During the recent visit here of Malaysian Minister of Tourism Dato Paduka Abdul Kadir Bin Haji Sheikh Fadzir (wow!), he toasted a gala evening for people in the travel and trade industry. The Hilton Tokyo ballroom had been beautifully decorated Malaysian style (lots of flowers, lots of colors) and there was a huge and very impressive ice carving of the 152-meter Petrosnas Building in Kuala Lumpur at the entrance, and the buffet prepared by chefs from Kuala Lumpur was Malaysian food at its best. I enjoyed the visiting minister’s speech, and he mentioned Malaysia has the longest-serving freely elected government in the world and is the 17th largest trading country in the world.
Argentine Ambassador Alberto Eduardo Ham and his wife Elvira hosted a well-attended opening reception for an exhibition of paintings by one of Argentina’s most outstanding painters, Ana Maria Donato. It was wall-to-wall mostly Latinos and their Japanese friends who came to see the paintings and enjoy the Hams’ hospitality. I enjoyed seeing a lot of old friends and making some new ones as well. It was nice seeing Dagmar Adames, wife of the Panamanian Ambassador. She’s now back in Panama enjoying time with her new grandson, Raul Alberto Paredes Adames. Ecuadorean Ambassador Marcelo Avila and his dynamic wife Maria Teresa were looking forward to a trip back to Quito and a few days in Chicago. They have children and grandchildren in both places.
It was a special evening with outgoing Head of the Delegation of the European Commission in Japan, Ambassador Ove Juul Jorgensen, and his wife Hanne in their home. The occasion was to say sayonara to some of the many friends they made during their four years here. It was an informal, laid-back evening with interesting people, good food and the Juul Jorgensens’ wonderful old dog (forgot his name). Ove and Hanne are now in the U.S. where his title is “Fellow from the European Institutions for Harvard University.” I’ll miss both of them for their great sense of humor, our gettogethers at Starbucks and Hannes help at my annual orphans’ Christmas party.
Friday, Sept. 13, was a lucky day for fashion lovers who joined Tokyo trendsetters at The Space for a showing of Hanae Mori’s 2002 Fall-Winter Haute Couture Collection. Those who were there, including dynamic Dewi Sukarno, had nothing but raves for Hanae’s latest creations.
I appreciate the invitation to be with Luxembourg Ambassador Pierre Gramegna and his wife Sylvie at the reception to celebrate their National Day. At the same time, and along with their many friends, I felt a bit down knowing this was also the sayonara for the superactive and mega-popular couple. If you have the good fortune to know Pierre and Sylvie, you know what a great couple they are. Pierre’s interests include photography, and he was one of the main men behind the annual “Photo Impressions of Japan by Diplomats” exhibition (and contest).
Over at the Hotel New Otani, Moroccan Ambassador Mohamed Tangi and his wife Alia were hosts at a glittering reception to celebrate three years since the ascension to the throne of King Mohamed VI. There was a great turnout, and guests included top-ranking Japanese government officials, diplomats, business leaders and prominent figures in Tokyo society. It was a glittering reception, perfect for the occasion. Our congratulations.
It was nice seeing former Tokyoite Chris Walker who used to head HMV‘s operations here. Chris and his wife Lynn have spent the last three years in Hong Kong where he headed HMV’s operations in this part of the world, and they’ve moved to Toronto where Chris has taken over the HMV office. During his few days in Tokyo, he dropped by the Lex with two big Aussie guys who work at the Walker cattle ranch in Australia.
Swimming champ Ian “Torpedo” Thorpe checked out the pearl shops when he was recently in Japan. Ian plans to come out with his own jewelry line, much of which “is built around pearls.”
Fashion designer Junko Koshino never slows down. She has a new line out in Italy of her design, Italian-made furniture, she did the fashions for Kazuo Ogawa’s jewelry show as part of the “Colours of Lanka” festival at the Hilton and was top judge at the Aoyama Design Awards. The illustrations on that big green building that cover some underground construction next to Junko’s boutique on Kotodori were done by her son, Yoriyuki. He’s been studying design in the U.S. and Europe.
Oops, he did it again (and again). I’m talking about Johnny Kitagawa, the man in showbiz with the Midas touch. The updated version his musical “Shock” played to SRO crowds every day of its run at the Imperial Theater and always had long lines of fans of the pop idol stars outside, hoping to get a ticket at the last minute. The show itself was a fastpaced three hours of singing, dancing, acrobatics, Peter Panstyle flying, magic, roller skating and chanbara (Japanese swordfighting). The spectacular sets, special effects and costumes were perfect for the entertainment extravaganza.
Several years ago, Wolfgang and Barbara Puck told me after a bad experience here, they had no plans to come back to Japan. Well, as they say, “Time heals all wounds” and, with a new Japanese business partner and the tremendous success of Cafe Wolfgang Puck at Universal Studios in Kansai, they have followed up with a great-looking and very popular (even before the grand opening) Cafe Wolfgang Puck in Tokyo. Check it out; you’re going to like it.
The Malaysian minister talked about his country’s new program, “Malaysia, My Second Home,” where qualified visitors can stay as long as five years. Three years ago, I drove from the island of Langkawi in the north down to the historical city of Malacca, south of Kuala Lumpur, in a Malaysian car Proton. Then I flew to the southern islands of Sabah and Sarawak, where I jeeped it up the mountains and into the jungles. That, as you can imagine, was a great travel experience, one I plan to repeat in 2003. Malaysia, for many reasons, has become one of the world’s top tourist destinations. As they say, and sing, in the TV tourism promo CM, “Malaysia, Truly Asia.” I recommend you check it out.
*First published at the Tokyo Weekender