THURSDAY AND FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5TH – 6TH –NASHVILLE TO MISAWA AIR BASE, JAPAN:
Ugh….3 am wakeup call after getting in bed at midnight. Left for the airport at 4 am for the early morning flight to Minneapolis. Met Ron (drummer for Vertical Horizon) at the check in counter. No problems checking in and I got him into the Lounge for a few minutes before we boarded.
It’s a small jet to Minneapolis so sleeping was out of the question. Landed on time and had a couple of hours before our flight to Tokyo. Donovan landed from Kansas City a few minutes after we landed and I got them both into the Lounge. It’s been a long time since I connected through Minneapolis. Delta now has a non-stop flight straight into Tokyo Haneda instead of Tokyo Narita which is so much better. Means for Country Gold, we can fly from Haneda to Kumamoto instead of flying from Narita to Fukuoka and then a 2 hour bus ride to Kumamoto….same on the return!
The Delta plane is one of the really old versions and even the first class seats are tiny. But, it’s only a 12 hour flight going over as opposed to 14 hours coming home…probably on the same aircraft.
I ate and tried to find a movie to watch but struck out. Same movies I had last month when we were in Europe. They are supposed to switch them out at the first of the month but guess they are running a little behind!
I was able to sleep for about 3 hours even with the man in front of me snoring so loudly he was rolling the window shade up and down. 😊 Then, I was awakened by loud noises in the front of the section. A middle-aged Asian man was standing in the aisle and doing God knows what. He had basically taken his seat apart and had the seat cushion lying in the floor. He went through the process of putting it back together and then took the contents of his entire carry-on bag out and repacked them. I assume he must have lost something because the seats on this old aircraft do “eat” items on a regular basis!
I tried to log back on to the GoGo internet and could not get on. I was connected but no internet because it wouldn’t let my browser take me to the sign on page. I tried everything and finally gave up and tried to log on with my mobile phone. Failed there, too. I didn’t think about using the USB bypass that I had in my case. After turning the phone off and on several times, I was able to log on for the last hour of the flight.
We landed on time and it was “cold”! I LOVE connecting through Haneda Airport instead of Narita. And, I found the hotel where I will be staying from Monday through Wednesday while waiting for the Country Gold performers to arrive. So convenient! The lines at Immigration were very short even though 2 aircraft had landed at the same time. But, the officers were unusually slow. Took Donovan at least 15 minutes longer than me and Ron because he got a “rookie” agent. Then, we waited for our baggage forever. I even asked one of the agents standing around and she went to check on it. We all have the Delta App on our phone so we knew the bags had been loaded onto the aircraft and mine had the “Priority” tag on it which means it is supposed to be first off the belt. Guess the Japanese reverse more than just their “r’s” and “l’s” because it was “last off the belt”. But at least it arrived.
We walked through Customs and then just a few feet away was the Domestic Check In Counter for JAL. Checked out bags and then took the bus from the International Terminal to the Domestic Terminal. Cleared security and arrived at the gate with more than an hour to spare. I sent the guys flying in from LAX a text message telling them how to “navigate” to where we were waiting for them.
So great to see everyone again. I love working with this group! So sweet and easy and professional. Matt is definitely an “old soul”.
Our flight left on time and we landed on time. Our bags arrived a little quicker this time except for poor Donovan….he was the last one through immigration and his bag was the last to arrive at both airports! Vanessa and her “team” were waiting for us. I’ve never met her but she said she worked with Penny last year when she was here with Sublime with Rome. She’s been great to work with and amazingly well-organized! The guys were super impressed that she had our room keys with her and packets of information for us.
Lodging is fantastic…huge 2 bedroom suite with all the comforts of home…coffee maker, stove, refrigerator, microwave, iron and ironing board but best of all GREAT WIFI!
We dropped our bags and headed to Wild Weasel’s bar. On the drive over, Matt asked Vanessa if some of the guys in our lodging would be sleeping during the day and she confirmed that they do have different shifts. Matt cautioned his guys to be quiet when they were walking up and down the hallways. Like I said….so considerate and polite!
The food at Wild Weasel’s was amazingly good for a military base. Of course, we ARE on an “Air Force Base”. 😊 The venue where Aaron Lewis will be performing is in the same building so I was able to check it out. It’s going to be great and they are going to use Yoshi for production – who is great as well!
Had a really nice dinner and then stopped by the Shop Ette to purchase water. After looking all over Haneda Airport for Green Tea Kit Kat, I found it at the Shop Ette! Bought a bag so I could let the guys “try it out”.
Got back to the room and unpacked (a real luxury to be staying in one place for more than one night after the last European tour!) and started to work. It’s almost midnight and I’m going to bed soon. This time difference is brutal as far as staying in touch with my office. I’m 14 hours ahead of CST so basically, I want to sleep while the office is open and work while it’s closed!
