Warner Brothers’ Bill Ireton and Weekender’s Sports Editor Wayne Graczyk were both right when they said, “Bet you’ll start this column out with ‘Starting this column on United Airlines Flight 876.”‘ As Corky said several months back when he traveled to the U.S., ‘I’m in my cabin in the sky-and what a cabin it is!”
For now, it’s back to Tokyo and what’s been happening there.
Northfield Mount Hermon
Richard W. Mueller, director of Northfield Mount Hermon, one of the world’s most prestigious prep schools, was in town recently with his wife, Claire. Their visit was to orient Japanese who plan to study abroad about their excellent facilities and dynamic program. The school’s two campuses comprise 3,500 acres in Northfield, Massachusetts. Each year, students from about 40 U.S. states and as many other countries are enrolled.
A teacher-student ratio of one-to-six, integrated courses, the latest technology at the students’ finger- tips and exposure to other cultures and values are just a few of the things than make NMH a unique and exceptional academy of learning.
The Muellers had three musical groups from the school with them-members of the NMH Singers, the select women’s ensemble and a string quartet. During their trip they would be performing in Tokyo, Taipei, Seoul, Beijing and Hong Kong, and the string quartet performed at a Tokyo American Club party. Entrepreneur Soichiro Yoshida and his wife Carole supported the Muellers during their Tokyo visit. The Yoshidas’ son, Kaz, attended NMH.
Continuing with the education scene, I’m sorry I had to miss the University of Maryland, University College Asian Division, annual commencement on Apr. 15, but thanks to director Joe Arden for the invitation. The school’s new president, Dr. Gerald Heeger, flew in for the special day, and he also spoke at a luncheon at the American Club.
Former Vice Finance Minister and Keio University Professor, Dr. Eisuke Sakakibara, delivered the commencement address. I’ve heard the man was ranked 14th in Asia Week’s annual listing of the “50 Most Powerful Asians” and, believe me, he knows his business and doesn’t pull any punches.
My congratulations to the Class of 2000 University of Maryland graduates. These dedicated people not only do their jobs in the military, but also spend much of their free time studying and preparing for the future. It can’t be easy.
My thanks to Mary Walker for the opportunity to meet the 14 young men who make up Stanford University’s oldest a cappela group, the Mendicants, who performed several concerts in Japan. I met the group at TAC but prior commitments kept me from staying for the concert.
Mary and her son Chris, a Stanford student who’s the tour manager, were thoughtful enough to send me the Mendicants’ most recent CDs. Good sounds there, and I enjoyed getting to know some of the members later when they partied at the Lex.
On the occasion of the Presidency of the European Union, Portuguese Ambassador Dr. Manuel Gervasio de Almeida Leite hosted a press reception at his residence. I couldn’t stay long but did meet some very interesting journalists from all over the world. The European Union celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
My sincerest thanks to Netherlands Ambassador F.P.R. Van Nouhays, his wife Renate and Yvonne C.M.F. Van Rooy, chairman of the organization for the commemoration of 400 years of Netherlands-Japanese relations for the invitation to a glittering reception at the Imperial Hotel on Apr. 24. The occasion, in the presence of the Prince of Orange, was of course to celebrate the very special event. Hopefully, the ambassador will get me photos from this.
I’d also like to extend my sincerest gratitude to Hungarian Ambassador Istvan Szerdahelyi for his invitation to a reception to meet the visiting President Arpad Gonez. It was a Sunday, and I had to set up a party for actor Leonardo Di Caprio that evening. Sorry, as I would have really liked to meet the president of Hungary. It’s a country I’ve enjoyed visiting on three occasions.
This year, as many of you know, Hungary is celebrating its millennium. In the year 1000, the State of Hungary was born with the coronation of St. Istvan I. President Gonez’s state visit was very busy and successful. Hopefully, I’ll have photos on this special event as well.
It was a beautiful and busy day in every way at the home of Egyptian Ambassador Mahmoud Karem and his wife Yasmina, where the Society of Wives of Arab Ambassadors and Heads of Mission in Japan held its second annual Arab Bazaar.
Each represented country had set up a booth to sell its own food, fashion, jewelry and handicrafts, and most everything sold out very quickly. The Karems’ daughter Myra! and son-in-law Ihab Fahmy, visiting from Cairo, joined Myral’s sisters, Reem and Anina, in helping their mother. Alia Tangi, wife of the Moroccan Ambassador, also had one of her daughters, Radia, helping that day.
I enjoyed talking with Dutch entertainer Rene Bosman and his wife Takako. Rene volunteered his services at the Hilton Tokyo Christmas orphan party. He also entertained, from what I hear, very well at an end-of-Ramadan party for children hosted by Hesa Al-Kha!, wife of the Qatar Ambassador.
Moroccan Ambassador Mohamed Tangi hosted a power-packed reception for the visiting President of the Moroccan House of Councillors, Mohammed Jalal Essaid, and a high-level delegation. Special guests included former Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Tokuichiro Tamazawa and Diet member Kenji Kosaka.
I’ve always been a big fan of Kenji’s father Zentaro Kosaka who was one of Japan’s top foreign ministers. l first got to know the man at a party at the Moroccan Embassy for then-Crown Prince, now King Mohammed VI. I hope Morocco gets the 2006 Soccer World Cup, as I know they would make it very special.
The Lex has been super busy with all kinds of interesting people dropping by the club the last month or so. In addition to Leonardo Di Caprio who partied there three nights in a row, Denzel Washington dropped by with Junko, the daughter of Nobu Matsuhisa of Nobu’s international restaurant chain.
Denzel told me he was still putting back on some of the weight he had to take off for the film, “The Hurricane.” He looked great, though, and had flown from Berlin after winning a Best Actor award and was in a mellow mood. It was a weekday and about 4 a.m., and I was ready to go home. I said, “Denzel, you must be beat and have a plane to catch in the morning.”
“No problem, Bill,” he said. “I’ve got my own jet. It’s an occupational hazard.” Sorry Denzel didn’t score at the Oscars, but he’s still young and, with all that talent, he’s sure to have many more chances.
*First published at the Tokyo Weekender