As the Cuba trip was ending, they had another trip on the books to go to Japan for another 10 days. Japan was not remotely on my desires to visit what so ever. But, when else do you have the opportunity to travel to Japan with an MLB player visiting Tokyo for baseball activities, plus I love these people that were going. Lisette and Ely that are part of his team, and Andrea the boys mom, are all people I genuinely enjoy spending time with. It is neat how important these people have become in my life, but it was very serendipitous our meeting that is for sure. So me making the decision to go to Japan wasn’t that hard of a decision.
I always had the fear I would stand out like “Godzilla” to these lil people if I were to visit their country. I know people in Japan are tiny, so as a big person, that is a bit scary. Yasiel is a big bastard and would stand out more than me so I thought that will help that, I’m not the sore thumb which made me look at the odds of another time having someone that I was traveling with fit that mold and the odds weren’t good. Yasiel and I immediately discussed how we would not be able to buy any clothes or shoes because of our massive size which is very true. He had traveled there a few years before for a MLB visit and wanted souvineers and couldn’t find anything to fit. I had also been warned by Shannon’s son who also is massive by their standards to make sure to pack thoroughly because I would not be able to find anything to cover my body.
There were a few times Yasiel and I would be faced with something that was so tiny or odd to our proportion we had to laugh. We found a little cafe off a side street in Tokyo one night and I originally walked in with Andrea and on the right side of the divider wall of this restaurant had seating that was for two people. It was like they literally were the size of booster seats or for a mini children’s playhouse in the states. I immediately started laughing and said we might have a problem, so we went on the other side of the dividers where there was seating for four people. Really for one and one Americans. Andrea and I did fine until Yasiel joined her side and she isn’t very big and they didn’t fit well. That was also the cafe that Cigarette smoking was allowed and also were babies! Lots of smoking in this little closed off cafe, with to babies at the same table. It was an interesting site, but that cafe that the best random food there including toast that was to die for. (Each slice was cut into 4 strips, so there was an argument when ordering how do you order your slices of toast.)
Yasiel is quite famous over in Japan so that was quite endearing. Plus the Japanese people are so hospitable, whenever they would see Yasiel, they would be prepared with not only of something for him to sign, but also bring a gift to him and sometimes a few things for him to share with the group. It was quite cute, and these fans would wait hours for him. The fans would learn who we were and start following our instagram and then people to track us down quicker to try and get ahead of our schedule. We couldn’t figure out on some how when we would arrive people would already be waiting there for him. Eventually we discovered they had gotten ahold of an old itinerary of the travel site and were able to have a general idea of where Yasiel was headed so they would watch and then all call each other. It started from the minute we arrived at the Tokyo airport, he had a long line of fans waiting for his arrival.
One morning we were needing to leave one hotel and load up all of our belongings and get on the bus, so our plan was to meet in the lobby of the hotel, which happened to be on the 25th floor of the hotel, so you catch an elevator to go down to the outside from the lobby to floor one. It was so odd and confusing. Anyhow, as we were getting off the elevator on the main floor we walk out to a lobby filled with people, that were fans waiting for Yasiel.
So picture this, you have just piled 8 people and 16 pieces of luggage onto an elevator and are trying to get them all back out as you enter into a foyer that has three turnstyle doors. In front of all of those turn style doors is a crowd of people which turned out to be fans and paparazzi that were there for Yasiel. There were only 11 of us I believe that went on this trip and the long and short of it is people are all accounted for helping someone except me and Yasiel. There were two kids and Yasiel’s mother who had been having some health issues were traveling with us so we all took turns making sure everyone was counted and checked on, well most of the time.
I finally spun around and pinned Yasiel in the center part with my ass and used my suitcases to get the people out of the two person turnstyle door way. After enough blocking these men with my suitcase and me hollering “enough, enough” we were finally about to get our door to turn and get out of the building to make a run for the bus.
I was so tickled by what our morning was starting out to be that day and I never thought it would include security detail. It took us a while to take off from that hotel for some reason which was almost painful to watch the crowd get bigger and bigger and waiting around the bus hoping to catch a glimpse of Yasiel or better yet to get him back off the bus to sign autographs. Sitting there for twenty minutes was a bit much for us inside the bus and them outside. That was hard and we obviously didn’t have security around.
