I arrived late for the mid-day reception hosted by Luxembourg Ambassador Pierre Gramegna and his wife Sylvie to celebrate their country’s National Day. This still gave me the opportunity to congratulate them, chat with a group of their (and my) good friends and enjoy the delicious buffet.
Sylvie, among other things, is an excellent cook. She also proved her leadership as chairperson of the 2001 ILBS Cherry Blossom Ball which many who attended said was the best ever, and her talents don’t end there. She proved her artistic and interior design sense at her very successful “Living Kitchen” exhibition at Tokyo Gas Hall earlier this year.
Pierre has been interested in photography since his father gave him his first camera when he was a young boy. His work is that of a professional, and he’s also one of the principle organizers of the exhibitions of photos of Japan by diplomats.
In addition to all this, the Gramegnas are the proud parents of two daughters, Ines and Iris. It’s no wonder the personable, outgoing and energetic couple is so much in demand on Tokyo’s diplomatic and social scene. Our congratulations on this special occasion.
I would also like to congratulate another popular couple, Malaysian Ambassador Dato M.N. Marzuki and his wife, Datin Nora. They were hosts at a glittering reception at the Hilton Tokyo’s newly decorated Kiku Ballroom to celebrate their National Day.
The crowd was wall-to-wall people that evening, with guests enjoying the Malayasian, Chinese, Japanese and western food, the ambiance and each other. l spent two weeks in Malaysia a few years ago and traveled from lovely Langkawi Island in the north to exotic Sabah and Sarawak in the south.
It’s a great place to visit. Check out the Malaysian Tourist Office dynamic promotional CMs on CNN, and you’ll see what I mean. Better yet, go to Malaysia and see for yourself. By the way, Egypt’s tourism promos on CNN are also really well done, and that’s a great place to visit as well.
It seemed that no sooner had he presented his credentials when Netherlands Ambassador Egbert Jacobs and his lovely wife Francoise Julien got very involved in worthwhile community projects. Their first was a charity dinner organized by the Street Children Committee and held in the Jacobs’ home and garden.
There was a big turnout for the event that included a welcome speech by the host, a thank you speech by Philippines Ambassador Romeo Arguelles and a superb bountiful buffet of Dutch foods. Music that evening was provided by a traditional Dutch street organ, flutist Yuka Tsukahara, harpist Midori Tajima and the Chanteclair Choir and Philharmonic.
Raflle prizes drawn at the end of the evening included Business Class tickets for two from Japan to Amsterdam on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. Peter Lawyer spoke about the Street Children and there were closing remarks by Richard Dylas. It was an evening everyone thoroughly enjoyed-all for a very worthwhile cause, the Street Children Committee of the Franciscan Chapel.
Carole Yoshida was always telling me what a nice and fun couple are Danish Ambassador Peter Bruckner and his wife Anna (Buller). Carole was certainly right on about that. I just wish I had gotten to know this exceptional couple sooner.
Just before they left I was invited to join them and their friends for two special occasions. The first was an intimate sayonara with their staff, and the speeches and mood were proof positive of how well liked are Peter and Buller, and how much they will be missed.
The second was a really fun and laid-back evening with the Bruckners and a small group of their many friends. The occasion was to celebrate the birthdays of two mermen, the ambassador and Frederick Walther, the embassy’s highly regarded chef.
The invitation featured a photo of the Little Mermaid of Copenhagen. Well, the bottom of her anyway. The tail was topped with the beefed-up torso and face of a body-builder. The invitation also said the Bruckners had shipped all their personal belongings, but they would brighten up things for the party.
Buller used her ingenuity in creating an original table setting and program for the evening; the placemats were the cardboard tops of packing cartons, there were candles and flowers in a variety of used bottles (from ketchup, mustard and the like). The plates, glasses and silverware” were a mad, colorful mix of anything and everything; colorful, different, fun, and it really worked.
