TUESDAY, OCTOBER 10TH – DAY OF IN TOKYO:
Not a “lot” to report about today. My phone rang at 4:30 am with a call from Kenya, Africa! Some telemarketer who will NOT give up. I’ve blocked him a dozen times and he just changes his number and calls again!
So I was up and working by 5 am. It’s really a shame that I have 3 days “off” and can work out and there’s NO WHERE to work out or jog. That’s the only “drawback” about this hotel.
I worked out with my “bands” then ate at the hotel breakfast buffet (Not Great, but okay), showered, and worked until time to try to find the Robot Restaurant.
The airport bus costs $12.00 and a taxi costs $78.00 to the Robot Restaurant. I opted for the bus KNOWING I would get lost trying to find the restaurant after I got off the bus. It was about a 45 minute ride with no stops. The bus dropped me off on a “street”….not in a bus terminal. I did find the terminal “underground” and started following the signs for “Information”. Only no “Information” booth ever appeared. I finally asked a salesclerk in a 7/11 where the “Taxis” were located. She gave me directions and I took a taxi to the restaurant.
I arrived at 2:15 pm and they wouldn’t let me pick up the tickets until 3 pm. I decided to walk around the area and try to find something “light” for lunch. I found a restaurant that served salads and went inside. They asked me if I wanted smoking or non-smoking area. Can you believe it? I HATE Smoking and the entire restaurant smelled like smoke.
Matt sent me a text at around 2:40 pm and said he was there. I left the area and met him and we were able to pick up the tickets. The first time I went to the Robot Restaurant was in 2015 and then came back again in 2016. The “pre-show” in 2015 was every bit as good as the actual “show”. But in 2016, the pre-show was “lame”. Today is was so bad, it was embarrassing.
Fortunately, the actual show was as spectacular as ever. Matt was blown away as everyone always is. During the first “break” there was a sign flashing saying “check your seat number” and my number appeared. Scared me to death because I thought I was going to have to do some type of “audience participation”. But instead I won a big container of popcorn. First time I’ve ever won anything and neither of us wanted it. We tried to give it away and no one else wanted it either.
Check my Facebook page for some photos of the show or just google “Robot Restaurant” on “YouTube” and you will be astonished!
Matt walked me back to the bus station after the show. It was only about a 7 minute walk from the restaurant! He helped me buy by ticket and get on the right bus. Such a gentleman!
I was starving by the time I got back to the airport so went straight to the various restaurants to find something to eat. Have been working for hours now and going to bed very soon. It’s after 9:30 am in Nashville and after 12 midnight in Tokyo.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 11TH – ANOTHER DAY OFF IN TOKYO:
Well today was especially “uneventful”! I was up until after midnight and back at work by 5:00 am. Worked out with my “bands”, had breakfast, showered, and spent all day working at my laptop! Got a lot done but will be glad to get out of this hotel. It’s fine for a day, but not for 3 ½ days.
The first night I noticed that there were no bath towels hanging on the rack in the bathroom. There were two small hand towels and since everything is much smaller in Japan, I was hoping those weren’t intended to be my bath towels! I was going to go ask for them from the front desk the next morning or try to catch one of the maids in the hallway the next morning. As I was lying in the floor doing sit-ups that next morning, I happened to glance in the shelves underneath the sink and there were two bath towels stored there.
The Country Gold artists – George Ducas, Kree Harrison, and James Carothers – are flying to Japan today. Just checked and they made the 4:30 am airport call and have landed in Minneapolis. I’ll meet them at around 1:45 pm tomorrow afternoon and we’ll fly to Kumamoto together.
Hoping to get in bed by midnight tonight and get up early again tomorrow to work before checking out at 1 pm and meeting the group.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 12TH – TOKYO TO KUMAMOTO:
Got up early before the office closed and worked for a couple of hours. Then worked out with bands, showered, and went downstairs for breakfast. I was able to pay $20 and get a “late checkout” of 1 pm, so I worked until time to go to the airport.
Checked my bag and told the counter agent I would be bringing another bag to check as well. Had about 45 minutes before they group from Nashville was scheduled to land. Shoji was already there waiting for me. Their flight landed exactly on time but it took forever for the bags to come out. At least everything made it.
