WEDNESDAY & THURSDAY, MARCH 29 AND 30, 2006:
Today we leave for Kumamoto, Japan for the 13th Annual Country Sunshine Festival. A new “mother/daughter group” named “LUCY ANGEL” will be performing one 60 minute show in the Kumamoto Civic Hall with Charlie Nagatani and the Cannonballs opening the event. This is the annual trip where I fly am “in the air for 3 days” and only on the ground for 2 days. And, this time, I have lots of prescription nausea medicine with me just in case there is a stomach virus going around. I never want to spend another 12 hour flight in a toilet again.
Everyone made it to the airport on time and check in was easy with such a small group – only 10 of us. We are flying on American Airlines through Dallas this time instead of our usual Northwest flight through Detroit. Flight to DFW was easy and our flight to Osaka departed on time. It’s an “older” aircraft and definitely not as comfortable as Northwest. Plus there are 3 classes of service – coach, business and first – unlike Northwest that has two – coach and executive. I think this may be the first international flight I have taken in 10 years that we didn’t have at least a few minutes of turbulence. Hope that is a good sign. Last year on the return flight from Fukuoka to Osaka, our plane got struck by lightning (or stluk by rightning as the Japanese “fright” attendant announced!). Don’t ever want to experience that again.
Landed in Osaka and was thinking how smoothly everything was going until one of the members of Lucy Angel realized they had left the mandolin on the airplane. Thankfully, the plane was still at the gate and we had not exited immigration. She was able to retrieve it. After 20 years of coming to Japan, the immigration forms have finally been changed to something we can understand and fill out correctly!
Charlie and Shoji met us after we exited Customs and helped us get checked in for our flight to Fukuoka. We all headed to Starbucks for a “caffeine boost”. I had the Matchi Tea Latte which was excellent. Charlie tried it for the first time and loved it, too. I’m always introducing him to new things in Japan. He doesn’t like sushi at all, though!
The flight to Fukuoka was packed and I was in the back of the plane. It was pretty turbulent, so I’m going to make sure I sit farther forward on the return. The 1 ½ bus ride from Fukuoka to Kumamoto was relatively painless. Got in the hotel room by midnight then stayed up until 4 am answering emails!
FRIDAY, MARCH 31ST, DAY THREE ALREADY:
Charlie is worried about ticket sales because April 1st is a big “corporate day”. Evidently, the “fiscal year” in Japan ends on March 31st. Corporations have celebrations on April 1st plus families with children graduating have big parties that day, too. So, ticket sales are slow.
Got about 2 hours sleep. We all departed for our “full day” of sightseeing and VIP visits. First stop was the castle – my 30th trip through there and the park! But the group loved it and the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. I’ve been coming to Japan since 1987 and this is on the SECOND time I have been here when they are in bloom. The locals put down blue sheets of plastic to “mark their space” during the day. Then on Friday night, they bring food, lots of “drink”, and music and party all night. Last time I was here for Cherry Blossom time, I went running around the castle grounds at about 6 am and there were still dozens of drunk people partying from the night before. After the Kumamoto Castle tour, we went to visit with the Mayor of Kumamoto. He has just started learning to speak English and is doing really well. A very nice man and so hospitable to us.
Next stop was lunch at a Japanese restaurant. I had some great sushi and some of the others love sushi, too. We had a few in the group that only want cooked food though. After lunch, we visited the Coca-Cola Plant which is always a treat. They have a special ceremony for everyone and then we see how the products are packaged. Got to try a new “orange” drink (tasted like TANG!) called Coo.
Last stop was the Suzenji Park. Walked through the beautiful grounds and then let everyone do some souvenir shopping. It was 5 pm by then and everyone was “dragging”. We had an hour back at the hotel before we had to go to dinner. I took a lot of them to my favorite Italian Restaurant – Angelo’s” and several of the boys found a German Beer House. Last thing on the agenda was a “Welcome Party” at Good Time Charlie’s. Charlie sang first and then invited the girls to perform a couple of songs. They are high energy and oh so talented. The Japanese VIP’s in the audience loved them. We had stopped at Starbucks on the walk to the club and got triple shots of expresso but it didn’t help. Everyone was falling asleep at the table! I was the first to leave because I knew I’d be up most of the night on email…which is what I am doing now!
SATURDAY, APRIL 1ST, 2006:
Woke up way too early and couldn’t go back to sleep….4 hours and I’m done! This is always a sad day for me as my sister passed away with breast cancer several years ago today.
Answered email for a couple of hours and then went out for my jog. Got 10 minutes from the hotel and started getting a migraine. Had to come back to the hotel, take a pill, and then go back out to finish my run. Really messed up my schedule today.
