The National Day reception hosted by Saudi Ambassador Mohamed Kurdi and his wife Widad at the Hotel New Otani was even bigger than usual. Talk about big, once guests congratulated the Kurdis and the embassy staff, most gravitated to special guest, sumo Yokozuna Musashimaru, to congratulate him on winning the Autumn Grand Tournament in Tokyo, ask him to pose for a photo or just stare at that mountain of a man.
I’d met him before and my first opinion of him being a really nice iuy was right on. After saying hi and congratulating him, I moved-or tried to move-away. A lot of friends asked me if I’d take their photo with him. He obligingly posed, and I snapped away.
I quietly asked Musashimaru if he got tired of all this, and he said, “Not really. It’s sort of the price of fame,” and added, “I’m hungry.” I talked to one of the waiters I know and he brought over a big plate piled with a variety of good food. Once people said hello and had their photos taken, they moved away but, as always, there were a few groupies trying to share the spotlight. That, also, is the price of fame.
The Kurdis are the epitome of legendary Arab hospitality, and the special guests, the photo exhibition of their country’s development, the food and mood made for a relaxing and enjoyable evening, perfect for the occasion.
Mohamed and Wadid, as have all our Muslim friends, went into the Holy Month of Ramadan on Monday, Nov. 27, and that meant much of their time was devoted to fasting during daylight hours and a focus on devotion and good deeds. Our congratulations on this special occasion. Wadid left for some time in Mad rid where the Kurdis have a home and their daughter and son-in-law live.
A few days later I was surprised to see a photo of Musashimaru modeling a white gold-and-crystal earring with 86 diamonds at a show for the DeBeers Diamond International 2000 collection. Seems the Sumo Association has relaxed a bit on what the wrestlers can and cannot do.
Hilton Tokyo has been even busier than usual lately. They’ve started a series of international food festivals which feature not only food, but also culture, fashion and sometimes live entertainment. In the last year, they’ve done special promotions on Malaysia, Singapore, Egypt and Vietnam.
Travel folk galore in from the good ol’ USA for the second Visit USA Travel Fair 2000 held at the Tokyo International Forum. The event, organized by the U.S. Embassy Commercial Service, was presented in cooperation with the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA), the Japan Visit USA Committee, the Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA) and the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ).
More than 80 U.S. travel suppliers (airlines, hotels and tourism offices) attended the two-day event of exhibitions, destination seminars and hospitality events.
U.S. Ambassador Tom Foley and his wife Heather, along with U.S. Minister Christopher J. Lafleur, hosted an opening reception at the American Embassy. Unfortunately, the Foleys couldn’t be there, but Christopher, as usual, was an excellent host. Special guest that evening was William Norman, President and CEO of TIA which just opened its Tokyo office. There were really a lot of interesting people there, and I am sorry I could not stay longer.
Over at the Czech Embassy in Hirao, Charge d’Affaires Jiri Svoboda hosted a well-attended midday reception on the occasion of his country’s National Day. Interesting people, lively conversation and the buffet of Czech food added up to, as they say, a nice time had by all.
Joined an interesting group of friends of Bill and Charo Ireton at a special preview of the film “Space Cowboys.” Like everyone there, I really enjoyed the Clint Eastwood production which featured an exciting mix of space technology and human fragility, all with a touch of humor. Warner Brothers’ Kunio Yamada had taken a group of journalists to meet director-star Eastwood at his ranch in northern California and told me that was an experience of a lifetime.
I’m happy to report Bill Ireton is, whenever possible, using his futuristic new screening room in WB’s Hibiya headquarters to help others. The lretons are that kind of people. One of the most recent happenings there was a charity screening for Tokyo EnglishLife Line (TELL, a sold-out event with ticket proceeds going to TELL.
Togo Fine Art hosted a reception on Nov. 26 to open an exhibition, “Traces of Picasso,” which continues through Feb. 28. On Nov. 28, fashion designer Junko Koshino made a dynamic presentation of her Spring/Summer 2001 collection in the Ballroom at the Park Hyatt Hotel.
Spent three very interesting, exciting and enjoyable hours at the Imperial Theater where I saw the musical “Millennium Shock.” The choreography, the sets, stunts, costumes and performances by pop idols Noriyuki Higashiyama, Koichi Domoto, Akira Akasaka, Tsubasa Imai and a huge cast of singers and dancers prm·ed once again that director Johnny Kitagawa is a leader in the entertainment industry and a creative genius in what he does.
