Bill Hersey’s Partyline September 20th, 2002

Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori Djibouti

PARTIES

The beautiful naval officers training ship Cuauhtemoc (named after the last Aztec Emperor) docked at Harumi Pier on Tuesday, Sept. 10, as part of its around-the­world cruise. On Sept. 11, Mexican Ambassador Carlos Alberto De Jcaza Gonzalez, his wife Luisa and the ship’s captain, Alfredo Ortega Jaramille, hosted an evening reception aboard the majestic sailing ship.

I made a lot of new friends from Mexico when the officers and crew partied at the Lexington when they were here last time and again during their recent port call. I also visited the Cuauhtemoc when I was in her home port of Vera Cruz for the carnival a few years ago. That was a great experience.

The Heads of African Diplomatic Missions in Tokyo hosted a gala celebration at the Parliamentary Museum on the occasion of the Organization of African Unity’s 39th OAU Day. The participating African nations went all-out to make it a special evening.

The program opened with speeches by former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and Djibouti Ambassador Rachad Farah and Senior Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Seiken Sugiura. Other special guests included visiting Gabonese Vice Prime Minister Emmanuel Ondo-Metogho. Highlights of speeches were this year’s formation of the African Union as a successor to the OAU and NEPAD which symbolizes African countries’ ownership of their own development.

Kudos to the many African ladies who provided a kaleidoscope of color and looked regal in their national costumes. They were all very busy setting up the bountiful buffet of culinary favorites of each of the African countries. That was delicious. Our sincerest congratulations to all the participants in this important celebration.

India is one of several important countries celebrating their 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Japan. For the special occasion, there is a series of special programs and events. One of the most colorful and diversified was the “Romance of India” 10-day event at Hilton Tokyo which brought together many dimensions of India’s splendid culture.

The opening luncheon ceremony was a real culinary and culture experience. Prince and Princess Takamado, a very popular couple who obviously love life and people, were special guests that day. After welcome speeches by Prince Takamado and Indian Ambassador Aftab Seth, Princess Takamado joined the ambassador’s wife, Nilima, in a traditional Indian lamp-Lighting ceremony. Master chefs from one of New Delhi’s best known restaurants, Bukhara, were flown in by Air India to prepare the food for the fabulous buffet. It was excellent.

PEOPLE

On the 28th, renown Indian dancer Leela Samson will perform at the Tokyo International Forum. Nilima Seth wife of the Indian Ambassador, herself a dancer, has nothing but praise for the artistry of Leela.

One of my favorite dancers (and people), the world’s top flamenco artist Joaquin Cortes, returns to Tokyo for Nov. and 2 performances at Tokyo International Forum. Joaquin has a big following in Japan, so get your tickets now. I just watched a video of him dancing with Jennifer Lopez at her concert in Puerto Rico. Talk about fiery passion!

Grace Saito with the Pakistani and Qatari Ambassador

Philanthropist Grace Saito just never slows down. This summer she presented another of her piano and vocal charity concerts at Sogetsu Kaikan, proceeds from which went to help the Center of Child Abuse Prevention. Sorry I couldn’t stay for Grace’s always enjoyable concert but dropped by the City Club of Tokyo to congratulate her and to say hello to some of her many friends before the concert.

I was also not able to get to the recital by Charlotte de Rothschild, sponsored by Min-On Concert Association. l got to know a Baroness Rothschild many years ago when we were guests at the Club Med opening in Phuket, Thailand. I don’t think it’s the same lady, but they must be related.

On the art scene, former Tokyoite Astrid de las Rios, executive director of Montealto International, curated the art exhibit of Iraqi artist Hani Mazhar, held at the Spica Museum in Minami Aoyama. More later on Astrid, a very interesting woman.

A received a nice card from former Luxembourg Ambassador Pierre Gramegna, his wife Sylvie and their daughters, Ines and Iris. They have settled in Luxembourg where Pierre is now Director of International Economic Relations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Pierre and Sylvie were very involved in the design and decor of the new Luxembourg Embassy, so will probably be here for the opening next fall.

Congratulations to Majed al-Sabah, a nephew of Kuwait’s Emir, who just opened his villa on the shores of the Persian Gulf in Kuwait City. I got to know Majed, a real trendsetter, when he showed me around Kuwait during my first visit there. He had a modest, but very successful boutique at that time. His new 100,000-square foot glass-cube emporium which cost about $53 million was created by Italian architect Pierfrancesco Cravel. Majed told me he was going to make Kuwait City the style capital of the Mideast and, from all reports, he’s done just that.

Congratulations, as well, to noted Austrian harpist, Prof. Josef Molner, celebrating his 50th year of living in Japan. I ran into Josef recently at the Hyatt Regency Guam where he was taking a break and enjoying the laid-back mood of the island.

PLACES

As part of Sri Lanka’s 50 years of diplomatic relations with Japan, the Sri Lankan Film Festival in Tokyo will run Sept. 25 through Oct. 2. There will be afternoon and evening screenings of 10 Sri Lanka films at the Japan Foundation Forum in the Akasaka Twin Towers Building.

It’s been a long time since my last visit to Sri Lanka, but I often look back at the truly fantastic 10 days I traveled around that colorful, exciting and hospitable island country. The diversity of compact Sri Lanka is amazing. After a couple of days in the bustling capital, Colombo, I drove to a beach resort where I stayed two nights. From there, I went on to a lodge that was my base for a Jeep-driving, animal-viewing safari in the jungle. There was a night and a day in the ancient city of Anuradhapura, another in a huge old colonial-style hotel in the tea country.

I also took time to climb to the citadel of Sigiriya at the top of a huge, isolated rock, before going on to the city of Kandy for the Perehera Festival. What a great trip!

Sri Lankan Ambassador Karunatilaka Amunugama, his wife Nandika Dilum and the Sri Lankan community here, as well as Hilton Tokyo, have gone all­out to make this event very special. It is one of the main events in a busy schedule of happenings to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Sri Lanka.

There will be the best of Sri Lankan cuisine by chefs flown in from Sri Lanka, a gala dinner, a fashion and jewelry presentation produced by jewelry designer Kazuo Ogawa. I’m looking forward to the dynamic and colorful dance performances by the Sri Lankan Navy Cultural Troupe and the Channa ­Upuli Dance Ensemble.

A Ceylon tea seminar is scheduled as well as a gems and jewelry and traditional crafts exhibition. I know this is going to be very special and complete­ly rearranged my travel schedule to Europe so I could be here.

*First published at the Tokyo Weekender