Derek Jackson: The Troops Visit Through A Lawyer’s Eyes
Alright Marlins fans . . . I know you’re ready for the report on our first full day in Japan! But since it’s my first time on the Blog mic, allow me to give you a quick recap of my journey to Tokyo and my initial impressions of Japan after arriving yesterday. First off the flight . . . I flew out of New York, and my flight to Tokyo was a clean 14 hours. That’s right, a full 14 hours . . . up over Canada, then over a whole lot of water, over the north pole, then down across the body of water that I believe is the Pacific Ocean at that point, then down over the Siberian mountains (yes, SIBERIA), then over more of the Pacific, and then finally into Japan . . .
The flight actually was very smooth and not as taxing as I expected. I had the Ipad loaded up with movies, books, etc. and surprisingly I never got around to watching one movie or tv show. I was so excited about the trip that I just knocked out some reading I had to do, then I just read about the places we would be visiting, the things we would do, and chatted it up with people on the plane – including our friendly flight attendants. I love learning people’s “story” (meaning how long they’ve been doing their particular job, how they ended up in that job, what their plans and hopes are for the future). Everyone’s story and journey through life is so interesting to me, and I think it’s a great way to connect with people and see how they view the world and see what brings them joy in life.
Japan . . . WOW is all I can say. The people are so nice, so respectful, and so friendly. I can see why people fall in love with this place and why many military officers and their families request deployments here. All of the locals seem so happy to have Americans here and are excited to interact with you. So even though the culture and customs are very different, the people really make you feel comfortable and welcome. Anytime we spoke to someone, they were incredibly warm and friendly . . . but always very formal and extra respectful. I also was blown away by how good everyone’s English is too. Just makes me feel like Americans are so far behind by not learning as many languages as other cultures. From what I saw of Tokyo yesterday I can also say that the people and the culture are very different from America. In many ways it felt and looked like any other big city in the world, but in many other ways it was entirely different and you could tell that you were in an entirely different part of the world!
Now on to today – our first FULL DAY in JAPAN. We stayed on the military base last night and spent most of the day visiting the troops, military families, and different operations on the base. What an experience. First, interacting with the military service men & women has been incredible. They are so happy to see us and so appreciative of our journey here to spend some time with them to see how they live and what they do to serve our country. Learning their individual stories also was fascinating and made us fully appreciate the sacrifice they are making for our country. In just today, we toured the fire and emergency response station and learned how they put out major fires in combat action and on base, and how they respond to accidents and other emergencies. They were so gracious to let us try on their fire suits and check out all their gear and facilities . . . and they even let Billy The Marlin climb on top of the biggest fire truck you’ve ever seen in your life! (Check our site for the pictures of that!) We also toured the security command center and learned about how they keep everyone on the base safe and protected. How thankful we are for them! We also did meet and greets with the military families at Chili’s restaurant and at the Grand Opening of a new Mexican restaurant that opened on the base today. Really interesting how all of the restaurants on the base are pretty much every type of food EXCEPT Japanese! At first it seemed weird and we all wondered where the sushi was, but then we figured it out. There is sushi (and other fine Japanese cuisine) ALL AROUND the base . . . I mean it’s TOKYO for goodness sake!
Now, while these experiences all were very cool, the highlight of the day was without question the youth baseball clinic this afternoon. We had about 40 kids ages 7 – 14. About half were U.S. military kids and the other half were some very joyous but very serious young Japanese little leaguers who came fully dressed in their little league uniforms and ready to show us how seriously they take baseball here in Japan. The Marlins players were great with the kids – Mike Stanton, Brett Hayes, and Bryan Petersen all were wonderful and gave the kids memories they will keep for the rest of their lives. After stretching the kids out and doing some drills with them, we split the group up into 4 teams and had a chance to see what they could do in game action. Let me tell you, this had to be one of the most talented groups of little leaguers I’ve ever seen! Both the American kids and the Japanese kids were smacking the ball ALL OVER the place. There were several home runs, a number of doubles, some very hard singles and a bunch of other hard hit balls. Sorry to rat you out – Bryan and Brett (the pitchers for the day)!!! Haa. The kids also flashed some great glove work in the game. So great to see the love for our American pastime like that.
I have to thank the Marlins players and Marlins dance team members for being so warm, friendly, and patient with all the kids and families who came out to the clinic this afternoon and at all the other stops today . . . taking time to accept every photograph request, engage in every conversation, and sign every autograph requested (even for Japanese names that it took them several times to understand and to have spelled out letter by letter). Also a big shout to Billy The Marlin who kept the kids in stitches all day!
Before I shut it down for the night, I have to give a big shot out to Armed Forces Entertainment for putting this trip together and allowing the Marlins group to enjoy this incredible experience for the 4th time. We are so lucky to have a chance to see this part of the world while also meeting the men and women serving our country over here and sacrificing their lives to keep us safe. Everything has been handled beautifully and run like clockwork so far. Some of that thanks also has to go to our boy Luis who has kept everything on track here and is doing a great job so far coordinating everything on the Marlins end. Man, I can’t believe we’ve only been here for a little over a day . . . I can’t wait for the activities and interactions of the next 12 days!
Until next time Marlins fans . . . Sayounara!!!