We went to the re-check counter and checked their bags to Kumamoto. Delta had let them carry on most of their guitars but ANA would not allow it. But, at least they have these nice sturdy, padded boxes that they put the instrument in so it doesn’t get broken…definitely not like the US Airlines who “THROW” the instruments! We held George’s back in hopes of being able to carry it on.
They turned George back and told him he would have to go back to the counter and check his guitar! I had already taken everything out of my backpack and was about to go through security. I packed everything up and got out of line so I could go with him.
We got the guitar boxed and checked and headed back through security. Everyone met at a restaurant near the gate and either had sushi or soba noodles. I walked to the restroom and then ordered the noodles. I was telling everyone how things are so safe in Japan and no on steals anything when I realized I had left my rolling computer bag in the restroom! I had a panic attack and ran as fast as I could. When I was in there previously, there was a lady there cleaning. She was still there and when I said bag, she started nodding her head and motioning for me to follow her. She had taken it to the nearest “store”. Whew! That was a close one. ☹
The flight boarded on time and landed on time but the landing was really turbulent…not something I approve of! Charlie and his staff were waiting for us and it only took 30 minutes to drive to the hotel. Our room keys and bags of McDonald’s food were ready for us when we walked in. Got everyone checked in and off to their rooms quickly.
Kjell arrived this afternoon and I met him and Hiromi in the lobby to discuss local sightseeing opportunities for him on Saturday. Have been in my room working ever since and it’s almost 1 am. Going to bed!!!
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 13TH – SIGHTSEEING DAY IN KUMAMOTO:
Got up early with the intention of jogging but realized that wasn’t going to happen when I checked my emails that had come in overnight. ☹ Worked, showered, breakfast and in the lobby ready for departure at 10 am. One casualty this morning – Kree isn’t feeling well and didn’t go sightseeing with us.
Weather is absolutely perfect today. Hoping the forecast is wrong and it will be on Sunday as well. Right not it’s still 100% chance of rain all day Saturday and Sunday!
First stop on the tour was Suizenji Park – My 39th visit. They have restored most of the part to its original beauty after the April, 2016 earthquake. There are beautiful “ponds” in the park and after the earthquake, all the water disappeared. Then months later, it mysteriously returned!
We spent a couple of hours at the park walking around and taking photos and feeding this fish and pigeons! Then we drove to a hotel to have lunch in a restaurant there. We’ve never eaten at that particular restaurant before. I had asked for one with “chairs” instead of everyone having to sit on the floor. Sitting on the floor is very difficult for an extended period of time when you’re not accustomed to doing so. And some of the members of the group have problems with their knees as well.
Lunch was amazing with tiny dishes of local Japanese delicacies. Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal and were not afraid to try “new things”!
We left the park and went to the Kumamoto Castle. As mentioned, we could only walk around outside the groups because of the major reconstruction going on due to the earthquake. We were supposed to have a “guide” to walk around with us and explain about the earthquake and reconstruction, but the agency that books that for Country Gold did not set it up. So, we didn’t spend a lot of time there.
We arrived back at the hotel around a little after 2 pm. Some people took a nap and others went shopping in the Ginza. I worked, of course! At 5 pm, I walked to the Ginza and ate a very light meal for dinner. Met everyone in the lobby at 7 pm to walk over to Charlie’s nightclub for the Welcome Party. As we were waiting, I received a text from Kree saying she was really sick and needed to try to see a doctor first thing tomorrow. I sent one of the musicians up to her room with a pack of antibiotics that I brought with me.
I walked everyone else over to Charlie’s nightclub and talked to Charlie and Seiya about a doctor for her. We are going to try and get her there at 9 am tomorrow.
Welcome Party was great. Charlie and the Cannonball performed first and then James and George did 3 songs each. There is a young man visiting from London who is a journalist and is covering the festival as a “special project”. Really enjoyed chatting with him and he will be at the concert on Sunday.
I left at around 9 pm to come back to the room to work. Almost 1 am now and I am “toast”. Going to sleep a few hours….
