Wednesday, Oct 15, 2014 – Thursday, Oct 16, 2014
So finally I get to go back to Japan! It has been 20 years since my first Country Gold experience and 14 years since my last visit. I am so excited to see Charlie, Toshiko, Seiya and everyone involved in Country Gold.
This year we have Chuck Mead and his Grassy Knoll Boys. This is Chucks 3rd time to Japan. His band is backing up Stephanie Urbina-Jones and Branch & Dean. We fly from Nashville to Minneapolis then on to Tokyo and finally Fukuoka where Charlie and Seiya will meet us and then bus for 2 hours to Kumamoto.
All of our flights were on time and no troubles. The flight from MSP to Tokyo  was 12 hours so plenty of time to watch a few movies, and nap some. The best thing is I actually had wifi on the plane so I could keep up with the kids while flying..that gave me a little peace of mind.
Once we landed in Tokyo, we had to clear immigration, pick up bags and go through customs. Shoji met us on the otherside and we hopped a shuttle bus to the other Terminal where we had to catch our JAL flight. The shuttle took about 10 mins, and miraculously we had no problems checking in at JAL. They would not allow the guys to take their guitars on, but they did pack them in padded boxes and checked them. We landed in Fukuoka on time and Charlie and Seiya met us with the tour bus. The drive actually only took an hour and a half and we were at the hotel by 11:30 🙂
Charlie had everything ready for us at the hotel. Room keys, breakfast coupons, McDonalds Big Mac’s and camera crew filming the Artists as they arrive after a 28 hour day 🙂
Handed everyone their keys, etc and sent them off to their rooms. I did a quick production meeting with some of the staff and then finally at 1:00 AM I was in my room. Going to unpack – no lobby call until 10:30 AM. Woohoo!
Friday, Oct 17, 2014
Saw most of the group at breakfast this morning – everyone slept well and felt “refreshed”. Today is sightseeing at the park and castle and then the Welcome Party tonight at Charlies. Charlie and Seiya took us through the park and then Charlie had to leave for rehearsal and Seiya took us to a new restaurant near the Castle. We normally do a traditional Japanese lunch at the restaurant in the park, but for some reason Charlie was unable to make the reservation this year. This new restaurant was very good, we had some traditional food and steak made from local Kumamoto beef. After lunch we rode the shuttle up to the entrance to the castle. It is a Shogun Castle and I believe it is only 1 of 3 still in Japan. After the castle we went back to the hotel. Dinner is on our own tonight and we need to leave the hotel to walk to Charlie’s club at 6:45.
Met everyone in the lobby and I think they all took a nap and didn’t have dinner 🙂
We were at Charlie’s by 7, it is closed to the public till 9 so we can have our welcome party and the Artists can “jam” a little bit. Everyone did at least 2 songs before he opened the club. I was able to meet the people from Coca – Cola, who sponsor Charlie every year. I lasted until 10 then went back to the hotel. I think everyone else stayed until closing at midnight.
Saturday, Oct 18, 2014
Went down to breakfast at 8, we do not have to leave today until 9:30 for soundcheck. I was eating with Chuck when Dean walks in and he is not looking good at all. He said he thinks something he ate late last night did not agree with him. Stomach was pretty upset. I saw Jason – our interpreter in the lobby around 9 and he walked down to the pharmacy and bought some anti nausea medicine for him. He is going to need it as we take the scenic route up the mountain to the venue…twisty, winding road.
We were suppose to start soundcheck at 11 but it was closer to 11:30 by the time we arrived and got the equipment set up. Chuck and his band did a quick 30 min sound check and then his band did an hour rehearsal with Branch & Dean and then Stephanie had an hour with them. We usually try to go to the volcano afterwards but it is a little to active and they are not allowing anyone up there, so we were back at the hotel by 4.
Our friend Hiromi made reservations for all us tonight at the best Sushi restaurant in Kumamoto. The owner is a friend of Charlie’s and a very big supporter of Country Gold. He was so happy we were eating with him that he gave everyone a free glass of beer with their food 🙂
We sat in a room…on the floor…everyone’s feet and legs were asleep and numb within 20 minutes. We were all trying to find ways to stretch out. but the sushi was absolutely the best we have ever had. They brought out plate after plate of all different types and I am not really sure what all I ate. It was so nice to get spend some time with Hiromi too.
