Philippines Secretary of Tourism Gemma Cruz Araneta, a former beauty queen, was in town with a delegation of hoteliers, resort owners and casino operators. Her super-busy schedule included a VIP dinner hosted in her honor by Philippines Ambassador Romeo Arquelles and his wife Annie, and a festive reception the secretary hosted at the Westin for the travel and tourism industry.
I couldn’t make the Westin event but really enjoyed getting to know Secretary Araneta at the Arquelles’ dinner. As always with our Filipino friends, it was a casual, relaxed and interesting evening. After dinner, guests moved to the music room where Romeo played the piano (he’s good), and several of the guests took a turn at belting out a song or two.
The 10th anniversary of German reunification was, of course, a very special time for our German friends. To celebrate the occasion, German Ambassador Uwe Kaestner and his wife Dagmar, along with the Minister for Economics of the Federal State of Brandenburg, Dr. Wolfgang Furniss, were hosts at a glittering reception at their residence.
The entrance was dynamically illuminated with clusters of small lights and two tall young Germans dressed in historic Prussian uniforms who stood at attention as guests entered the reception area. Once the guests greeted and congratulated the host and hostess, most moved into the garden with its many colorful Japanese lanterns and booths serving the best of German beers, wines and cheeses, and long tables groaning under trays of German food favorites.
I couldn’t stay long but did enjoy talking with Japanese director Masahiro Shinoda who was there with his lovely wife, actress Shima Iwashita. Shinoda-san told me he has a big film project about a Russian spy.
Sorry I had to leave before a performance by Tolzer Knabenchor Boys Choir. Friends who were able to stay or told me it was excellent.
It was a power-packed evening at a special reception at the home of Hungarian Ambassador Istvan Szerdahelyi and his wife Reiko. Guests included high-ranking Japanese government officials, diplomats and business leaders.
Everyone likes music, and the highlight of the evening was a performance by the award-winning world-renown Hungarian folk music group Muzikas Ensemble. The leader of the group, Peter Ery, has a Victor Borge-style sense of humor and gave a running narration on some of the unusual instruments and the stories behind each song. It was a lively program of song and dance with Grammy Award-winning singer Marta Sebestyen and six other performers. After the show, guests enjoyed talking about the music and dancing over a bountiful buffet of Hungarian food.
Guests really flew first class at a glittering evening hosted by Continental Airlines at Shinagawa Intercity Hall. The invitation read ‘Welcome aboard Continental 2000, our special flight to our world destinations,’ and a boarding pass was enclosed with each invitation.
The super venue looked very futuristic with a huge floor-to-ceiling screen, a stage at one end of the room, a round center stage and long tables running down both sides where a superb buffet of gourmet foods from the airlines’ various destinations (the U.S., Micronesia, Mexico, South America and others) had been set up.
The program opened with a dynamic film presentation highlighting Continental’s main destinations. During the buffet there were continual performances on the center stage, and these included a musical group and dancers from Guam, a Caribbean group and a Latin group.
One of my (and Robert De Niro’s) favorite Brazilians, Eliane, and her friend Maiza were posing for photos with guests. They looked great in Rio Carnival costumes.
I enjoyed meeting Governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Pedro P. Tenorio, who told me he’d drive me around the next time l was down his way. It was also nice meeting Palau President Kuniwo Nakamura who said, “We’ll plan something special for you during your next visit to Palau.” l’ve been to and really like both islands. Mexican Ambassador Manuel Uribe and his wife Barbara were also there, and they’re always fun to be with.
After dinner and a drawing for some super door prizes, a group of Broadway dancers from the musical “Swing” performed on the big stage. Continental had flown them in from New York, and what a show’ “Continental is the official airline of New York City,” Yuki Kano told me. She brought them to the Lex later; they know how to host a party and how to party.
Thai Ambassador Sakthie Krairiksh, his wife Benchapa, their staff and other Thais living here really put a lot of time and effort in the weekend Thai food festival at Yoyogi Park. I’m happy to re- port that, even with a half a day of rain, attendance far exceeded expectations.
I went to the opening ceremony and ribbon-cutting, stayed on a few hours and went back again the next day. More than 35 Thai restaurants had set up and sold their specialities, and there were booths selling a wide variety of Thai handicrafts and food products. One of the most popular spots was where one could get a free Thai massage.
Thai Air flew in a large group for the event, and the program included a Thai fashion show, a traditional music and dance group and kickboxers (Muay Thai). It was all a big happening with families and friends enjoying the food, shopping, entertainment and the ambience.
The last night was very special as several hundred Japanese and foreigners joined the Thai dancers on stage, most doing very well in their efforts to follow the music and dancers. Our congratulations to all concerned.
Once again, travel took its toll on my not making it to some interesting events here in Tokyo. Czech Charge d’Affnires Jiri Svoboda invited guests to the embassy for a piano recital by Jiri Kollert and Hitomi Ito.
On Monday, Nov. 13, renown designer Hanae Mori presented her Spring-Summer Pret-a-Couture Collection at the Hanae Mori Building on Omote Sando.
A favorite couple of mine (and anyone who knows them) will soon be leaving Japan after six years here. Enrico Maggi, Director of the Italian State Board, and his wife Jacqueline will be returning to Rome. On Nov. 16, they hosted a farewell dinner party at the prestigious Riva delgi Etrushi restaurant in Minami Aoyama. Happy to hear Enrico will be back from time to time to advise his successor on tourism in Japan.
It really is sad when you see what actor Jan Michael Vincent has done with his life. The man whose films include “Big Wednesday” and the TV series “Airwolf” is in jail again. This time for violation of probation after a drunk driving crash in 1996.
Years back when Jan-Michael was in Japan to do a Toyota commercial, I went out to dinner with him, his dad and a group of Dentsu account executives. We ate at what was, at that time, the Hilton’s Starhill restaurant. Jan-Michael made it through the main courses with drinks during and between each.
When they served the rice, he passed out and his face went right into his bowl of rice. His poor embarrassed father asked me to take him up to his room, and he’d stay on with the Dentsu people. It was no easy task, but with the help of a hotel staffer, I got him on the elevator, up to his room and into bed. I find it difficult to understand how people so gifted and talented can screw up their lives so badly. Guess we all have our problems and, as they say, “That’s showbiz.”
Ran into Maria Anderson at Starbuck’s recently, and we talked about her recent travels with her husband, Ron, CEO of AIG. They loved the new, dynamic Shanghai which, according to Maria and others to whom I’ve talked, is a great place for shopping.
During their visit to Brunei for the APEC conference, they visited the rain forest which both said is a very worthwhile experience. Maria went on to say it was a real thrill being in the same room with all those world leaders.
At the DaimlerChrysler Plaza in Roppongi, South African Ambassador Krish Mackerdhuj, in conjunction with DaimlerChrysler, held a presentation of South African products including the new Mercedes-Benz C Class.
After my summer of ’99 trip to Berlin, I asked Uwe (also there for the Sony Center opening) what was the best German bakery in Tokyo. I HE told me it was Tanne, for a huge variety of excellent German breads. Tanne had a booth in the garden at the reception and, believe me, their breads were the best. They have several locations in Tokyo, and for information call 3667-0426.
There are all kinds of happenings throughout the holidays. Hopefully, I will see some of you at Refugees International-Japan’s lighting of their Christmas tree at Tokyo Station’s North Hall on Dec. 8, the Swedish Christmas Bazaar at the Swedish Embassy Dec. 9 and lkebana lnternational’s Fair at Tokyo Prince Hotel on Dec. 5.
*First published at the Tokyo Weekender