The big party to open the futuristic Sony Center in Berlin on June 14 was special and spectacular. As part of the event, Sony Chairman Norio Ohga conducted the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. The program was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor op. 12 and, with the orchestra, four renown solo artists, Berliner Singakademie Choir and 60 members of the Sony Philharmonic Choir who flew in from Tokyo, there were nearly 200 people on stage.
I always enjoy hearing about the successes of good friends, and there was a standing ovation arid nothing but praise (even from the most severe critics) for Norio’s performance. I plan to do a rundown with photos of the Sony party, an update on the Berlin scene and a travel story on Ireland in the near future.
Seems like we’re always reading or hearing about the bad kids out there and not the vast majority who go to school, study, work, stay out of trouble and make their families proud. I’d like to mention a few here in this column.
Let’s start with Anna Saito, daughter of Paul and Nobuko Saito. The internationally-minded couple, leaders in the travel and tourism business, enrolled their daughter in the American School in Japan from which she was graduated in 1996.
Since then, Anna has worked and studied in Washington, D.C., Havana, Buenos Aires and Bethesda, Maryland. She was just graduated from the American University and will start a Master’s program this fall at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
Our congratulations to Niels Thomsen on the opening of his beautiful restaurant, the Oasis Bar & Grill. Neils and his staff with their “world cuisine” have in the last few years earned a reputation for being one of the best restaurants in Tokyo.
He lost his old location behind the Self-Defense Headquarters in Roppongi and has moved into the GH Roppongi Building right next door to the Lex.
Received a beautiful postcard from Romy Christie who was spending some time in the United Arab Emirates. I hope she enjoyed Abu Dhabi and Dubai as much as I did.
Kudos to Cliff Wooley on his “Guitars for Guns Project.” Cliff has a solid background in music and spent five years conducting social work activities in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. Knowing the positive effect of music, he gives away musical instruments and lessons in exchange for turned-in weapons which will later be publicly destroyed. That’s the way to go, Cliff.
Israelis in Tokyo – 52nd Anniversary
There was a huge turnout at the New Otani’s Ho-Oh Room when Israeli Ambassador Moshe Ben-Yaacov and his wife Aviva hosted a reception on the occasion of their country’s 52nd Independence Day.
After greeting more than 1,000 guests, the Ben-Yaacovs moved into the function room to mingle. The program included brief speeches by Ambassador Ben-Yaacov and Minister of Construction Masaaki Nakayama.
I appreciate Fred Harris introducing me to his friends, U.S. Defense Attache, Naval Attache and Naval Attache for Air, Capt. Jeffrey W. Crews and his wife Terry. They are really a nice, outgoing couple.
I was also happy when Japan’s most well-known and respected law enforcement man Atsuyuki Sassa came over and said, “Bill, you’ll be glad to hear the city government and police really are going to clean up Roppongi.”
Labor Minister Takamori Makino introduced me to his friend, diamond dealer Hidetaka Kato.
When I jokingly asked him for an omiyage (souvenir), Makino’s wife cracked up and said in English, “Me, too.” It was a nice evening in every way. Our congratulations.
A few columns ago, I mentioned I had the privilege of knowing the late and great Israeli pop singer Ofra Haza. The photo on Page 15 really brings back memories of this talented and beautiful woman.
Vienna Boys Choir Reception
The world-renown and very popular Vienna Boys Choir was in Japan again for a series of concerts and during their visit, Austrian Ambassador Hans Dietmar Schweisgut and his wife Kaoru held a reception at their home to introduce the members of the choir.
The guests, a mix of Japanese government officials, diplomats, business leaders and familiar faces from the music world, really enjoyed meeting and talking with the boys. The tall one you see in the photos told me he was 14 (the age limit for the choir), and this was his last tour.
Their program that evening included familiar selections by Schubert, Brahms and, of course, Johann Strauss. They were great. Sorry I couldn’t stay for the Austrian buffet. I heard it was excellent.
On the occasion of the National Day of Portugal, Ambassador Dr. Manuel Gervasio Leite hosted two days of receptions to celebrate.
On June 12, Philippines Ambassador Romeo A. Arguelles and his wife Azucena (” Annie”) hosted a reception at their residence to celebrate the 102nd Anniversary of Philippines Independence. Later that same day, the popular couple hosted another reception to open “Just a Moment,” a photo exhibit of Philippine scenes by Peter Oxley at the City Club of Tokyo.
On June 23, Luxembourg Ambassador Pierre Gramegna and his wife Sylvie held a reception from 11:30 a.m. and another at 5:30 p.m. on the occasion of their National Day. Our sincerest congratulations to all on these very special occasions.
Dropped by Serenya restaurant one evening to see Benchapa Krairiksh, wife of the Thai Ambassador, and meet her sister Malinee Chakrabandhu, visiting from Bangkok. Both are dynamic ladies.
I also got to know Benchapa’s sons, Pongchakra who goes to St. Mary’s here, and Pernsak who has just been accepted at Stanford University. It was a fun evening with this very special family.
In Bret Easton Ellis’ (American Psycho) book Glamorama, one of the characters says, “The average life of a club in New York is-what?-about four weeks?” Needless to say, I’m quite proud of playing a part in keeping that funky little club, the Lexington Queen, going for 20 years. In just the last few weeks, members of Phish, Dogstar including Keanu Reeves, Rage Against the Machine, Dio, Smashing Pumpkins and Genatorture (Where do they get those names?) have partied at the Lex.
Our Japanese friends come up with some strange names as well. Have you seen the billboards around town promoting a new CD by a band called Doggy Bag? Looking back on some of the local sounds, Pooper Scooper would be a perfect name for a few of the groups to which I’ve listened.
Back to Ellis’ Glamorama, I really had a hard time plodding through the nearly 500-page novel. You know how it is; you keep thinking it’s got to get better. Frankly, I didn’t really understand what was going on. He somehow does mention the name of just about every actor, actress, band and fashion designer I’ve ever met.
In his “story” lines such as “A surprisingly swishy Tiger Woods showed up at the party” turned me off. Don’t waste your time on this one.
I skipped that for the huge Las Vegas-type production “Elements” which, I might add, like the Sony opening, was quite spectacular.
*First published at the Tokyo Weekender