japanese eyes will follow every step made by Mikhail and Raisa Gorbachev as if they were looking at E.T. the extra-terrestrial.

"But the Japanese have a short attention span and tend to blow hot and cold," Kimura said. "By next week, Gorbymania will be completely gone."