Sunday, March 01, 2009

Raiderette Travel Diary: Japan 

Posted by Sasha at 9:56 AM ET

Raiderette Cole's Visit to Japan
February 24, 2009

* Video interview with Raiderette Cole *

Recently, veteran Raiderette Cole had the opportunity, along with seven other NFL cheerleaders, to visit Japan and work with NFL Japan on several initiatives and awareness campaigns with regard to NFL football. Cole took time out to chronicle her experiences. Also, Raiders.com's Jeanette Thompson had a chance to sit down with Cole for a one-on-one video interview upon Cole's return from Japan.

By Raiderette Cole

This is my very first time traveling to Japan, and I am so honored to be representing the NFL, and the Oakland Raiders on this tour. Thank you for inviting me to share my experience with the Raider Nation.

I met with all the team representatives that will be participating in the tour, and Maria Giannini, the director of E2k entertainment production company, at San Francisco International Airport. The ladies I went on tour with included Lauren - San Francisco 49ers; Lindsay - New England Patriots; Melanie - Seattle Seahawks; Fabiola - Miami Dolphins; Kazuyo - NY Jets; Marisa - San Diego Chargers; and Lauren - Philadelphia Eagles. Lauren, from the Eagles however, arrived later than the rest of us due to the playoffs.

I was very fortunate to sit next to such a great couple on my flight over to Japan. Americans Mary and Mark have lived in Japan for over 25 years. They were so generous to share details about the Japanese culture. They explained the currency, or the "yen" rather. I've never seen such a more beautiful currency than the Yen.

The 13-hour flight flew by because I was in such great company. We deplaned, hopped on a charter bus and headed to our hotel, The New Otani, which is gorgeous! We checked into our rooms and walked to a nearby local restaurant to eat our first Japanese-style meal. We had to take off our shoes to enter, and they gave us lockers to store our things. Kazuio, with the Jets, is originally from Tokyo, Japan. So she is very familiar with the area and more importantly she was able to communicate for all of us because she speaks fluent Japanese. We are all so grateful she is here because she is teaching us so much. We couldn't have asked for better hands-on education. We have such a busy agenda coming up, so we went back to our rooms to get some sleep.

Day 1:
We all met at the top of The New Otani Tower for breakfast, and a kick off meeting with the team from NFL Japan. We learned, in more detail, about what is to be expected of us on this trip and the messages they really want us to communicate to gain a larger fan base here in Japan. Basically our mission was to communicate in our interviews key points about NFL football as if we were explaining the sport to someone for the very first time. We are introducing the sport and motivating them to tune in [to NFL football].

After our meeting we went straight to the studio and got to work. I led the team through a group stretch and then we practiced three sideline routines together. We had already learned the material via DVD prior to our departure. So when we got together it was basically cleaning the routines, formations, and just learning to dance together, as we all come from different teams, with different styles. Everyone was so professional, and prepared that practice went by quickly. We broke for lunch and then traveled by subway into the city where we were able to explore and sightsee a bit. When we returned to the hotel Lauren from the Eagles had arrived. She was my roommate for the remainder of the trip. We all went to Trader Vics for dinner, and quickly got ready for our first performance together. "Sporto" is the highest rated sports program on Fuji TV. It was a LIVE appearance, and it airs at midnight, which seems late for the most popular sports show, and is really late for us because we are still adjusting to the time difference, and have jet lag. However we managed to put on a great show, which consisted of one dance performance to Christina Aguilera's "Keeps getting Better," and an interview session with us as a group. We got back to the hotel around 1:00 a.m. to get some sleep.

Day 2:
Up at 6:30 a.m., and at 8 a.m. we had a quick group breakfast at the hotel then we got on our official NFL Japan Tour bus. We headed to the "Star Maker Studios" in Shiba, for a photo shoot. This was an extra special shoot because we were all posing in our team identified uniforms together for our "Team Photo Card." This photo card will be used to sign autographs, and is given to the fans at our appearances.

Immediately after the shoot we went back to the hotel to practice. From practice we went to the Yokota Air Base. At this appearance we had to perform our solo introduction, all three sideline dance routines, and a trivia session with the audience. Each cheerleader made up two questions to ask the audience, one question was to be a difficult question, and the second to be easy. My difficult trivia question was a historical one, what is the name of the first Raider player ever to be inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame? Answer, my favorite, Jim Otto. My easy trivia question was who is the owner of The Oakland Raiders? Answer, Al Davis, of course (too easy). We then followed up this event with an autograph session and photo session. Then we went back to the hotel to change and we went to Zen in Roppongi for an amazing sushi dinner.

Day 3:
022409 Cole performs with NFL cheerleadersUp at 6 a.m., 8 a.m. group breakfast at the New Otani, immediately followed by a dance rehearsal for about an hour. Then we loaded up our tour bus and headed to Venus Fort, Odaiba for the event I have been looking forward to most, The NFL Cheer Challenge 2009. This event was such a special event because the Japanese dance teams were to compete, and we were to judge the competition. Over 200 fans showed up for this event. The competition consisted of teams with ages that range from 4 to 19. The performances were amazing, high energy, and great choreography, and technique. I especially enjoyed the younger girls, they were so cute, and we all were so impressed with how they managed to retain all the material for their dance routines. There were two awards given out, and the competition was fierce. We then performed with Q and A session and interview to follow.