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 14TH – SOUND CHECK AT ASPECTA, MT. ASO:
Being able to get up and run as opposed to working out with “bands” makes all the difference in the world in my “energy” level throughout the day. And, the “run” was in perfect weather along the river.
Kree was feeling better this morning and did not want to go see the doctor that we had scheduled to see her at 9 am. I had breakfast with some of the guys and we departed for the venue at 11 am. The road that has opened back up now includes a rather long tunnel. But, we made the drive in the large bus in only 1 hour and 15 minutes….a record time.
Charlie was just finishing up his sound check when we arrived. The artists had lunch and counted in their merchandise with Toshiko. The sound checks went faster than I anticipated. George, Kree, James and the musicians are all excellent and it’s going to be a great show.
I typed up set lists and Seiya and I hung “signs” for dressing rooms, etc., while the artists were doing the sound checks. James was the last to sound check and before he finished, it started raining…pretty hard, too! Unfortunately, the weather forecast still calls for 100% rain tomorrow, too.
The drive back was really long because there was a lot of traffic for some unknown reason. It took us 2 hours to get to the hotel.
A few minutes after we returned, Kree came to my room and said she had left her phone on the bus. I called Seiya and he called the bus company but they couldn’t find it. We told him exactly where she left it and he called the again. They found it but said it was a 45 minute drive from the bus company back to the hotel without traffic and traffic was just too bad to bring it back. Fortunately, the person that Charlie hires to help with the bus was willing to drive to the bus station and get it for her.
Several of us walked – in the rain – over to Angelo’s to have the best Italian food I’ve ever eaten. The people I took with me were not disappointed with the meal. George, James and Joe went from my group as well as Kjell and Hiromi. A friend of George’s who now lives in Hong Kong flew over for the festival with his girlfriend today and they joined us as well. I actually know him, too, because he worked in my building in Nashville for years. Great to see him again and meet his girlfriend!
Hiromi, Kjell and I walked by Charlie’s club after dinner and picked up Hiromi’s Press Pass and I got to meet some of the guys in the Air Force Band from Yokota who are performing tomorrow. One member lived in Nashville for years and attended Belmont and another member is from San Antonio and George’s musicians know him. Small world!
I was back in my hotel room by 9:30 pm. NOT going to stay up working all night tonight. Big Day tomorrow and lots of prayers that the rain stops!
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 15TH, 29TH ANNIVERSARY OF COUNTRY GOLD IN KUMAMOTO, JAPAN!
Got up at 6 am and immediately looked outside. Pouring rain. ☹ The sky is overcast with no sign of sunshine anywhere. Not good.
Had breakfast and met the group at the bus for a 9:30 am departure. It rained constantly on the drive up and the wind was blowing very hard. When we arrived at the venue, I was surprised to see that there were fans already sitting out front – on large pieces of plastic and with “tents” over them!
I had some work to do before the event started and also wanted to meet the Air Force Band from Yokota Air Base. The event kicked off with a speech from Charlie and the Fukuoka Consulate. The Consulate is such an incredibly nice lady and has a terrific lady working with her on her staff. The introduced the Air Force Band and they were the first group to perform. For the past 28 years, Charlie and the Cannonballs have always been the first ones to perform. While they were playing, I had to get the artists situated for press interviews.
After the interviews, we rotated artists with performances and autograph signings….all still taking place in the steady rain. James performed first and then Kree. After Kree’s performance, The Governor and Village Mayor gave speeches and the sponsors were presented with plaques. Charlie and the Cannonballs performed next followed by George Ducas closing out the concert.
The Governor and Mayor came to the Green Room to thank everyone and give the artists a gift. The artists reciprocated with gifts to him.
All of the artists gave really fantastic performances and George’s musicians and Renae did a heck of a great job backing all three entertainers! We were all very impressed to see that none of the fans left. They braved in the cold rain all day long and danced and sang along. When the artists went out to sign autographs, they all 3 had long lines.
We ended the show with the finale and everyone sang “This Land is Your Land”. It was really raining hard by the time the last note was played.
