Rubén González: I hadn't been in Japan since the 1950's when I was the pianist for Enrique Jorrín, who really invented the cha-cha. That was the last time Cuban music was popular around the world, before the revolution. I love those Japanese massages — shiatsu, they call them, muy bueno. But if you visit, maybe you should bring your own knives and forks — some of the restaurants don't seem to have any.

Omara Portuondo: We stayed in an international hotel called the Akasaka Palace. That was good because everyone — even the taxi drivers who speak only Japanese — has heard of it and can take you there. During our tour of Japan, we played some 10,000-seat auditoriums, like the Tokyo International Forum Hall. All nine of our shows sold out. Surprisingly, the Japanese are our most devoted fans; they love Latin music.

Ibrahim Ferrer: There are some imitation salsa groups here, like the Tokyo Cuban Boys and Orquesta de la Luz. They learned Spanish phonetically, but they're still pretty good. I bought a couple of kimonos as souvenirs for my family. I think a lot of friends in Havana are going to want one too, so I'll have to come back and get some more.
—Interviewed by Peter Culshaw