I also feel his multi-talented, hard-working stars are super talents who, if not for the language barrier, would do well in the U.S. or Europe. Several of them are already gaining fame in Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and the Kinki Kids will be doing a project soon with Elton John who’s writing a song for them, proceeds from which will go to charity.
In addition to dancing (even a good tap number), there was magic, aerobatics, chambara (sword fighting) and roller skating. Peter Pan would probably be amazed at the distance and speed some of the stars “fly” in the high-ceiling Imperial Theater. From what I could see, and I had a great seat, this was done with what had to be one very strong and almost invisible wire.
Johnny’s very international and wise enough to call on Broadway legends such as composer Charles Strauss to help.
Looking back, I remember when Elton John came to the Lexington one night. Once he got settled, his stage manager came to me and said, “Elton would like some of the male models to join him for a drink and a chat.” The five or six I asked all turned down his offer, exclaiming, “Oh, we can’t. He’s gay.”
Elton once showed up in elaborate Marie Antoinette drag for his birthday party and sang, “Stand By Your Man,” and he doesn’t really seem to or have to care what people think. He does his own thing and does very well.
I wasn’t all that surprised to hear a few nights later that same group of models joined Elton at his hotel suite the following night for an expensive dinner. Guess everyone has his price.
There was more on the music scene later that night when Portuguese rock guitarist Nuno Bettencourt partied at the Lex. Nuno played with the group Extreme and now has his own band, and I ran across some photos of him taken by well-known photographer Bruce Weber for a 1992 issue of Interview.
At that time, Nuno had long hair and was wearing only his guitar. He got a kick out of showing the photos to his new band and signed them all for me. Great fun that night, and I really enjoyed talking with Nuno’s bodyguard, Silvio, a big, gentle guy who did some bullfighting in Portugal.
Congratulations to Brazilian tennis player Gustavo Kuerten who beat Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi at the Masters Cup in Lisbon to finish the year as the number one player in the world. I hung with Gustavo when he was in Tokyo a few months ago and, I’ll tell you, it could not happen to a nicer guy.
As of Dec. 5 they have not yet put those hundreds of thousands (millions?) of lights on the trees lining Omotesando. These have been a point of controversy, so perhaps it just won’t happen this year. The lighted trees were beautiful but diverted attention from the many businesses’ holiday decorations.
Drive or walk down Omotesando from Aoyamadori, and you’ll see that V’s Square on the right has a rustic Christmas bazaar in its main passageway. A few buildings up, the Anniversaire Mall has a beautiful golden branch entrance and covered arcade. The theme, “Nudity-Wishful Happiness,” is a bit unusual.
The newly opened box-like Benetton Building lent itself well to a big ribbon. Across the street, Aoyama Diamond Hall has a big reclining Santa and two Christmas trees decorating the entrance.
Hanae Mori hasn’t done anything as yet with her fashion building, but tells me she will soon. The Gucci windows with their huge globe with the “fluttering snow” are seasonable and trendy. Make-up artist Shu Uemura ‘s windows are nice. Tokyo Union Church which stands for and teaches what Christmas is all about, stands in the center of it all.
Oriental Bazaar has not done anything as yet, and I would venture to say a large percentage of its customers are Christian and feel they should do something special. Kiddyland continues with its carnivallike decor, and kids will like the life-size, animated Santa at the entrance.
Continuing toward Yoyogi Park, the Quest Building has some elaborate lightning deco. Be sure to go up near the entrance to NHK Hall; the well-worth checking out tent-like building set up for Cirque du Soleil has taken on a holiday look with special lights and projections.
La Foret, by the way, has done better this year. No more mile-high bending-over mini-skirt ladies with a big star on their panties or “Nude Christmas” campaigns.
In addition to all this, the many smaller shops, boutiques, restaurants and cafes along Tokyo’s most fashionable street-Omote-sando-have some very original holiday decorations. New Year’s is a big holiday here, so I’m sure more decorations will be corning up as that special time approaches.
Artists Without Borders and Kids Without Borders are holding an exhibition of drawings by children of Kosovo, East Timor and Chechnya at the Foreign Correspondents Club through Jan. 6. Hector Sierra, founder of the humanitarian organizations as well as others, will be on hand to tell you about their work and future plans.
*First published at the Tokyo Weekender