Carole Yoshida who knows Kenji Ogiwara through the Yoshidas’ work for the International Olympic Committee, sat by the renown skier at a dinner in Paris recently. “He’s really a great guy,’ she told me, and she was right on about that. Kenji and his twin brother Sugiharu grew up in Nagano and are well-known and popular on the international ski scene. Kenji’s won 19 World Cups and several medals and was recently presented with the Fair Play Award in Paris. He specializes in high jumping and cross country. I had the privilege of meeting this dynamic young man at a Valle d’Aosta promotional seminar and reception hosted by the Italian State Tourist Board and a group of delegates from Northern Italy’s “Ski Paradise” at the New Otani. Kenji, the guest speaker, said one of the best things about Valle d’ Aosta and other European ski resorts was the freedom one feels on the vast skiing areas, pointing out there are a lot of ropes and nets at resorts in Japan. Kenji’s now retired from competitive skiing and keeps busy lecturing, appearing on TV and teaching children to ski. With his knowledge, skill and warm, outgoing personality, he’s got to be a good teacher.
Entertainer and 1950s rocker Jimmy Angel who has just signed witl1 Pat Boone’s The Gold Label for the release of his recordings. The first release is the “Bradley Sessions;’ produced by Owen and Harold Bradley.
On the movie scene, Warner Brothers held a special press review of the film “Hero:’ The epic picture from China gained an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film but unfortunately lost to “Nowhere in Africa.” Hong Kong superstar Maggie Cheung who stars in the film did a press conference to promote it during her recent visit to Japan.
As was expected, Kuwaiti Ambassador Azzaro AlSabah’s reception at the Hotel New Otani on the occasion of Kuwait’s National Day was special in every way. The ambassador, looking regal in national costume, greeted the many guests at the entrance. His son Mubarak, visiting from Kuwait where he’s a student, kept busy videotaping his father and the guests. There were huge goldframed photos of Kuwaiti Amir Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmed and Crown Prince/Prime Minister Sheikh Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah. These were flanked by huge floral tributes from friends of Kuwait. A large, illuminated ice carving of Kuwait’s national emblem was in the center of the room. The buffet featured Kuwaiti, Japanese and western foods at their best, and a traditional Kuwaiti room had been set up, and a table where two staff members of the Kuwaiti Embassy served mint tea and sesame seedcovered dates was very popular with the nearly 500 guests.
Concert and dinner receptions at the Hungarian Embassy are always very special, and that was certainly true when Hungarian Ambassador Istvan Szerdahelyi and his wife Reiko hosted an evening of exciting music by world-renown gypsy violinist and composer Roby Lakator. Roby has some great CDs out, and you can pick them up at Tower Records. The Hungarian buffet was excellent, prepared by embassy chef Bela Nemeth. He told me his son Zoltan, who I knew from the Lex, is enjoying student life in Budapest.
As part of the many events to celebrate the ASEAN-Japan Exchange Year 2003, the Philippines Embassy in cooperation with Rihga Royal, held a Philippines Food Festival at the hotel. Guests at the luncheon included members of the Gaimusho and wives of highranking Japanese government officials. In addition to the food and music, l enjoyed meeting Associated Press Bureau Chief Myron Belkind, and we’ll have more on him and his brainchild, an African night at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, in an upcoming column.
On the party scene, Estonian Charge d’Affaires Argo Kangro hosted a mid-day reception on Feb. 24 at the Imperial Hotel to celebrate the 85th anniversary of Estonian Independence. I could not stay long but enjoyed seeing friends and congratulating the host and his staff. I often hear from former Estonian Ambassador Mark Sinisoo and his wife Ingrid. He has retired, and they’re living in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, and enjoying life.
Happy to report there was also a big turnout at the Refugees International-Japan primary fund-raiser, the Art of Dining, at the Westin Tokyo Hotel. Each table setting was a beautiful, creative and original di.splay reflecting the personality of the participant and, in many cases, the history and culture of the country of the designer. Kudos to all and kudos to the members of RIJ who work so hard and do so much good.
*First published at the Tokyo Weekender