Bill Hersey’s Partyline March 21st, 2003

PEOPLE

One of my favorite things is introducing good friends and nice people to each other. When I heard Egyptian Ambassador Mahmoud Karem, his wife Yasmina, their daughters and some of the embassy staff members were going to spend a holiday on the island of Guam, I told them they had to meet highly respected Marianas hotelier Mustafa Issa (he’s Egyptian). I called Mustafa, he called Mahmoud, and the group ended up staying in his fabulous resort, the Hyatt Regency Guam. “It was just great,” the Karems told me, adding, “We were so happy to meet an Egyptian hotel general manager in this part of the world and even happier when we learned his brother is a colleague in the diplomatic corps.” The world gets smaller.

For the sixth year in a row, ex­sumo champ, now entertainment personality Konishiki brought 35 elementary school kids from his old neighborhood in Hawaii for a week’s visit to Japan. During their stay, they visited a sumo stables, went skiing in Nagano, took a lesson in ikebana and tea ceremony, visited a Japanese school and spent a day at Tokyo Disneyland. At the end of their stay, Konishiki hosted a reception at die Marriott Hotel to thank his sponsors for this project. At the reception, the 35 kids – girls in mumus, boys in aloha shirts and all barefoot – greeted guests at the door and showed them to their seats. This was followed by a really fun and quite professional Hawaiian show by the kids. At the end of the evening, the kids presented Konishiki with a huge photo of them with him. He made a speech about how important and meaningful this project has become to him, and sang “Close to Me.” In about the middle of the song, he broke out in tears. This led to most of die kids on stage crying and, I am not ashamed to admit, I cried as well. It was a very entertaining, inspiring and emotional evening. Kudos to this big (in every way) man who has not let success spoil him, remembers his roots and does so much for so many.

It was a nice surprise when I ran into Takenosuke Sakakura, who I hadn’t seen for several years, at Roppongi Starbucks recently. Going back about 15 years Takenosuke, a well-known architect, and his wife Chichan were really active on Tokyo’s International social scene. She was the daughter of Hideki Yokoi, a man I Liked who had to spend some time in jail. He was the owner of the Hotel New Japan in Akasaka. After several people died in a fire there, he was charged with and convicted of negligence. All the adverse publicity made it difficult for the family, and the young couple divorced. As a result of all this, their two sons went through some tough times as well. I was happy to hear they are doing very well now. “Zeebra” is a well-known and popular hip-hop DJ and Torno is in the popular band Sphere of Influence. Takenosuke’s current project is as one of the principle architects for the big construction project where the Self Defense Forces Headquarters were near Roppongi Crossing. The project includes a 55-story tower ” that makes it taller than the Mori Tower in the soon-to-be-opened Roppongi Hills.” From B-2 to the fifth floor will be commercial, and there are tentative plans for a Peninsula Hotel in the complex.

Received a cool calendar from Mitsubishi Materials Corporation that featured photos of things Japanese by former Luxembourg Ambassador Pierre Grnmegna. l especially liked the ones that showed Pierre and Sylvie’s two lovely daughters with Japanese friends their age.

It was nice to see internationally renowned fashion designer Hanae Mori at the Thai Embassy. She and her daughter-in-law, Pamela, are friends of Queen Sirikit, and they travel there often. Pam, by the way, has just received new shipments of fun fashion, jewelry and household accessories for her Zuzi boutique on Omotesando just across from the Quest Building. Check it out.

PARTIES

It was the Thai way all the way at the mid-day reception hosted by Ambassador KasitPiromya. and his wife Chintana to celebrate the birthday of their King Bhumibol. Guests congratulated the hosting couple inside the entrance of their residence, one of the most beautiful homes in Tokyo. It was a nice day, so once the ladies were given orchids, most moved to the spacious garden. A huge photo of the King was surrounded by flowers and predominantly displayed. At the official opening of the reception, there was a blessing ceremony by a Buddhist priest. Food booths had been set up in the residence and the garden, each serving one of the many Thai dishes the world has come to love. A musical group on the terrace provided Thai classical music.

Our United Arab Emirates friends celebrated their 31st Founding Day anniversary with a glittering reception hosted by U.A.E. Ambassador Ahmed Ali Almualla at the New Otani. The hosting couple looked resplendent in national costume, there was a huge gold-framed photo of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan surrounded by congratulatory floral arrangements and a large illuminated ice carvings of the U.A.E. national emblem in the center of the hotel’s Fuyo Room. International business consultant Midori Nishiura, you can see by the photo, is looking good. Midori travels often and really does know interesting and powerful people all over the world.

Dominican Republic 2002-03

Muchas gracias to Dominican Republic Ambassador Fausto Sicard Moya and his wife Adalgista for the opportunity to meet their popular, outgoing and laid-back President Hipolito Mejia. The reception, as expected, was wall-to­wall politicians and business leaders. Just talked with the Sicard Moyas’ son Fausto Jr. and am happy to hear the president’s visit was a big success. Just saw an ad in a magazine promoting tourism to the Dominican Republic. lt read, “A land of sen­sations … here I feel free.” People I know who have visited there enjoyed the country and its people.

PLACES

The big news in the film world here is Toho’s purchase of the Virgin Cineplexes. According to friends in Virgin, and Toho, they’ll keep the Virgin name at the Cineplex in Roppongi Hills and change all the others to Toho Cineplex.

The best news is that powerful investors have set a goal of cleaning up the Roppongi area. Hopefully Mori will do the same. We’ve watched the phenomenal rise of Roppongi Hills, and now we can watch yet another mammoth project go up in Roppongi. It was interesting to read that wrestlers from tile Isenoumi sumo stable have taken to the streets and are patrolling at night to help the police fight crime on the streets of Harue-cho in Edogawa Ward. The sumo-against-crime group wants “to make ourselves useful to the community.”

Guam is still hurting from that terrible Typhoon Pongsona that hit Dec. 8 but, for the most part, things are pretty much back to normal. That’s proof positive of the stamina, strength and spirit of the people of Guam. I go to Guam often, but I hadn’t visited Saipan since 1998. Lonely Planet’s guidebook on Micronesia is right-on in saying it “has the dubious distinction of being the fastest-growing island in Micronesia.” One of the most striking impressions for me was seeing how much the truly splendid garden at Hyatt Regency Saipan has grown and spread out in the last four and a half years. Mother nature is amazing.

Like Guam, Saipan now has a huge GaleriaDuty Free shop with endless brand name products and even a big, bright Hard RockCafe. They also have a smaller version of ‘TheSand Castle’ in Guam’s Las Vegas Review, in a show at a 240-seat theater at the Hyatt. It makes for an entertaining evening with magic, showgirls, comedy and a wonderful tiger. The weather, especially after cold, rainy Tokyo, was perfect, with lots of sun and temperatures in the 80s. Both islands with their resorts, beaches, wide variety of water sports, spas, international restaurants, shopping opportunities, nightlife and cultural events, all in a laid-back tropical island setting, add up to one helluva getaway. I should add, for those inclined, gambling has been legalized on not only Saipan, but also the small neighboring islands of Rota and Tinian.

*First published at the Tokyo Weekender