After appetizers, salad and a huge bowl of the best bouillabaisse I’ve ever had, Buller requested the guests move into the living room for a little surprise before dessert. A colorfully wrapped box (about two and a half feet high) had been placed in the center of the room, and Frederick was asked to open the present.
He cut the ribbon, peeled off the paper and opened the box. What a great surprise! Out popped a midget magician, Masa Yamada, all dressed up in black tie, black trousers and a white dinner jacket. Masa’s energetic performance of all kinds of magic tricks and his rapport with his audience was entertainment at its best. It was a great evening in every way.
The Bruckners are now in Paris where Peter is Denmark’s Ambassador to France. With his diplomatic know-how, Anna’s creativity and the warmth and sense of humor of both, I’m sure they’ll soon be as popular there as they were here.
Once again, one of my alltime favorite people, the multitalented Steve Haynes, came to my rescue. Idol-maker Johnny Kitagawa called and asked me to help him find four or five AfricanAmerican dancers for the New York segment of the huge annual musical he does with Toho.
It wasn’t easy, as the already sold-out show will run for a month in Tokyo and a month in Osaka, but Steve came through, and Johnny held auditions at the Lex. The dancers were great and have been booked for the show.
Steve dropped by the Lex again on Halloween and his costume ( what there was of it) was as wild and original as ever, and it was also a winner; at another Roppongi party, it took the first prize of two roundtrip tickets on Alitalia to beautiful Rome and one of my favorite countries, Tunisia.
Steve has got to be the best son parents could have, and he plans to give the tickets to his mom and dad, Oliver and Clara, who live in San Francisco. That fun and outgoing couple does get around. In addition to bringing them to Japan several times a year, Steve took them to South Africa last year and the Carnival in Rio this year.
I love Clara’s comments on the current world situation. The lady who is much like Auntie Mame said, “No terrorist is going to stop Oliver and me from traveling. I bought too many clothes to show off to just stay home.”
Roeland Vos, President Europe, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, was in town with a large delegation of the prestigious hotel chain’s general manager. During their visit, they held seminars for people in the travel and tourism business and hosted a festive Starwood Europe 2001 reception in the Star Room at the Westin Tokyo Hotel.
Following brief speeches by Vos and Starwood’s man in Japan Akio Hirao, the visiting GMs mixed with the crowd and answered questions about the hotels and resorts they manage.
The highlight for me was meeting Flavio Bucciarelli, Director of Sales and Marketing Area Milano, for Starwood. There’s no friend better than an Italian friend, and Flavio’s father Roberto has been a really great friend for many years.
When he was a top executive with the legendary Ciga Hotels chain, I produced the fashion shows for the hotel’s promotions here in Tokyo and, in Rome, Roberto always made sure I had a suite in the beautiful Excelsior Hotel overlooking Via Venato. I have a beautiful painting by Florence artist Lazzarro Donnati in my entrance hall, a gift from Roberto that sure brings back great memories of visits to Rome, Milano, Florence and Genova.
A very heavy schedule, work and travel the last month also kept me from a lot of very interesting and worthwhile happenings around town. Over at the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, outgoing Ambassador Mohamed Bashi Kurdi and his wife Widad hosted a gathering of friends.
Sorry I couldn’t be there but did enjoy an intimate evening with them at a dinner hosted in their honor by Bangladesh Ambassador Jamil Majid and his wife Rebeka a few days later. A rundown and photos on this later.
I was in Nagano Nov. 5 and 6 for the second Nordic-Japan Environmental Conference 2001, so had to miss what I heard was a marvelous evening of music by the Czech Philharmonic Sextet. The concert was hosted by Czech Ambassador Karel Zebrakovsky and his wife Marcela in their residence.
Busy Bulgarian Ambassador Petar Andonov hosted a reception at his home in honor of the official visit of the Bulgarian Parliamentary delegation, headed by Prof. Ognian Gerjikov, Speaker of the National Assembly.
