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At 6:30 in the morning, the day after a packed Labor Day Celebration concert at Trophy Point, members of the band boarded a bus bound for Newark airport. We were all tired from a very late night the night before, but playing the 1812 Overture with live cannon fire in front of 10,000 of our loyal fans is what we live for, so there are no complaints from the travelers.

The band on stage at Trophy Point. Photo by Staff Sgt. Mikki Skinner

The band on stage at Trophy Point. Photo by Staff Sgt. Mikki Skinner

The flight is long, 14 hours, and uneventful. We are met at the airport by a few members of the Central Band who graciously schlep us and our stuff to our hotel, and even stop for much needed coffee on the way. As anyone who has travelled so far around the world knows, jet lag is a tough thing to deal with, particularly in the first few days after arriving. Our biggest challenge was to stay awake until at least 9 p.m. so that we could begin to adjust to Japan time, (that’s 13 hours ahead of New York if you’re keeping score).

We headed into Ueno in Tokyo in search of food for dinner. Command Sgt. Major Mullins and I looked for the busiest yakitori place we could fine and sat down to a fantastic and memorable meal underneath the train tracks in Tokyo. After dinner, Lt. Col. Keene, Command Sgt. Major Mullins and I walked around for a while just trying to stay awake. We got a little bit of culture shock when we headed into a pachinko parlor at 8 p.m. on a Wednesday. The cacophony was absolutely deafening.

CSM Mullins enjoying some Yakitori.

CSM Mullins enjoying some Yakitori.

Yakitori in Ueno

Yakitori in Ueno

Pachinko

Pachinko

Our mission to stay up until 9 p.m. complete, we headed back to the hotel and fell asleep instantly, hoping not to wake in the middle of the night (the curse of serious jet lag). We hoped to be well rested for a big day that began the next morning.

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