June 18 – July 2

Bill's People, Parties, Places - June 21st, 2010

Warmer weather has come at last, and I’m enjoying putting down the top of my old BMW and checking out some of the many changes here in old Edo. As always, I find it amazing to see so many familiar buildings come down and be replaced by many new projects. Near my apartment in Moto Yoyogi, they’re still hard at work on the new underground highway under Yamate-dori. What a huge project that is. In my neighborhood alone there’s been half a dozen big condominium buildings open recently, and from what I’ve heard there are several more still in the planning stages. It makes one feel like the recession may be over, but the many ‘for rent’ signs and the long lines of homeless people I see every morning in Yoyogi Park suggest the opposite.

Over near Harajuku station, soccer legend Hidetoshi Nakata reopened his Nakata Net Cafe, which was very popular during the Korea-Japan World Cup.It’s a great place to meet people, enjoy excellent Japanese food at reasonable prices, and of course catch the action of the games.The cafe will close after the World Cup on July 12. For more information or reservations call 03-5413-3955. Be sure to check out the new branch of interior shop Franc Franc across the street from Brooks Brothers on Aoyama-dori.The store is full of interesting and unique home merchandise. Shoppers will find things they won’t find elsewhere, and prices are quite reasonable. Watch for the store’s white and black double decker bus that’s cruising the Harajuku and Aoyama area—it’s very cool.

QUEEN ELIZABETH II BIRTHDAY PARTY

The clouds cleared up and the sun came out for British Ambassador David Warren and his wife Pamela’s midday party on the occasion of the birthday of Queen Elisabeth ll. Most of the guests spent their time in the garden enjoying the wide variety of British food, as well as some ethnic dishes. Inside the residence, one large room and the veranda served as a buffet area for some wonderful desserts that included all kinds of scones, chocolates, cakes, and of course the best of British teas. As always at the Warrens’ home, there was an interesting variety of guests from all walks of life. I talked with US Ambassador John Roos a bit and enjoyed meeting a couple of young oceanologists who were with him in the garden. It was also nice seeing Tom Yoda and congratulating him on his two years as the director general of the Tokyo International Film Festival. Tom’s at the helm this year again, and I’m sure he’ll make it all very special. It was a great day in every way with David, Pamela, and their many friends.

Fox TV Barbecue

The people at Fox TV sure know how to party and how to eat—and they did a lot of both at an American barbecue at the Hardy Barracks. The food, which included juicy hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad and more, was delicious. Akebono, his wife, and their three good looking kids were there, as was Fox entertainment personality Chris Imai. Warner Brothers’ Bill Ireton was there with some of his family, and on behalf of the US military, Fox’s Dan Smith presented him with a certificate of appreciation from the US forces in Japan for
Warner’s celebrity support of the troops program.

DIPLOMATS PHOTO EXHIBITION

The Japan Through Diplomats Eyes 12th annual photo exhibition, entitled Colors of Japan, was held in Roppongi Hills for the first time. The grand prize winners this year were Paulo Lopes Graca of Portugal and Timothy Gellel of Australia. HIH Princess Takamado was there to present the awards.

J-JAZZ PERFORMANCES

After Matthew Ireton’s graduation from George Washington University, where in his free time he fell in love with jazz music, he decided he wanted to do something to show the power of jazz to audiences in Japan. He’s now busy with his music, combining elements of jazz and J-pop. He often writes his own lyrics in Japanese to better communicate the genre to audiences here in Japan.He’s worked hard and has become a talented performer, singing to audiences at local hotels and restaurants. His concept of a new musical genre, which he calls ‘J-jazz’ is really catching on. I’ve seen and heard him perform at the Grand Hyatt’s Maduro bar and Hilton Tokyo’s St.George’s bar. Matthew really puts his heart and soul into anything he does, and his music is no exception.

PEOPLE

Congratulations to Luxembourgian Prime Minister Jean Claude Juncker, who received an honorary degree from Sophia University during his recent visit here. The world lost a great lady and I lost a great friend when singer, actress and civil rights activist Lena Horne passed away on May 9. I first met Lena in Monte Carlo when she was the star performer at a charity ball. Her performance was awesome, and I’ll always remember her coming to Princess Grace’s table after her show. She had a towel around her neck, bowed, and humbly accepted the princess’s thanks and compliments. She also politely declined the invitation to join the table, saying she was really sorry but she always had a massage and went right to bed after performing. I saw Lena a few months later backstage at her one woman show, and after that we always got together whenever I visited the Big Apple. In her lifetime she faced racial discrimination, along with many other personal problems. She was a real trooper who never gave up and went on to become a real superstar in every sense of the word. God bless her soul.