That was our morning that we were heading to watch Yasiel sumo wrestle and us tour/visit the sumo stables. That was an experience none of us will ever forget that I am quite sure of. I don’t believe any of us had any idea what a sumo stable was, or what it took to be a sumo wrestler, etc. So to have the opportunity to visit one of their training stables was extremely special. Our tour guide at the time was Lily and she was the most sweet and special, and small I might add, person we met. She was delightful and extremely welcoming and hospitable.
We knew Lisette had arranged for Yasiel to be able to wrestle one of the wrestlers, but at that point we didn’t really know what that entailed. We also didn’t know that the training stable literally had dirt floors and they rolled in the dirt and such. We had another place to be after that so it was decided probably a full on wrestling match wasn’t really on the card so they adjusted and let us watch a majority of the training and then Yasiel joined in with the crew to learn some moves and such.
When we as spectators entered the training stable, there were a few things that were very important for us to to be respectful to their culture and what we were in the presence of. We were to remain silent. They are silent. It is almost odd how quiet it is in there with 20 big ol boys wrestling in silence.
You take your shoes off everywhere you enter. You never leave your shoes on. So once in the sumo stable, it was a large square room. Basically there was a stage which is what we were sitting on, on floor pillows, and then the other half was the wrestling arena. We were not to talk nor be on our phone which I completely understand. They are practicing and training and we are special guests that don’t always get the chance to watch. If we had any questions, Lily came with a couple notebooks and pens ready to start passing around for people to be able to ask her questions.
We were not to show the bottom of our feet to anyone because it is a sign of disrespect, but try sitting on a wood floor on a pillow the equivalent of a maxi pad, and maybe not even a heavy flow one, and not being fidgety and not show the bottom of your feet for an hour. We were all struggling until we could move around a bit once Yasiel joined the stable and the practice was over. The men could be a little bit jovial and you could see hints of their personality.
I just enjoyed reading the questions and notes to Lily that were being asked on the three notebooks. People kept her on her toes asking all kinds of questions, and mind you there were only 11 of us. As you’ll learn with this crew it is very important for them to count their chickens and them to also remember how many chickens that are needed. I’ve got a few to share on those.
I was proud of Yasiel at one point during our trip in Japan. I was sitting behind him on the bus and I got on before he did and he obviously didn’t see me when he got on. As we start to take off, and luckily in my case it was less than a minute, Yasiel hollers out “Where’s Topeka!?” Quite panicked thinking they had pulled off and left me. I was quite tickled at him at least remembering me or making sure they hadn’t left me. As I thank him for not leaving me and for his concern, he reassured me “Topeka, I got you.”
There is something about this crew and forgetting people and I’m telling you now, if you ever travel with them don’t take it personally, they forget everyone! Enough times in fact I have a good list going to keep you entertained. Now when I say they forget you, they do always remember you also, so there is that. But it is a little bit like herding chickens regardless if the group size is 11 or 25 with this group.
My first experience with the leaving happened to be on my first trip with them to Cuba. This was completely on accident and we all felt absolutely horrible about the situation in the end. There was a pair that was a mother and daughter duo that live in LA, daughter is fluent in both languages and mother only spoke Spanish. We were leaving our second resort and planning to head onto our next planned adventure when we are about ten minutes down the road, Yasiel is talking about something on the overhead speaker when it dons on Lisette “where is Blanca???” In a sheer panic as the bus screeches to a stop and we are counting all the passengers we realize, she is correct, we did happen to forget two of the ladies back at the last resort.
In our defense, I believe they had gotten on the bus and back off and we didn’t know they had not returned or left the bus in the first place. Either way, they were ticked and understandably. Especially because on our way back to pick them up, I notice the bus is pulling over in the middle of town and Yasiel, his dad and a couple other guys from the front get off the bus. Unsure what is going on, not knowing if there was a problem or if the bus was having issues. There was a driving school going on down the way from where we were parked so we were quite entertained because it was motorcycle day weaving between the cones.
Suddenly we notice the guys starting to walk down thru the driving school, talk to a few people and about five minutes later return with boxes of beer on their shoulders. About six cases if I remember correctly. Of course, we are all dying laughing on the bus realizing what is going on, especially when Blanca and her daughter were back at the resort waiting on us and quite sure hopping mad doubly by this point. We were correct in our assessment of their anger so we did fail to mention that we purchased beverages on our way back to retrieve them to prevent added flames. (If they read these, sorry! We love you guys! 😘)