After dinner I went over to Charlie’s club and met with the camera crew that is here filming a documentary on Charlie. Stayed for about 30 mins when the jet lag set in and walked back to the hotel. Tomorrow is show day!
Sunday, Oct 19, 2014
So there is this Pumpkin Soup on the breakfast buffet that is to die for. Somehow I have not noticed it until this morning. There is also some Hormone of Horse soup on the buffet, I have had no problem passing it up.  We all had breakfast and left for the venue at 10:00. We didn’t take the scenic route this time, but there was a lot of traffic going up and it was 11:30 before we arrived.
So I have all these instructions from mom on setting up my “office” at the venue and hanging up signs. Thank God for Seiya. He knew where all the signs had to be hung and what went where.
Charlie kicked it off at noon. I took all 3 Artists to the clubhouse to do some interviews and then Branch & Dean went on. These 2 guys are very entertaining.. on and off the stage…they had a great performance, can’t believe I had to go all the way to Japan to see their show!
Charlies’ band, The Cannonballs, went on after Branch & Dean, they are backing up an Artist from Tokyo and then Stephanie took the stage. She did a mix of Tejano and old country standards and the crowd loved it!
Chuck went on last and closed the festival. I love Chuck’s music and the audience was just “boot scootin” away. After Chuck all the Artists went on stage for the finale and then down to the dressing room for a “compai” (toast). We have to be done by 6:30 so the audience can catch the last train out of Aspecta. It was close to 7:30 by the time we loaded up and almost 9 when we reached the hotel. I started packing some stuff then walked down to Good Time Charlie’s. I think Jason took some of the musicians to a nearby restaurant and then they were coming over. I was just starting to leave when Dean and Stephanie walked in. Stayed a few more minutes and then “snuck” out. Have to go back and finish packing. 6 AM lobby call for our flight home!
Monday, Oct 20, 2014

Ugh.. 5:00 AM came much to soon. Everyone was downstairs and ready to leave by 6…well almost everyone… had one person that slept a little late and after several phone calls to his room, finally made it down by 6:15. Hiromi came over to say good bye and then Charlie, Toshiko and Seiya took rode with us to the airport. We are actually flying out of Kumamoto to Nagoya and then Nagoya to Detroit and then home. Kumamoto is a small airport and we are on ANA out of here. They would only issue the ANA flight and we would have to get the DL ones issued in Nagoya. Once we got our boarding passes, we had to send out checked luggage through the xray machine then they would tag our bag. That’s when it all went to hell.

Some of us had excess and they did not know how much to charge. So they disappeared in the back room for 30 mins! The other ANA agents are checking in other customers behind us and I finally jumped in front of some Japanese man and threw Stephanie’s suitcase up on the belt and told the ANA Agent to check her in now. She has one bag! I did this for all the ones that just had one bag. Leaving me, Chuck, Renae and Carco left because we had the excess. Charlie was finally able to talk to someone and  get them to understand and they finished checking us in. We went upstairs to go through security and they wouldn’t let them bring their guitars through…so back downstairs to put them in the padded boxes and we have to pick them up in Nagoya. Thank God we have 3 hours there.Shoji flew with us to Nagoya and helped get the guitars and boarding passes for the Delta flight. Said our goodbye’s to him as he was flying home to Kyoto. We had time to get some food in Nagoya before boarding the 11 hour flight home. Whew.. I am getting caught up on some of my movies! And I slept for about 5 hours. We landed in Detroit and we all made it through customs..seems Dean made it through with is snake wine also. Snake Wine…just sounds nasty”
Landed on time in Nashville and mom was there with the kids to pick me up and she was able to say hello to the guys and thank them for going.
It is so hard to explain to the Artists and Musicians what Country Gold really is all about. About Charlie’s life and why he does what he does. They took the time to get to know him and have this whole new appreciation for him. That what makes trips like this one love my job even more. I could not have asked for 8 better people to take to Japan.
Lindsey Chance