On Nov. 12, Polish Ambassador Jerzy Pomianowski and his wife Maria were hosts at a reception in the new embassy to celebrate the Republic of Poland’s National Day. Our congratulations.
Junko Koshino hosted three nights of parties at her chic new fashion building on Koto-Dori. I had the opportunity to congratulate her later at the Buena Vista party celebrating the Disney centennial at the close of the Tokyo International Film Festival.
Though I’m not into Sunday parties, I had every intention of attending the Filipino community in Tokyo’s welcome party and ball for Ambassador Domingo L. Siazon Jr. and his wife Kazuko at the New Sanno Hotel on Sunday, Oct. 28.
Threw my tuxedo in the car thinking I’d change later at the Sanna. Not with heavy security there. I couldn’t drive into the hotel parking area, it was pouring rain and there were no parking spaces on the street, so I gave up, went home and watched a video.
Missed some marvelous music at Suntory Hall at a special concert sponsored by Min-On Concert Association. The world-famous SWR Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Sir Roger Norrington.
Really sorry I wasn’t in town for the annual Festival Latino Americana 2001. This colorful and festive event, with its food, fashion, handicrafts and entertainment is one of my favorite pre-holiday happenings, and also a favorite of Princess Hitachi.
Very sorry I missed a party in honor of long-time friend Robin Berrington on Sept. 28. It was hosted by U.S. Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs Hugh H. Hara and Aguri Matsuda. Robin’s back as the new U.S. Cultural Attache. My congratulations.
Also sorry to miss South African President Thabo Mbeki’s speech at the U.N. University on Oct. 2. Unfortunately, I did not receive either of the invitations until the end of October.
To avoid that happening in the future, please send all correspondence to my home address: Bill Hersey, Hillcrest Yoyogi 104, 39-13 Moto Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151-0062. Thanks.
Congratulations to our Muslim friends all over the world who have just gone into their holy month of Ramadan. For the devout, this means fasting, compassion, charity and prayers.
I’ve spent and really enjoyed some time during Ramadan in Egypt, Morocco and Tunis. From dawn to dusk, it’s a time for meditation and prayers. When the sun goes down, the major cities in these countries become alive with people dressed in her best, visiting mosques, relaxing at cafes, visiting their relatives, shopping and enjoying the special foods prepared during the holy month.
In talking with Saudi Ambassador Mohamed Kurdi, I learned that, in his country, the center of Islam, things are quieter with full emphasis on fasting, prayers, visiting relatives and acts of charity.
Congratulations to Geraldine Twilley, a highly qualified teacher, interesting woman and a good friend who celebrated her birthday on Oct. 26.
Valgerour Valsdottir, the charming wife of Iceland’s new Ambassador to Japan lngimundur Sigfusson, who celebrated her birthday on Nov. 6 in Nagano at a special party hosted by Sol and Carole Yoshida in their beautiful home. The couple who I met at the Nordic-Japan Environmental Conference 2001, are sure to be highly regarded and popular on Tokyo’s diplomatic and social scene.
Swedish Ambassador Krister Kumlin and his unbelievably energetic and organized wife Ewa on the super successful Swedish style in Tokyo 2001. Several of the events were graced by the presence of Sweden’s 24-year-old Crown Princess Victoria.
I introduced Swedish model Torgeir Husby to Ewa, and he worked in the promo’s fashion shows. He said, “The whole thing was wonderful,” and noted chef Frederick Walther who also worked on the promotion, said, “No one has ever done as much for Sweden in Japan as have the Kumlins.” Kudos all around.
Due to the success and many requests for its Egyptian Promotion, the Hilton Tokyo will repeat the popular event from Nov. 1 to Dec.14. It is supported by the Egyptian Embassy, Egyptology Tourism Board, Egypt Airlines and the Nile Hilton.
The schedule is somewhat influenced by the commencement of Ramadan, and a prayer room will be available at the hotel. for information on times and special attractions.
*First published at the Tokyo Weekender