Going to skip breakfast because we are going off base at 11 am to a great sushi restaurant! Busy day tomorrow with Everclear arriving, sound check, VIP meet and greet, and hosted dinner. Love it!
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 7TH – MISAWA AIR BASE, JAPAN:
Well, DUH, I guess I should say “why” I’m in Japan. Misawa Air Base has a large “American Day Festival” each year. The event is held in a shopping area right outside the base gate and is open to everyone – general public and military – free of charge. It is a fantastic event. Last year Penny attended as the escort for Sublime With Rome. This year it worked out perfectly for me since my 29th Annual Country Gold Festival in Kumamoto is the following weekend.
Vertical Horizon and Everclear are the performers from the USA this year.
I’ve worked with Vertical Horizon many, many times and love those guys and they LOVE the U.S. Military. This is my first time working with Everclear but I know their history of supporting the U.S. military, too.
I DID not go to bed at midnight. At exactly midnight, there were earthquake tremors! They were strong enough to move my chair across the floor but not strong enough to run outside. I did go to bed at 3:30 am and got up at 6:30 am so I could go with Vanessa to the airport to meet Everclear. Their flight landed on time and they were very happy to hear that it was only a 5-10 minute drive to the base. It has been raining all morning and probably won’t stop until tonight.
Vanessa had already picked up their room keys and they were able to go directly to their rooms. They had been flying all night from Australia and I’m sure wanted nothing more than to go to take a shower and go to bed. However, all but one person joined us for the most amazing “sushi” experience ever. It was the type of restaurant where you sit at a “bar” and plates of sushi pass by on a conveyor belt. There is also an iPad mounted at each table and you can order anything you want – soup, beverages, sides, and any type of sushi/sashimi imaginable. I know I ate more sushi then I have ever eaten in my life at one meal. There were 15 of us total and when the bill was added up, I was expecting the total to be around $600. Nope – LESS THAN $200!!! Unbelievable for the best sushi ever. Vanessa graciously paid for everyone’s lunch, too. I’m so glad that restaurant isn’t within walking distance of the base.
It had started raining harder while we had lunch. I went to Vertical Horizon crew to the stage for sound check at 12:30 pm. Everything was running a little late because of the rain. I stayed at the venue most of the afternoon while Vertical Horizon did their sound check and then Everclear came over for theirs. There is a “funky” mall right beside the stage and we checked it out. It’s sort of “overload” with lots of pre-owned clothes (and LOTS of military clothing) and games galore for kids plus some musical instruments.
It stopped raining for a few minutes at around 4 pm but started back up again. The Commander for FSS (Force Support Services) who is Vanessa’s boss came by the stage to say hello. The Wing Commander also came by and I reminded him that he was at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan on 4th of July in 2017 when I had Vertical Horizon performing there. It was a “memorable” 4th of July because we had a mortar attack right in the middle of their performance and everyone had to go face down. The Colonel remembered being at the performance when that happened. Both are extremely nice guys and they also have a “band” who will perform later tomorrow afternoon. Matt invited the Wing Commander to come on stage with them and play on one of their songs and he agreed.
We had a “meet and greet” with contest winners from 5-6 pm and then a delicious catered dinner. I was still stuffed from the huge lunch! We stopped by the Shoppette after dinner and got back to lodging at an amazingly early time. I am NOT staying up until 3:30 am tonight! The event tomorrow starts really early and both entertainers perform early as well.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 8TH – AMERICAN DAY AT MISAWA AIR BASE (AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY SON, CHRIS!):
So those of you who follow my road reports know about the heating and air conditioning systems in Asia. Twice a year, there is a month where there is absolutely no possibility of having any heat or air conditioning. In the Spring, they turn off the heat and a month later, turn on the air conditioner. In the Fall, they turn off the air conditioner and turn on the heat. I ALWAYS seem to be here when this is happening.
It is so cold in our rooms at night, we have been asking for portable heaters….which they don’t have. The first night, I used the hair dryer to warm my feet in the middle of the night. I got an extra blanket last night but it was freezing even before I went to bed. I had this brilliant idea to turn on the oven since I have a “kitchen”. I set it at 400 degrees and opened the door. It worked beautifully. I walked into the bathroom to wash my face and when I turned around, the entire living area was “smoky”. I thought it was going to set off the smoke detector and I would be responsible for having the entire hotel evacuated. I tried to open a window but the windows don’t open. Fortunately, the smoke alarm didn’t go off. I guess the oven had been cleaned when the last guest used the room and there were still “chemicals” inside that made the smoke.
