The grand-in-every-way 10th anniversary ceremony of the City Club of Tokyo was hosted by the Board of Governors Chairman, Yasushi Akashi, Canadian Ambassador Leonard Edwards and CCA Holdings Ltd. Chairman Dieter R. Klostermann.
The special evening was officiated by HIH Prince Mikasa, and the venue was the spacious Place Canada Grand Foyer and Terrace. Everyone who is anybody (and a few who aren’t) on Tokyo’s diplomatic and social scenes was there.
HIH Prince and Princess Takamado were also there as was now retired sumo wrestler Akebono. It was also nice to see Andrew Hepburn, former General Manager of the City Club of Tokyo and now G.M., Brockot Hall Golf Club in London.
It was a full schedule with all kinds of happenings that evening. got there a bit late so missed the official greetings, cake-cutting and toast by HIH Prince Mikasa. Also missed a Japanese traditional dance by Onoe Kikunojyo and a music performance by the “Japanese Benny Goodman,” Eiji Hana and the Swing AllStars. Filipina singer Maria Eva also did her thing, as did the club’s popular pianist, Ari.
I did see and very much enjoyed a duo performance by taiko drummer Shuichi Hidano and percussionist Takafumi Fujimoto. The beautifully prepared and delicious feast took guests around the world.
Also enjoyed a very special dinner prepared by Chilean chef Joel Solorza and complemented by world renown Chilean wines for the opening of the Chile Fair at the Tokyo Prince Hotel. What made it even more special was the fact I was seated next to Chilean Ambassador Demetria Infante, and that gave me an hour or so to get to know the man better. He has a very interesting background and his diplomatic career has taken him to many parts of the world. Demetria and his wife Angela have been really busy.
The magnificent Chilean naval officers training ship Esmeralda sailed into Tokyo as part of its around-the-world cruise and, during its four days docked at Harumi Pier, the Infantes co-hosted, along with the ship’s captain, an exciting evening on board the Esmeralda. More on this later.
It was wall-to-wall people at the Hotel New Otani’s huge Ho-Oh Room when Moroccan Ambassador Mohamed Tangi and his wife Alia hosted a reception to celebrate the anniversary of the ascension of King Mohammed VI to the throne in 1999, following the death of his highly respected father, King Hassan II.
According to reports, this was one of the best-attended Moroccan National Days ever. The crowd was an interesting mix of top government officials, diplomats, business leaders and many other friends of the Tangis. I enjoyed talking with Saad Eddin Taib, the former Moroccan Ambassador to Japan who now lives in Jeddah where he’s working with the Organization of the Islamic Conference. It was a laid-back evening of good company and good cous-cous, perfect for the occasion.
I’ve had the privilege of meeting the King as well as his younger brother Moulay. They’re both very intelligent, internationally-minded and concerned men.
Missed some marvelous music (and dancing) on two occasions. The first was a concert at the home of Czech Ambassador Karel Zebrakovsky and his wife Marcela by the internationally acclaimed Prague String Quartet. I had the opportunity to hear the quartet several years ago in Prague and, believe me, they make marvelous music.
The second was another exciting international cultural performance presented by the Min-On Concert Association, titled “Khotugu Slus” and put on by the visiting Sakha National Folklore Music and Dance Group.
Prior commitments kept me from the afternoon reception hosted at the Kuwait Embassy residence by Ambassador Khaled Al-Jassim to welcome our new Kuwaiti Ambassador, Sheikh Azzam Mubarak Salah Al Sabah, to Japan.
I’ve had the privilege of visiting Kuwait three times and have always had the good fortune to spend time with members of Kuwait’s ruling Al-Sabah family. Legendary Arab hospitality at its best.
I was in Manila when Togo Fine Arts held the opening reception for its “From Degas to Rouan” exhibit. I liked the message they sent with the invitation though:
“We were shocked by the tragic incidents of Sept. 11 in the States and wondered whether under such circumstances we should hold an exhibition or not. Even though the world is not the same as before, we are moving forward.” The exhibit runs through Dec. 28. For info call 3473-0409.
