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December 21, 2014

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Fighting jet lag by eating his way through Japan

TOKYO--- I’m wondering what happened to last Thursday, but I do know it is

gone for ever and it felt like it never happened.

The Oakland A’s charter left Phoenix for Tokyo on Wednesday the 19th and

landed at Norita Airport near midnight on the 20th Tokyo time.

The 12 hour flight wasn’t bad. I’ll never complain about flying on a

charter, and the Japan Airlines 747 was half-full which allowed plenty of

room to move around.

The highlight of our first full day in Tokyo was a welcome reception that

was thrown by the Yomiuri Giants, the A’s opponents in the first of two

exhibition games leading up to the season opening series against the Red

Sox. The Giants are considered the Yankees of Japan and used to be known as

the Tokyo Giants before taking the name of the Yomiuri media conglomerate

that owns the team.

The highlight of the reception for me was the sushi. I was standing at tall

table with a dozen or so very distinguished, impeccably dressed Japanese

businessmen, and while immersed in the sushi I looked up to find all eyes

were focused on me. Suddenly, all of the men broke into huge smiles and

began to bow my way in acknowledgment of my adroit handling of the

chopsticks. I’m thrilled by small things and that was a thrill.

I wasn’t so lucky when it came to my concession stand experience inside the

Tokyo Dome the next night before the game against the Giants. As I was in

line, I was spotted by an A’s fan serving in the military over here. It was

a good break because he coached me on what to say. “Kudasai” means please as

you are asking for something. I ordered a delightful chicken and rice dish,

but I then began to panic because I couldn’t find anything that looked like

a soft drink. I spotted an orange cup and pointed to it, convinced in must

be orange juice. I took the food and the drink into the radio booth and

after a couple of bites opened the cup and took a big gulp. The orange juice

was actually sake, which was probably appropriate since the broadcast began

at 3 a.m. Pacific Time. Our engineer in San Francisco, John Trinidad, joked

that he came straight from last call into the studio.

The Tokyo Dome is a funky place. A cross between the Metrodome and Tropicana

Field, which is to say it isn’t very nice. The roof is just like the

Metrodome ‹ air supported and dirty white, just about the color of a

baseball. In fact, the Hanshin center fielder, Akahoshi, lost a ball in the

roof that led to a gift double in Sunday afternoon’s second exhibition game

for the A’s, a 10-2 win over the Tigers.

The array of food inside the Dome is impressive. One of the columnists for

the English-language Daily Yomiuri was bemoaning the absence of pizza during

the 2007 Giants season, a problem rectified by the appearance of a

California Pizza Kitchen franchise on the lower concourse. You can also get

hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and KFC. And, for opening night against the Red

Sox, there must have been 5,000 boxes of sushi available at every concession

stand.

We have done plenty of sightseeing. My impression of Tokyo, and I know it is

terrible to generalize, is that it is New York with civility. The locals

have been warm and helpful and clearly in love with baseball. We took a

wonderful tour on Monday of the Meiji Shrine and walked breathtakingly close

to the Imperial Palace in the heart of the city.

The tour ended with a visit to the ancient area known as Asakusa. Dying of

hunger, we found tiny upstairs hole-in-the-wall buffet, which was only 980

yen per person, which translates to about $10. You can find dining value if

you hunt for it, and can also spend a fortune at the nicer establishments.

A’s closer Huston Street went out for steak on Monday night and enjoyed a

Kobe beef masterpiece main course that he said was as good a meal as he’s

ever had. And, when you come from Austin, Texas, you know your beef.

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