At 6 feet 5, 252 pounds, Danielle Hunter is a comfortable fit as an NFL defensive end, but not so much in a Japanese hotel room.
Hunter joined Vikings defensive teammates Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Eric Wilson and Ifeadi Odenigbo on a week-long trip to Tokyo this spring, where he learned to love sushi, and now eats it regularly.
He had less love for the place Odenigbo found on Airbnb for Hunter, Wilson and Odenigbo to stay.
“Everything was puny. We had to walk around like this,” Hunter said with a laugh while hunching over.
Hunter could barely fit into the bathroom. Wilson, a linebacker, said the shower heads were at chest level for all three players.
Linebackers Barr and Kendricks had it better, both deciding to stay at hotels that featured slightly bigger rooms. Barr joked he “wasn’t stuck in the dungeon.”
“Yeah, that was my fault,” said Odenigbo, a defensive end. “The pictures (online) were very deceiving. People in Japan are very tiny. I saw the pictures on Airbnb, and it actually looked pretty good and it was a good price (for expensive Tokyo).
“We got there and Danielle couldn’t fit very well in the shower but I’m an optimistic type. I was like, ‘Well, this gives us the incentive to not be in the room at all.’ If the room were too comfortable, then guys like Danielle would be sleeping all day.”
Instead, the Vikings saw all sorts of sites.
“We went to a digital art museum, which was pretty cool,” Barr said. “We went to the fish market, and that was a lot of fun. We saw the cherry blossoms since they had just started to come out. Some of the guys went to a sumo wrestling practice. It was really cool to immerse yourself in a different culture.”
“We saw a lot of temples,” Wilson said. “We walked around a lot. We walked like seven miles a day.”
Odenigbo posted a photo online of the players doing karate kicks in a Toyko street.
Kendricks’ girlfriend, Ally Courtnall, made the trip as well. In fact, she’s the one who made the initial plans, and the others joined in.
Wilson said it was a good bonding experience being with the other defensive players shortly before the Vikings began spring drills in April. And despite the players’ acclaim — Barr is a four-time Pro Bowl selection, Hunter is coming off his first Pro Bowl and Kendricks is an impact player — they were rarely recognized.
“We went to (Tokyo) Disneyland and everybody was just looking at us because we looked different than everybody else, we were bigger, but in terms of being athletes, nobody really recognized us,” Barr said. “There was one dude, one kid, who kind of had an idea but they only know there like the (NFL) superstars, like a Tom Brady.”
The Vikings ate a lot of noodles and sushi during the trip, with Wilson calling the cuisine “authentic” and “great.” Hunter admitted he initially was apprehensive about the food.
“It turned out pretty good,” he said. “I didn’t like sushi when I went out there and then I went out there and I had to eat sushi. I had no other choice, and then I started liking it. Now, I eat it often.”