Go Away With … Al Jarreau


Photo Credit: Rocky Schenck

By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Media Services
September 22, 2009

“Traveling is a wonderful perk of my job,” says singer Al Jarreau. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world.” A recent tour took him to Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Manila, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Jakarta, but not Tokyo — one of his all-time favorite cities. The seven-time Grammy Award winner in jazz, pop and R&B is best known for his smooth hit singles “Never Givin’ Up,” “Moonlighting” and “After All” and his greatest hits album “Al Jarreau — The Very Best Of: An Excellent Adventure” will be in stores on Sept. 29.
Jarreau, 69, offers insight on some of his favorite destinations, including Tokyo, San Francisco and Hawaii.

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?
A. As a working musician on tour, I see a lot less of the places we visit than I’d like. We’re usually just shuttled between the bus, the hotel and the venue. You only have time to get to your hotel and rest before the show. But there have been times when I have been able to see a little bit more of the local scene, as in Japan. Tokyo is one of my favorite cities. It is just as beautiful now as when I was first there, maybe more so. But it is much more crowded and congested than ever. If you are ever able to get to Japan and spend time there over several visits, you are really aware of this other culture. It sticks with you. We as Americans are so outgoing and unreserved in unbridled enthusiasm. It is just fascinating and interesting to watch the controlled enthusiasm in Japan, especially at concerts.

Q. What are your favorite weekend getaways?
A. San Francisco is a great one. I’ve spent a lot of time up there doing concerts. This time I am going to get away from the business side of town and ordering room service. I’m going to get out on the streets in downtown San Francisco and have a nice meal. It’s very romantic for me and my wife and reminds us of being there early on when we first met.

Q. What are your favorite hotels and restaurants?
A. I like the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris (www.fourseasons.com/paris) and Das Triest in Vienna (www.designhotels.com/dastriest). The Bayerischer Hof in Munich is a wonderful hotel that just treats you nice. In Los Angeles, I like Cravings (www.cravingsrestaurant.com). They have a wonderful variety of things, from Middle Eastern dishes to an all-you-can-eat variety of meats on a skewer. Spring Street Natural in New York (www.springstreetnatural.com/) is wonderful. In Rome, there’s a beautiful restaurant called Matriciano. Cranks in London is another favorite restaurant.

Q. What is your best vacation memory?
We stayed at the Sheraton Moana Surfrider Hotel on Waikiki Beach (www.moana-surfrider.com) in Hawaii. We went to a luau, climbed palm trees and had a meal outside. It was beautiful and something I had never done before. I’d recommend this to anyone!

Q. How do you try to fit in when you’re a tourist?
A. I’d like to have more time off so I could just be a tourist, actually, and visit the temples and shops in Japan. I’ve collected some beautiful dolls and kiminos from there. I’d also like to visit some typical Japanese homes, if someone would invite me!


CAPITAL: Tokyo, which is also Japan’s largest city. Prior to the 19th century, Tokyo was known as Edo.

SIZE: Japan is slightly smaller than California and has a population of more than 126 million. About 12 million people reside in Tokyo.

CURRENCY: Japanese Yen. $1US equals 98JPY. Japan is one of the most expensive places to live. To get a perspective on how much things cost, a can of soda is about 120JPY; beer costs between 500 to 800JPY (depending on whether you get it from a vending machine or at a bar); and a movie ticket will set you back about 1,800JPY.

TIME ZONE: GMT/UTC plus nine hours. So if it’s noon Monday in Chicago, it’s 3 a.m. Tuesday in Tokyo.

OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: Japanese. However, English is taught in Japanese schools as part of the compulsory education.

KONNICHIWA: Good afternoon.
SUMIMASEN: Excuse me.
ARIGATO: Thank you.
WAKARIMASEN: I don’t understand.

TO TIP OR NOT TO TIP: A service charge (usually less than 20 percent) will be added to your bill at high-end restaurants. Otherwise, tipping isn’t customary.

FACTOIDS: Tokyo was the first Asian city to host the Olympic Games (1964). It is vying against Chicago, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.

To read more about Japan, check out www.jnto.go.jp. To keep up to date on Al Jarreau, go to his Website at www.aljarreau.com.

© 2009 JAE-HA KIM


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