New mother and two-time world champ Miki Ando Show time! Best management team in the world! (L-R: Michele
Mansoor, me, Tara Modlin-King)

Posing with Japanese singer AI
Stretching before the show
Hanging out with fellow cast members including Javier Fernandez
and Philippe Candeloro

I’ve recently returned from a flawless week in Japan, where I was performing with Fantasy on Ice in Fukuoka. Whenever I go to Japan it is a special occasion, but this time even more so as I was celebrating my birthday, as well as my husband’s birthday and his first time in Japan.

I’ve been traveling to Japan for a long time now and whenever you go someplace new with a first timer, you get to experience the place through new, excited eyes. I remember the way my friends lit up on their first venture to Moscow and New Year’s Eve in Red Square. I have been telling my husband Victor for years how amazing Japan is and how I couldn’t wait for him to go!

We arrived on the second of July (my birthday) and were greeted by my diehard fans at both airports we encountered that day. Flowers and gifts abounded as my company and I struggled under their weight to arrive in Fukuoka just in time for a fancy birthday dinner and a good night’s sleep.

By the next day, our hotel room looked like a flower shop; oversized bouquets of out-of-season peonies, sunflowers and roses barely clinging to the table tops of our standard (tiny) Japanese sized accommodations. Stacked neatly near our luggage was a tower of orange Hermes boxes and a dog bed in the shape of a car for my puppy Tyoma. All my husband could muster was, “Who are you?”

By the time the show’s rehearsals were beginning I’d lost Victor to the appeal of Asahi beer and fresh sushi and went on my own to the practices. Many of the world’s top skaters partook in the shows: Olympic silver medalist 2006 Stephane Lambiel, 2007 world champion Brian Joubert, gold medal hopefuls in next year’s Sochi Olympic Winter Games Javier Fernandez and Yuzuru Hanyu,  as well as 2006 Olympic champion Shizuka Arakawa, new mother and two-time world champion Miki Ando and well-known Japanese singer AI. With such a stacked line-up, one must skate very well to stand out.

Shows in Japan are special because of the knowledge that their general public has of our sport. In many cases, the skating fans in Japan know more about the judging system, results and gossip than the skaters do. The sold-out audiences make such a spectacular memory for all the skaters as every slight movement is appreciated and applauded. I was so happy with my performances and the opportunity to skate with such great champions.

Watching the shows were Victor, my dear friend and top fashion designer Chris Benz, my management team, members of the United States Consulate and Japanese superstar Itoi Shigesato, who is a famous copywriter and advertising genius in Japan. Only in Japan can you get such a ragtag group to come and see the sights. My husband, whose knowledge of my craft is only on a need to know level as per my request, said it was the best show he’d ever seen, even better than Cirque du Soleil, which coming from him is a big compliment.

I have to use part of my blog to thank Mr. Makabe (our boss) and his company CIC for inviting me to perform as well as my thousands of fans who made my birthday so meaningful and happy. I also want to thank my fans for looking after Victor and ensuring that he was taken care of and toured around properly while I was working on his birthday. Performing in Japan is such a great honor and I have such gratitude for anyone who makes it possible.

Fresh news that I can impart is that I was asked by Yuzuru Hanyu to design his Olympic costume and I couldn’t be more honored. I am already sketching and coming up with ideas to make him stand out more than he already does and I can’t wait to actually see my design prospering in major competition! I also spoke with a couple choreographers who are willing to help me create a new personal look on the ice for my upcoming performances and I’m sure I’ll have more news about that by the next column. Until then, I wish you all a happy summer and happy skating.