Soundcheck was virtually “painless”. The production company that we use has changed all their personnel and the new monitor engineer is pretty much “clueless”. Need to make sure we don’t have him for Country Gold! Ran back to the hotel to change clothes and then back to the venue to sign autographs until show time. Lots of people came dressed in “costumes” like cowboys and then there was an INDIAN in full head dress! I had my photo taken with him. He was an elderly gentleman and had a huge gold ring through his nose!!! Saw lots of people that I know.
Lucy Angel had a GREAT SHOW! Very high energy and the crowd loved them. Charlie’s show was great, as usual. After the show, Tim (our Canadian helper) took most of the guys and some of the girls out for “adventure eating”. Done that once with him and that was once too many! Love sushi but DON’T like eating fish that is still ALIVE. Several of us went back to Angelo’s – the Italian restaurant where we went last night.
Going to try and get packed early so I can get some much-needed SLEEP.
SUNDAY, APRIL 2ND
Set the alarm so I would get 5 hours of sleep, but woke up after only 4 hours. Has nothing to do with jet lag. My body just isn’t accustomed to getting more than 4 hours of sleep. L Got dressed to go running but couldn’t tell if it was still raining. When I got to the lobby, Kate’s husband (with Lucy Angel) and her two boys were checking out. They have been in Japan sightseeing and had to take a flight out of Tokyo today. Bus ride, then a train and finally a flight.
It was still sprinkling so I went back up to the room and did some exercises with my “bands”. Then went and jogged for a half hour in the Ginza. It’s covered but it’s boring to keep running the short strip, so I could only do 30 minutes.
We depart the hotel at 10:30 am to Fukuoka (all the luggage tags say FUK on them which is disconcerting) to Osaka. I’m hoping things go well in Osaka so I can get a MASSAGE at the airport. Been years since I’ve had time to do that.
Got a late start from the hotel and it was raining really hard, so it took us longer to get there. Then, they had us line up in one line but had to cross OVER another line to get to the ticket agent. Only had one agent working our entire group, so it took quite a while to check in. Finally got checked in only to learn that our flight was delayed by an hour because of the incoming aircraft being late due to thunderstorms. Nice. Our flight from Fukuoka to Osaka was supposed to take 1 hour and they were telling us it would take 40 minutes. NOT. At least it wasn’t as turbulent as we anticipated. Of course, I knew we would not arrive in time for me to get the massage I wanted though! I jinxed myself by even mentioning it. We landed in Osaka and even though we didn’t have to pick up our luggage, we did have to go to the ticket counter to get boarding passes. Then we cleared security and finally immigration and made our way to the gate. Only to be told that our flight to Dallas was going to be late leaving. So, we departed the hotel at 10:45 am and didn’t leave Osaka until almost 7:30 pm. Nine hours and we really haven’t gone anywhere yet!
A friend of mine from Iwakuni Marine Base brought me a “Stars and Stripes” military newspaper yesterday when he attended the concert. I was looking through it this morning and couldn’t believe it…there was a photo of a soldier that I have been emailing for about a month. I’ve never met him. He found my website on line and emailed me about the musical instruments Charlie Daniels is donating. I asked him where he was located and told him I’d try to arrange for Charlie Daniels and Dave Price visit his Camp. He’s with a small military police unit that is part of the complex at Baghdad and we ARE going to visit them when we are in Iraq. Normally, civilians are NOT allowed to visit his complex. Anyway, I was looking through the photos of soldiers who had won DVDs, etc., because of the remoteness of their location and there he was. How cool is that? What a small world.
Flight to Osaka finally got airborne but there are thunderstorms in Dallas and thunderstorms I Nashville. I’ll be surprised if we actually make it home tonight but hope if we do, that the flights aren’t too bad.
Flight to Dallas was uneventful. I was able to move to a row and sit by myself…did that on the way over, too. That is the ultimate luxury because it is such an old plane and not very comfortable. The guy across the aisle from me “passed out” over his salad. Seriously, he fell asleep leaning over his salad. The flight attendants removed the salad and finally fastened his seatbelt for him. He slept all bent forward like that for about 8 hours. It was pretty impressive. I thought maybe he had taken a sleeping pill but when we were landing, he said that he had only gotten about 1 hour of sleep each night for the past 7 days. The guy sitting next to him started snoring right after the meal. He was so loud that I couldn’t sleep. I put in my ear plugs and the Bose headset and I could still hear him. I would have loved to have put my pillow over his face. J
Landed in Dallas and we had a long layover. All our luggage and equipment made it and we had to take the SkyTram all the way around the airport to our terminal for departure to Nashville. We went to Chili’s and had “dinner” and then checked the status of our flight. We were “delayed” and they had moved the gate to one in another terminal. So, we got on the SkyTram and circled the airport once again. The flight kept getting delayed and they finally asked for volunteers to take a flight the next morning as they were in an “overbooked” situation. Two of the girls in Lucy Angel decided to take them up on the offer.
We FINALLY landed in Nashville at a few minutes before midnight. But, other than the normal travel delays and hassles, it was a great trip.