It’s hard to believe, but this is the Sweet 16th anniversary of the Cubs’ 2000 season-opening trip to Japan.
Sixteen years ago today, I spent my first full day in Tokyo. The night before, the Cubs landed in Japan for the first-ever regular-season games outside of North America. I’m still not sure how the combined time of the two flights (13 hours) equaled leaving Mesa early on a Friday morning and landing in Tokyo late Saturday afternoon. Of course, the direct return flight from Tokyo to Chicago had us leaving Friday evening … spending 14 hours in the air … and landing in Chicago Friday afternoon. Time travel rules!
Anyway, to commemorate the blessed event, I found my daily dairy – which turned out to be my original blog. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it back then – and reading it now. Apparently, I was funny back in the day!
I’ll post this in three parts over several days this week. Enjoy!
The Japan Itinerary – March 2000
March 25, 2000 (Days 1 and 2 Recap): Toothless in Tokyo …
Hello from Japan!
Sorry it’s taken a while to write, but apparently AOL can only be used between certain hours.
As I write this, it’s 10:15 p.m. Saturday night (7:15 a.m. in Chicago). I woke up Friday morning in Mesa, Ariz., at 4 a.m. (which translates to 8 p.m. here), so it’s been a 26-plus hour day for me. Anyway …
After our early start, we flew to San Francisco on a charter — then traveled to Tokyo on a 747. If you haven’t been in a Tokyo-bound 747 before, what can I say but ‘Wow.’ I had a 6-way seat/recliner with a personal pop-up TV screen — and I was in business class. I sipped on some Dom Perignon, and got to look down upon Alaska – as we traveled really far north, went past the international date line, then went south along the Pacific coast until landing in Japan. The 11-hour flight didn’t seem so bad.
I did have one tiny little mishap, though, and anyone who knows me knows that this could only happen to me. Approximately two hours into the trip, I bit down on a Haagen Dazs ice cream brick and shattered the front half of my false tooth. The only pain is in the self-deprecating humor. I do have that Deliverance/Alfred E. Neumann look going for me, though, as the inside of the tooth is silvery black. Check back later on my trip to the Japanese dentist.
Once we landed at Narita Airport, we pretty much coasted through customs and immigration. The coasting ended, though, when we bused to downtown Tokyo. Narita Airport is exactly 60 kilometers from downtown (which by my math should be around 40 miles), yet the bus ride took a solid 2 1/2 hours. So about the only thing I can say I’ve seen in Tokyo thus far is traffic. And they drive on the wrong side of the road here, too, which probably explains why no one moves.
The jet lag, I survived. The bus lag — that still exists.
The hotel we’re staying at, the New Otani, appears to be the size of the Merchandise Mart. There are 100-plus stores here and nearly 20 restaurants. However, at this point in time when I am typing this, no one can tell me how to access AOL.
I have already taken to some of the Japanese culture thanks to some of the hotel’s amenities. I’m sitting here drinking Oolong tea, wearing an extremely comfortable karate-like kimono robe and listening to a Japanese alternative music station (they just played a Japanese cover of an Aerosmith song).
Most of the room controls are located in one wall panel. The panel, which is located near the headboard of the bed, draws the curtains, regulates air conditioning and room lighting and has six radio station buttons to choose from (I’m sticking with the music one, though). I can also activate the Do Not Disturb sign by pressing a button on that console.
There’s not much TV to choose from. The only English stations are CNN International and BBC — although you can get The Golf Channel, the Playboy Channel and the Pioneer Karaoke Channel through the pay-TV menu.
One last thing to tell you about is the toilet. Not only is it heated, but you can squirt your bottom with water as part of the cleansing process. I guess it’s true that you haven’t lived until you’ve been “ass sprayed.”
Anyway, enough with today’s rambling. We have a workout at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning in preparation for our four days of games. I plan to explore after that, so hopefully I can enlighten (or bore) you with more info the next time I write.
For now, Sayonara!
Editors Note: I was told on Sunday morning that the reason AOL didn't work when I tried earlier was because I didn't plug the phone line into the right outlet. Apparently, the fax/modem line is located INSIDE a drawer by this desk
March 26, 2000 (Day 3 Recap): Pokemon Doesn’t Exist …
Day #2 in Japan (this was the first real day to see anything here, and it was quite an interesting day).
First thing’s first — you have got to avoid the jet lag. Surprisingly enough, since I can get jet lag on the St. Louis-to-Chicago trip, I survived this first day quite nicely. I stayed up until 11:15 last night and slept until 7 a.m. — with just a brief wakeup around 4 a.m. Most of the people in the traveling party got 6-7 hours of sleep, but that also had them up for good around 5 a.m. So, in recap, I haven’t adjusted to the time for the better part of 34-plus years in the States, but I could do it in one night here. It must be the sumo blood in me!
The club had a 10 a.m. workout at the Tokyo Dome this morning. The Tokyo Dome, which is modeled on Minneapolis’ Metrodome (I’m afraid to ask why), is known as The Big Egg. It was obnoxiously loud today during the workout. From what I understand, the exhibition games tomorrow night against the Yomiuri Giants and Tuesday against the Seibu Lions will resemble big-time rivalry college football crowds, with fans standing the entire game … bands playing … music on the P.A. The press box is “outdoors,” as it’s in the middle of the crowd. I’ll have a great view for the festivities.
They had Kid’s Day festivities as part of the workout, as the first 10,000 children to show up at the Dome were allowed in for free. It was nice to see all the kids in uniforms — with real stirrups being worn.
In fact, you can tell how much the kids revere baseball in this country — much better than back home. On the bus ride to-and-from the ballpark, we passed quite a few Little League games. We also passed a Denny’s, several McDonald’s and a couple 7-11’s, but I felt like a foreigner by not seeing a Starbucks at every intersection.
After we got back to the hotel, I went off by myself and took a nice long two-hour “observational” walk. It was really very fascinating — and quite humbling – because the further I got from the hotel, the less communicating I was able to do. Every employee I’ve met in this hotel speaks some level of English. Go a couple blocks from here, though, and it’s another world. Consider the fact that there’s a population of around 30 million here, and you realize just how small Chicago is.
During my walk, I took a trek along a Central Park-ish path and saw kids training in martial arts, archery and tennis — and of course, a Little League game. It’s amazing to watch 9-10 year olds throwing curve balls and doing the Hideo Nomo hitch.
The park let off at Kojimachi, a street that resembles Michigan Avenue — just much longer. Among the things I noticed during this part of the walk:
After returning to the hotel, I went with a group of people to the Akihabara district — the electronics district of Tokyo. If you have a picture in your mind involving Tokyo, this was it. It was like walking around Las Vegas — only with a lot more neon lighting and a lot more glitz. We went in a few stores, as I saw some unbelievable flat screen TVs and some amazing DVD players. Outside of some souvenirs, the only thing I bought was a transistor radio — which is the size of a credit card and can fit in your wallet.
A few of us then took the subway back to the hotel. The train was absolutely spotless.
Tonight, the Yomiuri Shimbun Company threw a reception for both the Cubs and the Mets at the Akasaka Prince hotel. It was your basic finger food reception, although there might actually have been fingers involved, as most of the food was unidentifiable. And they didn’t even have a shrimp boat, which was quite disappointing. I think I ate meat, but I can’t be too sure.
As you can probably guess, I am enjoying myself — and I’m trying to soak in as much as I can in a short time. After a day full of little head-nod half bows, arrigatos (“Thank You”) and konnichiwas (“Good Day”), I’m now signing off. Thanks for reading!