A healthy and happy Ayako Koshino recently turned 88 and, to help her celebrate, her three designing daughters, Junko, Michiko and Hiroko, hosted a fantastic birthday party at the Imperial Hotel. The venue was beautifully decorated Japanese style with lots of green bamboo, huge gold fans and sake barrels everywhere.
The colorful crowd included film stars, pop music idols and fashion personalities. Dewi Sukarno attracts a lot of attention wherever she goes and was there with her at-that-time “boyfriend.” He, if I remember correctly, was from Arkansas.
Seemed like a nice guy but kept a bit too busy trying to get in every photo anyone took of Dewi. I appreciate Junko and her son Yoriyuki (he goes to school in the U.S.) introducing me to some very interesting people.
Junko’s family is very religious. I don’t know the name of the Buddhist sect to which they belong, but it is well known the fashion models who work for her must get down and pray with her and her staff before the show. Whatever, it’s really worked for the Koshino family. Check out Junko’s chic new fashion building on Kato-Dori.
If you’ve been here any length of time, you probably remember the late Nagaharu Yodogawa, one of Japan’s top movie critics. He used to close his show by rapidly repeating, “Sayonara, sayonara, sayonara.” With all the farewell parties for good friends, I could say the same thing.
People who have recently left or will soon be leaving include Irish Ambassador Declan O’Donovan, German Ambassador Uwe Kaestner and his wife Dagmar, Papua New Guinea Ambassador Aiwa Olmi and his wife Bernadette, Thai Ambassador Sakthip Krairiksh and his wife Benchapa, Saudi Ambassador Mohamed Kurdi and his wife Widad, Laotian Ambassador Thongsay Bodhisane and his wife Vayakone and Madagascar Ambassador Cyrille Fida and his wife Raharifina.
We’ll have a rundown and photos of some of the many parties for these special people later.
Over in Roppongi, I saw an African flyer-pusher persistently following three big macho Marines (Tshirts, jeans, tribal tattoos), trying to get them to a topless club. Guess they got tired of it, and one turned around and said, “Leave us alone. We’re gay.” I doubt if they were, but they sure got rid of the pest.
Had a group of professional surfers in the Lex recently. The Australians really seemed to be having a good time, while the Japanese just looked on. I asked one why he wasn’t meeting people and dancing. “When we’re in the ocean, we’re men. When we’re in the city, we’re lost,” he answered seriously.
Tokyo English Life Line (TELL) will hold its 2001 Connoisseur’s Auction on Nov. 16 at the magnificent residence of British Ambassador Sir Stephen and Lady Gomersall. The buffet starts at 5:30 p.m. and the charity auction at 7.
Don’t forget the International Ladies Benevolent Society Bazaar from I0 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 10, at the Akasaka Prince Hotel
Two days later on Monday, the 12th, the Association of Japanese-Latin American Ladies will hold its annual Bazaar at the ANA Tokyo Hotel from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
I flew to Manila on Northwest’s Flight 27 on Sunday, Oct. 14, and was happy to see the plane was nearly full. As expected, security has tightened at Narita. Two cigarette lighters I was taking as gifts showed up on the X-ray screen when my checked luggage went through, so I had to open the suitcase, take out the lighters and put them into my hand luggage. I appreciate the airlines and airports’ concern for passenger safety.
Immigration and Customs procedures at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport were fast, courteous and all done to the background of Christmas music. They traditionally start early with one of the most devout and enjoyable Christmas and New Year’s seasons you’ll find anywhere.
I have my initials in big leather letters on the side of my luggage, and it really helps me spot it as soon as it’s off the plane. While I was waiting for my bags, I saw a red suitcase with a lot of yellow block printing on the next conveyer belt and thought, wow, someone is even more far out than me. Walked over to check it out and saw it read, “Please check your luggage tag numbers. Many bags look alike.” That’s a bit of Filipino ingenuity which has probably saved a lot of people a bit of stress.
Years ago at Narita, I picked up a bag I thought was mine but, when I got home, discovered it was not. It took considerable time and effort but, thanks to the airline, I got my bag and the one I had was returned to its rightful owner.
