U.S. Independence Day Celebrations
The party scene is starting to pick up here again, so let’s go back a bit and hit on some of our city’s happenings.
In addition to the U.S. Independence Day celebrations on July 3 hosted by Ambassador Tom Foley and his wife Heather, the Tokyo American Club celebrated the special occasion on July 4 at the Top of the TAC. Thanks to friends, I dropped by the VIP lounge and had the opportunity to talk with and photograph the guests of honor.
From there, moved to the Top of the TAC for the traditional program that included music by the Tokyo Metropolitan Fire Dept. Band, welcome remarks by emcee Dr. Timothy Pierce and the presentation of colors by the Air Force Color Guard which included two women this year.
The crowd joined Dolly Baker and Chloe Monroe in singing” America the Beautiful.” This was followed by a welcome speech by TAC President Fred Harris and a greeting and toast to Emperor Akihito by Ambassador Foley.
Prince and Princess Hitachi, in a period of mourning for the late Empress Dowager Nagako, could not be there. Filling in for the prince was lchiro Fujisaki, Director General for North American Affairs Bureau, Gairnusho, who proposed a toast to U.S. President Bill Clinton.
The traditional cutting of the cakes, one for the 224th birthday of the USA, and one for TAC’s 51st birthday, was followed by the closing ceremonies and everyone joining Dolly and Chloe in singing “God Bless America.” All very impressive, and it certainly reaffirmed the pride felt by me and many others there in being an American.
80th Birthday Party
It wasn’t long ago that I joined grand dame Nancy Ma, her family and friends at a party to celebrate her 80th birthday. On June 30, I had the opportunity to help another special lady, Arny Sung, celebrate her 77th. The party was organized by Arny’s children and grandchildren (see photos) and was held at the beautiful Restaurant Aso in Aobadai.
Guests included diplomats and their wives, some of the city’s most prominent and active women, business leaders and top figures in the entertainment world. Noted composer Shunichj Tokura made a brief speech and led the guests in singing “Happy Birthday” while Amy blew out the candles on her cake.
It was a special gift to Arny and a treat for everyone there when Judy Ongg sang Arny’s favorite song, “La Vie en Rose.” It was a special celebration in every way.
37th Anniversary of the Organization of African Unity
The Heads of African Diplomatic Missions in Tokyo went all-out this year in sponsoring a colorful, interesting and people-packed celebration on the occasion of the 37th anniversary of the OAU (Organization of African Unity). The reception was held in Kensei Kinen Kan, and it was a power-packed crowd with Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori as special guest.
Many of the ambassadors and their wives wore national costumes and that, as always, was very impressive. The wives of the OAU members here and their staff members had prepared a bountiful buffet with the favorite foods of each country. It was excellent.
I recently received a copy of the book Pour L’ Afrique-For Africa from Burkina Faso Ambassador Raymond Edouard Ouedraogo. My sincerest thanks. He, by the way, did a very professional job as emcee of the OAU’s gala evening.
I dropped by the home of outgoing Chilean Ambassador Oscar Fuentes and his wife Elisa for their sayonara party. I knew by the way Elisa looked at parties that she had a great sense of fashion and color. As expected, the Fuentes’ home was colorful, interesting and tastefully chic.
Speaking of tasteful, I was sorry I had to leave before the buffet, as Barbara Uribe (Mexico) had told me Elisa is an excellent cook. Oscar and Elisa are an active, well-liked couple who will be missed. They’re back in Santiago now for Oscar’s new government assignment.
My thanks to long time friend, New York City (U.N.) lawyer Chris Lynn, for the video tape of the Broadway musical “Victor, Victoria.” I saw the show which starred Julie Andrews and Michael Naouri in Chicago just before it moved to New York.
It was Julie’s “gift to Japan” to allow NHK to record the show while it was still running. It was also shortly before this great star lost her voice following throat surgery, but I’m happy to hear she’s well on her way to a complete recovery.
I got to know Michael, Julie’s co-star, when he was in Tokyo to promote “Flashdance.” At that time, he was with well-known and well-liked showbiz agent Vicky Light. According to Hollywood people in the know, she used many connections to get Michael cast in a number of films.
The beautiful Vicky got sick -very sick- and Michael quickly split. Yet another of those not-so-nice Tinsel Town tales.
Shocked and, of course, feel bad after reading the Cambodian government has filed a lawsuit against former Cambodian Ambassador to Japan Truong Mealy. According to the report, the ambassador embezzled about US$700,000 during his four-year assignment in Tokyo. I knew Truong and his wife Thidenne well.
As far as I’m concerned, he’s a very intelligent, hard-working and gentleman. After he left, I received a couple of letters from Paris where he said he was studying Cambodia’s history and was working on a book. I have no reason to doubt this.
During Truong’s posting here, he, at the advice of a couple of Japanese (and one Taiwanese), had the old embassy in Akasaka torn down and rebuilt a multistoried building on that valuable land. I went to the opening of the new chancery and was told the upper floors were to be rented out as private offices. The money embezzled was allegedly from rentals in the building.
Truong, as I mentioned, is a gentleman. He is also a very trusting man, and this made him an easy target for con men (and women) who have learned to spot and prey on people like this. I sincerely hope the powers-that-be carry out a thorough investigation of the matter. They could well be surprised.
Heading home about 5:30 a.m. a few Sundays ago and stopped for the red light at Roppongi Crossing. There was a mini-van sitting right in the center of the crossing and cars coming in both directions had to drive around it. It was the same when the light changed and traffic moved my way.
I thought I saw someone in the van, so parked in front of a subway entrance, got out and went to the van to see if I could help. The engine was still running, and a young Japanese girl (jeans, tank top) had passed out and was slumped over the steering wheel.
I tried to wake her up, but she was so drunk or high, there was no way. I turned off the engine, took the keys and walked to the crossing koban. Two of the seven policemen there walked to the van with me, and they couldn’t wake up the girl either, so pushed her to the other side of the car and drove it over by the Almond coffee shop. By this time, another officer joined them.
They thanked me while they tried to get some reaction by shining a bright light into the girl’s eyes, but no way she was going to wake up. It’s a miracle she drove as far as the crossing without hitting another car or a pedestrian. It’s quite busy in Roppongi at that time on Sunday morning with people heading home after a night of clubbing or for an afterhours rave.
As I was getting into the car, a man came running over and asked if I speak Japanese. “I saw you with the police, and we need to talk to them.” He proceeded to tell me he and two other American businessmen had gone into a massage parlor that had a sign that said “¥3,000 for 30 minutes.”
“We turned down the special oils and extra time they tried to sell us, and now they gave us a bill for 88,000,” he said. I told him my Japanese isn’t all that good, and the police don’t like to get involved with problems like this.
Luckily, I spotted a Malaysian friend who does speak fluent Japanese, called him over and asked if he would help. The next day he told me that, fortunately, they hadn’t signed the credit card bill as yet, and he convinced the massage parlor people to take ¥15,000 (¥5,000 each). Nice to have friends like that.
Massage parlors-Chinese, reflexology, relaxation and others-have opened all over Roppongi. I’m sure there are some legitimate ones, but my Japanese friends tell me most are ripoffs, padding the bill with all kinds of special services that aren’t that special. Be careful.
*First published at the Tokyo Weekender