Then we walked back to Fuji TV for "Mezamashi," another TV appearance, this a morning show. We were all interviewed regarding our experience in Japan, our experience as NFL cheerleaders, and of course the Super Bowl. From there we went NTV which stands for Nittelle Television. NTV is the #1 watch network in Japan. The program we were on is "Urugusa" which is the #1 sports program in Japan, and we performed again LIVE at midnight. On this show we performed "Just Dance" by Lady Gaga, followed by an interview. This was a long, fun and productive day.

Day 4:
022409 Cole performs on Japanese TVOur first event was a viewing party at a western-style restaurant, where we mingled with the 100 plus fans that showed, signed autographs on our photo cards, and met with the executives for Coors Light Japan. This event ended with follow up interview for a behind-the-scenes segment they will be using for NFL Japan.com.

After this event we freshened up and went to Dentsu, Japan’s #1 Advertising Agency. This was not on our original Itinerary, this was an added special meeting because of all our exposure, the Dentsu executives invited us for a round-table meeting, Very intense. We introduced ourselves, answered questions regarding our respective teams, the Super Bowl, and our experience in Japan. This was a very exciting meeting, intense, but exciting because Dentsu is a very powerful company and can give NFL Japan top exposure.

After our meeting we walked to NTV studios for another LIVE performance on "Real Time." Then we went to the TV shooting of "NFL Club." We filmed this segment on location at "Ukaitei" restaurant. The setting was a traditional Japanese-style dinning and featured real authentic Japanese cuisine. We were to eat and enjoy the meal that is prepared for us, as we are being interviewed as guests on the show. Rather unusual setting, however delicious and fun. Nachi Abe joined us as a surprise guest. He is an ex-NFL football player with experience with NFL Europa and is now in broadcasting in Japan.

Then we went back to NTV studios for our usual midnight LIVE appearance but this time on "News Zero." Were we a featured on the sports corner of the program. We performed our solo routines, followed by interviews. Then we went right back to the hotel to rest a bit before our next appearance.

Day 5:
022409 Cole and cheerleaders gets ready for video shootUp at 4:00 a.m., call time 5 a.m. We headed back to NTV studios for an early morning show called "Zoom-In Super." This show is equal to "Good Morning America" in the United States.

IT WAS FREEZING! They had us perform outside. They gave us huge down jackets and coffee to stay warm. We took our coats off literally seconds before our performance. Immediately after our performances the hosts of the show interviewed us as we shivered in our uniforms. At least I have sleeves, if you watch the clip Fabiola from Miami is shivering uncontrollably. We then wrapped up the show, joining the hosts say their famous catch phrase, "Zoom-In"

We went back to the hotel to rest for a bit, because we only had three hours sleep the night before. After resting we jumped on our tour bus, with our NFL entourage and went to Asakusa, Harajuku for some sightseeing and shopping on the Takeshita Dori street. This is where we were able to get our friends, family, and teammates souvenir gifts. We visited the Temple, and were blessed by the smoke with health, wealth and happiness.

Later that day we arrived in Shibuya for a quick dance rehearsal, and changed for our next performance, which was actually my favorite performance of our tour. This event was called "The NFL Night Special." This was a talk show/ performance/ Super Bowl trivia/ Live event. The venue had a nightclub feel with great lighting, and was sold out with a capacity of 200. We performed all three dance routines. We had a Q and A segment. Then the award-winning dancers form the Cheer Challenge performed. We did a raffle drawing for prizes (team autographed footballs and t-shirts). Then we had our challenge, The Super Bowl Trivia Challenge. Audience members were selected at random to form a team and they were to compete with us! It was a close match. However they won by only one point, they were very knowledgeable. We ended this event with a photo session. After the event we shot a quick commercial teaser for "Sporto Ladies Day." Then we ate at the Hard Rock Cafe Tokyo, for well-deserved American-style burgers!

Day 6:
022409 Cole in JapanUp at 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m. group breakfast. It was starting to sink in that our trip was coming to an end. We all started to get a little sad because this was our final day, and final performance. We got on our tour bus and went to J-POP cafe in Shibuya. The TV shooting for NHK’s "Best Sports" show. We performed one final dance routine, to "Keeps Getting Better," which was so fitting because we had all gotten better, and each of us had grown so much from this experience. From traveling to Japan, to celebrating our NFL, to sharing what we are a part of in our individual organizations, and celebrating our communities. It made me feel so proud to be an NFL cheerleader, and justified my role as a role model within our community and as an ambassador for our organization.

That evening we had a farewell dinner at the famous restaurant Nobo. NFL Japan presented us with a very special necklace which I found to be so generous and thoughtful. If there is one thing I could expose to you all about the Japanese culture, it is that the people are so polite, kind, and generous. We went out that evening and explored the night club scene in Tokyo. Interestingly enough, they all play American music!

Day 7:
We said our goodbye's to the NFL Japan crew, which took such great care of us. We exchanged email addresses and contact information with all the members of the tour, and I slept the entire plane ride home.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank The Oakland Raiders, Karen Kovac, Maria Giannini, E2k entertainment, Jiro San, NFL Japan, and the NFL for this opportunity. I feel so blessed to be able to live out my dream of being an NFL cheerleader. This is an experience I will cherish because it validated my purpose in this great sport we are all so passionate about, and my contribution as an ambassador for our organization.

Many Cheers!

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