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Sushi Chefs and Samurais: Ja'Whaun Bentley, Myles Bryant got out of their comfort zone in Japan this offseason

New England Patriots teammates Ja'Whaun Bentley and Myles Bryant had talked about visiting Japan for a while. This offseason, the trip came to fruition, complete with samurai lessons and a lot of sushi.

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At one point last year, Myles Bryant told New England Patriots teammate Ja'Whaun Bentley that he wanted to visit Japan one day.

The two would discuss the hypothetical trip at various points throughout the season, but when it ended and they both finally had the free time, Bentley made sure they followed through.

"People talk about doing certain things, and sometimes it goes in one ear and out of the other," the Patriots caption said.

"This time, I actually wanted to go ahead and do it because I had never been out of the country before. I thought it would be a great opportunity to just do it and it ended up being a great decision."

With that, the plans were made.

Bentley and Bryant set off for the East Asian island country, starting off in Tokyo before stopping in Shibuya and Kyoto over the course of a week and a half.

A travel agent set up an itinerary that would immerse them in authentic Japanese culture – they just had to come with a camera and their curiosity.

"I went into this with an open mind and no expectations," Bentley said.

"I wanted to go all out with it because I don't know what I don't know. I had never even stepped foot outside of America, so down to the plane and getting a passport was interesting. I've never been a foreigner in any place, so going to see how they interact and their day-to-day. I wanted to be as close as I could to that."

To get that experience, Bentley and Bryant took the train, did a lot of walking, and ate at the same restaurants the locals did.

The first order of business? Learning how to use chopsticks correctly.

"I didn't want to be that guy asking for a fork, so I asked the tour guide to teach me on the spot," Bentley said. "From then on out I was nice with the chopsticks."

Bentley and Bryant were willing to use those chopsticks to try just about everything.

At one restaurant, they were able to sample a little bit of everything as the chefs brought out their entire sushi menu. The spread included sea urchin and eel – two dishes they'd never imagine trying if not in Japan.

"We were so hyped to try different stuff that we kind of went all in with it," Bentley said.

"Granted, I was dipping everything in soy sauce, so it was awesome. Once you get over the texture of it all, everything is cool. And this is coming from a guy who only eats shrimp tempura in the United States. I feel like that's just the baseline of sushi."

According to the linebacker, the eel was fine. Sea urchin was a bit harder to stomach.

Still, they ducked into the tight restaurants on their itinerary and those recommended by the natives. They also learned about the cuisine first-hand from one of Tokyo's finest chefs.

"We visited one of the top chefs in Tokyo in terms of sushi, and we basically got the rundown on how to make it," Bentley said. "When the instruction was over he put us behind the counter to make sushi for each other. I had to make it for Myles so I didn't want to do my bro dirty and feed him something that wasn't correct."

Ordering food and beverages required a lot of pointing on Bentley's behalf. He never managed to get the correct coffee order at Starbucks, and admittedly, Bryant was able to communicate a little better.

"Adrian Phillips has been asking me to try different things for I don't know how long," said Bentley.

"When I'm hungry I don't have the time to be fooling around with trying different things. I go for what I know tastes good, so this was completely out of my element, but it was fun."

They didn't back down from any dish – even if they were craving cheeseburgers by the end of the trip. On one occasion, they may or may not have had to find a TGI Fridays to "balance out the palate."

"Now, you can't tell me anything about sushi," Bentley said. "I went to Whole Foods a few days ago and were watching them make sushi. The people making it were definitely Japanese but I'm trying to look and see if they know what they're doing. I feel like I'm this sushi connoisseur now."

The culture lessons didn't end there. The full Japanese experience included samurai lessons.

"This was in Kyoto," Bentley explained. "It was a small little door and we went in there. I was like, 'Oh, this is a real dojo.' So we went in there and at the time, I had planned to just chill and look around and kind of just get a lay of the samurai land. But as soon as we walked through the door the instructor told us to take our shoes off and get ready."

Along with the history lesson, they learned about different techniques and tactics. The teammates heard about the various weapons, had a chance to toss poisonous darts, and learned how to escape from being trapped in a dark room.

"I quickly learned that I'm more of a samurai than a ninja," Bentley said. "Ninjas are a lot smaller and need to be dipping and diving into small places and climbing things. Samurais are more of the warrior type, carrying a big sword rather than little knives and things like that. She broke it down for us and honestly, I didn't know that samurais were real outside of television shows and animated series. I was a little out of my element but we learned a lot.

"I know for a fact that I may not ever throw on a samurai outfit again so I was like, get the camera, and let's get some pictures. Let me do all the poses we learned in class. It was great. I definitely had a better time than I expected and it exceeded my expectations."

That Sony a7 III was put to work.

Bentley had been looking for a reason to justify the camera purchase, and they would walk around the streets taking photographs. He mentioned how safe he felt, even in the dark, and gushed about how clean the country was.

"Japan is probably the cleanest place I've ever been to in my life," Bentley said. "It didn't matter what area we were in or what city. Even the alleyways, nothing on the ground. But good luck finding a trash can. When I went to Starbucks I was walking around with the cup for at least three hours."

Walking around with an empty plastic cup wasn't the only dead giveaway that he and Bryant were tourists.

Bentley was a little culture shocked when he realized taxi doors open and close by themselves, and that people don't ever put their bags on the ground. Everyone had good style, whether it was high-end clothes or normal streetwear, and he saw as many Louis Vuitton stores in Japan as you would see McDonald's chains in the United States.

He knew bowing was common practice, but didn't really realize the extent.

"I'm talking about, you could see someone bow 10 times in a span of one conversation," Bentley said. "They'll just be talking to one of their friends. I thought that was cool because it shows that everybody has a level of respect for everyone. That's the culture."

The experience taught him more than just history, too. Their itinerary left no stone unturned, and when it came time to go home, Bentley and Bryant know they did the trip right.

"When it was time to go back we kind of looked at each other and were like, 'Yeah, I think we did it all,'" Bentley said.

Leaving was bittersweet for Bentley, who hopes to return to Japan one day, but the trip left him with a desire to see much more of the world.

It also left him with a new perspective.

"Everyone is really upbeat," Bentley said of the Japanese. 

"Their patience with us was so helpful. I don't know if we give that same energy to foreigners when they visit the U.S. That makes me look at things through a different lens. I'm excited to try new things now and venture out. I want to see the world, and after going there, I can't wait to see what other different experiences I'll be able to have."

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