Everyone gathered in the Green Room for our “Kampai” (Cheers) and then we drove back to the hotel. Hiromi met Kjell and I in the lobby and the three of us walked over to a great sushi bar near the hotel where I’ve eaten before. It was just as good as I remembered!
I was back in my room by 10 pm, showered and now going to get this posted and go to bed! Have to get up at 5 am to leave for the airport at 8 am.
Even with the rain, it was a wonderful day for Country Music. Hard to believe it’s been 29 years since Charlie and I started this event!
MONDAY, OCTOBER 16TH, 2017 – KUMAMOTO TO NASHVILLE:
Set the alarm for 5 am so I could do a short workout with bands, shower, and meet everyone in the lobby for an 8:00 departure.
Everyone was on time and we took one last “group photo” and boarded the bus for the 45 minute – 1 hour drive to the airport. Charlie, Seiya and Shoji went with us to help with “interpretation” when we checked in. We definitely needed them. Shoji lives in Tokyo and is “Gold” on ANA so he was able to check all the guitars that they refused to allow the guys to carry on under his name – 4 guitars total! 😊 Saved everyone a lot of money in excess charges.
The Air Force Band is also on our flight from Kumamoto to Haneda. We had about 30 minutes to wait at the gate before boarding. The flight was less than 1 hour and landing was “interesting”. I guess Tokyo is getting the wind and rain that we had yesterday at Aspecta. We were almost on the ground but still over water when the plane flipped on it’s side, then straightened out! All I could see for about 10 seconds was the water that looked close enough to touch – from a sideways position!
We had to go to baggage claim and pick up the guitars and then even though we had already checked our luggage and I had printed out boarding passes for our Delta flights yesterday, we still had to go to the Delta check-in counter and answer security questions. We also had to show the ticket agent our passport, boarding pass and claim checks so she could enter everything in their Delta data base.
We all split up after that. I went upstairs to the shop where I had located the multi-flavored Kit Kat candy when I was staying at the airport hotel earlier in the week. Stocked up on that and then headed through Security and Immigration and ultimately the Lounge nearest my gate. Our flight to Minneapolis is on time. Hope the movies have been switched out this trip!!!
There were a couple of new movies on the flight but nothing “exciting”. I watched one but don’t even remember the name of it! Our seats have these little round lights that serve as mini-spotlights. They can be turned so that they only shine on the object you want to see rather than using the overhead light. The lady across from me had pointed hers directly at me! I kept thinking she would notice but that never happened. So I just turned mine on and pointed it at her. Worked like a charm.
While I love being able to fly directly into Haneda, I guess Delta decided they would take their oldest and crappiest aircraft and use for the flights between Minneapolis and Haneda! I hope they will continue the service but also hope they can find newer planes!
We already had a long layover scheduled for Minneapolis but it got ridiculously long when we landed an hour ahead of schedule! I went through Global Entry and the line for everyone else was incredibly long to clear Immigration. When I arrived at baggage claim, it was a mess. There were only 2 conveyor belts and one was broken. There were 3 flights that had all arrived and had luggage coming out. The airport Crew started pulling all the bags off from the other 2 flights and putting them on the floor.
Most of my group cleared Customs and came through to baggage Claim in about 20-30 minutes. But one of the guys got routed through the longest line and it took him almost an hour! We finally found all our luggage and walked out to leave it on the baggage connection belt. This is the first time the baggage handlers did not take the bags off the carts and put on the belt. They absolutely refused to assist anyone!
Of course the line for security was long and when we finally made it through, we found that since we had landed so early, there was a much earlier flight we could have taken to Nashville. By then it was too late because we all had checked bags and Delta wouldn’t let us change our flights.
I spent hours in the Delta Lounge answering emails. The flight to Nashville is on a tiny Jet, too. The overhead is too small for even rolling bags! But flight was on time and when we arrived Nashville, all our luggage/equipment arrived as well.
Many thanks to George, James, Kree and Pacific Trends (Air Force Band) for a fantastic concert as well as to Charlie, Seiya, Hiromi, Toshiko, Shoji, Yuji, and all the Country Gold Staff and volunteers for taking such great care of us. Special thanks to all the fans for braving the constant rain and supporting country music in Japan.
Glad to be home!!!