Manila was busy. Even with a sagging economy, there were lots of new shops in the light, bright and always fun malls, some good theater (“Rent” and other shows), some very interesting new restaurants and clubs and high-rise construction going on everywhere. The malls were packed with people buying Halloween masks and decorations and Christmas decor as well.
It was nice getting out to the rural areas and, as always, enjoyed the two-hour drive to Pagsanjan. Stores, stalls and vendors are everywhere selling all kinds of fruit, crabs, honey and delicious hot coconut pie.
Craft shops include hand-painted lamps, wooden household items, plaster garden figures (no, I did not buy the Seven Dwarfs or a flamingo) and some fantastic huge kites (bats, eagles and others). There are also miles of garden supplies that sell a huge variety of plants and trees.
Checked out a couple of antique shops along the way and ended up with a few very dusty old tin toys-a train and a tank. Two enterprising teens were doing their best to sell their catches; one a twofoot-long green snake and the other a beautiful hawk. November is harvest time for rice, and farmers were busy preparing for their busiest time of the year.
Really sorry to say my hotel was not busy. In fact, I was the only guest in the vast compound. But happy the Koreans (mostly honeymooners) are still coming in by the busload to have lunch, take the canoe trip to the falls and shoot the rapids back down before heading back from Manila.
Came out of my hotel, the Manila Midtown, to walk across the street to a mini-market. In a matter of minutes, I was offered everything, from a nurse to a college student, to a secretary, to a housewife, to a boy.
When I said, “No thanks, I’m tired,” he shouted, “How about some Viagra?” Talk about enterprising.
As I once mentioned, tourism at Pagsanjan Village, with more than 1,200 boatmen, is the principle source of income. Without tourists, there is no money coming in.
Along that line, I really feel the Japanese government (as usual) went overboard when it recently placed a travel advisory on the Philippines. This, for one thing, means travel agencies cannot sell package tours to any part of the Philippines. That’s ridiculous. Even before the terrorist attacks, visitors, for safety’s sake, kept away from certain areas of New York City, Los Angeles, Miami Beach and other cities.
Problems and trouble in the Philippines are, for the most part, in the southern island of Mindanao and the island of Jolo. Stay away from those places and take the precautions necessary nowadays no matter where you travel, and you’ll really enjoy the many tourist attractions, food, shopping and hospitality of the Filipino people. In addition to all that, you’ll be helping a lot of people, and that’s what it is, or should be, all about.
Speaking of the Philippines, everything done by that country’s ambassador to Japan, Romeo Arguelles and his wife Azucena (“Annie”), during their two years in Tokyo, turned out to be something special. One of the many highlights was the Philippine Costume and Inspiration Show which featured the designs of the “Czar of Asia Fashion,” Jose “Petoy” Moreno.
The show, with the strong support of the Philippine Ladies Association in Japan, was staged at the Top of the TAC, Tokyo American Club. It was a SRO crowd at both of the shows held in celebration of the 103rd anniversary of Philippine Independence Day and the 21st anniversary of the PLAJ. Proceeds went to the Street Children Committee.
The show was a dynamic blend of history, culture and fashion. The chic and colorful clothes categories went from Pintados to Tribal to Barong Tagalog to Barot Saya to Muslim to Mario Clara to Terno, and ended with Kasalan (wedding dresses). People there included members of the Imperial Family, top government officials, diplomats, business leaders and fashion and showbiz personalities.
I’ve seen a lot of fashion shows over the years but can’t remember any that was so enthusiastically received. There was applause after almost every costume and a standing ovation for the designer and models at the finale. I tell you, it was really nice to see models who smile (and what smiles!) during the presentation.
That evening Petoy, most of the models and the show staff came to the Lex and boogied ‘ti! early a.m. The next evening, I had the privilege of joining them all again at a fun and laid-back buffet dinner hosted in their honor by Romeo and Annie.
I made lots of new friends and have some good memories of that special weekend. I talk with the Arguelles from time to time, and they are doing fine and send their best to their many friends in Japan.
*First published at the Tokyo Weekender