I got in bed relatively early and was going to sleep for a good 6 hours. Only my phone rang at 3:30 am! I didn’t recognize the number, so didn’t answer it but they didn’t leave a voice mail. I couldn’t go back to sleep, so got up and started working because it was too dark to go for a jog. Turns out the phone call was from Delta Airlines because they emailed me when they couldn’t reach me by phone! I worked until 6:30 and then went for a great jog. They weather is going to be perfect today….high of only 70 and no rain in the forecast.
Showered and met the first group in the lobby at 10:15 am to go to the venue. We can only drive as far as the front gate and then have to walk a few blocks to the stage. All the streets surrounding the base are blocked off and “vendors” have set up booths selling every kind of food imaginable. It was already packed that early in the morning. There was a parade going by when we arrived and at 11 am, the Mayor and the Base Commander gave speeches a couple of blocks away.
Vertical Horizon and Everclear both gave fantastic performances to a huge crowd of fans — both American and Japanese! Vertical Horizon brought the Wing Commander on stage to play a guitar solo with them and he was awesome. Said he was more nervous than he ever was at any time in Afghanistan. 😊
We were “finished” by 2:30 pm but everyone stayed around to watch for a while. There was a Japanese rock band and then a “dance group” (all ages) from a local dance school. Both were excellent. The dancers were young children all the way up to young adults. In one song, one of the male dancers was dressed as a female and was wearing a wig. During the dance, the wig flew off his head. He was horrified and then to make matters worse, a female dancer behind him picked it up and started swinging it around. He ran off the stage and instead of going into the dancers dressing tent, he ran straight into the bands’ tent….then straight back out into his.
The Wing Commander and the FSS Commander closed out the afternoon from 4-4:30 pm with their band. They were surprisingly good! I’ve never seen people in either of these positions perform in a band. It was refreshing and I’m sure the men and women serving under them were thrilled. Both are really terrific guys and you can tell how much they care about the morale of their people!
Everclear wanted to eat at a local Indian restaurant tonight but the restaurant had a booth set up selling food today so they are closed tonight. They decided to go eat Ramen noodles at 5 pm. Vertical Horizon and I opted to go back to the Sushi Restaurant one last time. 😊 Matt was really looking forward to going back there but I got a text message from him a little after 3:30 saying he was calling it a day. He’s got 3 more days in Tokyo to eat great sushi!
The food was as good this time as it was the first night. The only difference was this time we sort of “knew” what we wanted to order. It was the perfect ending to a really great day – beautiful weather, huge crowds, fantastic performances, and LOTS of happy people. Vanessa and her team did such an amazing job of coordinating this huge event. Nothing but compliments for her and her staff.
Have an 8:30 am lobby call to fly to Tokyo tomorrow. We all leave together and then split up onto different flights back home. Except for me and Matt. He’s staying over a couple of days to sightsee and I’m staying over to meet the Country Gold artists.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 9TH – MISAWA AIR BASE TO TOKYO HANEDA AIRPORT:
Got a text message from Chris at 3:30 am this morning saying he is “alive”. He had already finished his sky dive and I was relieved to hear from him. He said it was awesome and is ready to do it again. I fell back asleep for an hour and then got up, showered, worked and was in the lobby by 8 am for an 8:30 am departure. We took group photos and sang “Happy Birthday” to Chris before departing to the airport.
I let all the groups check in first and then I checked my bag. Had some Udon soup with a couple of the guys and then we boarded the flight to Tokyo. I had reserved an aisle seat but Japan Airlines really doesn’t care. They put me in a window seat. At least it was only a one hour flight.
We landed and began going our separate ways. I thought Matt and I were the only ones who had to pick up luggage but for some reason when Everclear checked in, they didn’t check their luggage all the way to the USA. Vertical Horizon checked theirs all the way through so they went to their next departure gate. Matt grabbed his bag and took a shuttle bus to his hotel in downtown Tokyo. I rode the shuttle bus with Everclear to the International Terminal and got them situated. Then I was able to go to the 3rd floor and check in at the Royal Park Hotel for the next 3 days.
Unfortunately check in time wasn’t until 3 pm and the desk clerk would not work with me on getting a room any earlier. So, I got the Wi-Fi password, stored my bag, and set up my office in the lobby for a couple of hours. At around 2 pm, I noticed guests were checking in and getting their room keys. I went back to the desk clerk and they checked me right in. Guess they would have just let me sit there all afternoon without telling me my room was ready.
It’s a really nice room – but very “small” as all rooms are in Japan. But, there is air conditioning, great WI-FI, and a coffee maker. I made sure the WI-FI was working in my room before unpacking and then walked over to the terminal to see my options for meals and shopping during my 3 days here. Lots of restaurants to choose from!
Spent the rest of the afternoon working and then walked back to the terminal to eat dinner. Might take a “nap” and get up when things start opening up in Nashville. Not sure how many offices are closed today in celebration of Columbus Day!