WITH BILL HERSEY
This great city that we live in is always busy, but I feel I can truthfully say that I can’t remember it being any busier than it has been the last few months — and that includes the often slow August. As the pop song goes, “Uh-huh, that’s the way I like it!” I really do. The big downer is with traffic, parking problems, conflicting schedules and sometimes even work. There’s no way I, and I’m sure many of you as well, can get to as many worthwhile happenings as we’d really like to.
Peruvian ambassador Juan Carlos Capuhay has really been busy. A short time after his reception to celebrate his country’s national day, the ambassador hosted a concert by noted Peruvian pianist Juan Jose Chuquisengo and a reception at his home to introduce the visiting artist. Still on the music scene, Ecuardorean ambassador Javier Ponce joined the Min-On Concert Association in sponsoring a concert titled “From Paganini to the Andes” by the duo Paganini musicians. And there was more good music at the Japan Press Center when South African ambassador Gert Grobler hosted a concert by legendary SA jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim.
I was sorry I had to miss the Egyptian ambassador and Mrs. Walid Abdelnasser’s opening reception for the photo exhibition on Egypt by high princess Takamado. The princess took the photos during her two visits to the country in 2000 and 2009. She’s traveled all over the world, and we both agree a visit to fascinating Egypt is a travel experience of a lifetime. Saudi Arabian ambassador Dr. Abdulaaziz Turkistani hosted an opening reception at his embassy for another very interesting photo exhibition, this one on the history, culture and nature of Saudi Arabia. The photos brought back some great memories of my 10 days in the country when I was a guest there for the spectacular Jenadriya Culture Festival near Riyadh. I hear the Japanese will be very involved in this special event next year.
I remember my dear grandmother (God bless her soul) telling me that the older one gets the faster time goes. Believe me, she was right. I got so tied up with so many things the last few months I never got around to sending my congratulations on Ramadan, the most important month on the Islamic calendar to our many Muslim friends. Ramadan started August 10 and ended Sept 10. Next year it will be 10 to 15 days earlier. I also missed all the colorful and exciting celebrations our Indian friends had in Tokyo and Yokohama for the Diwali holidays. At times like these, I really do wish I had a clone.
Nightlife in Tokyo stays busy and fun as well. The New Lex, where I do client relations etc., has had a full schedule of parties the last few months and many more to come. There was a rocking cast party for the broadway musical “In the Heights” and another for the South African musical “Drumstruck.” Electric sunglasses company’s monthly Nitebirds parties are always wall to wall with international models, Japanese show biz stars and other interesting people. American Idol Adam Lambert (the guy with lots of make-up who looks good) brought his way-out looking band and dancers to party at the club. They really were nice and really know how to party. Adam was here doing concerts for Udo International Productions. At the party I wondered why everyone was looking up, and then I saw this huge guy who I learned was the South Korean F1 fighter Che Hon Man. Boy does he stand out in a crowd. After the Formula 1 race, many of the drivers and their fans headed for the Lex to party all night. Lewis Hamilton made the scene, and I’ll cover that happening later.
The tour of Broadway’s award-winning “In the Heights” for Kyodo Tokyo was a huge success. We had a party for the cast at New Lex, and in talking with them learned that top choreographer Kenny Ortega (Michael Jackson’s “This Is It”) is planning a film of the musical.
I was knocking this column out in the Hiroo Segafredo and this cute little girl that I took a photo of with her father for The Weekender when they first arrived in Tokyo several months ago came over, tapped me on the shoulder and said “Thank you for the photo in the nice magazine. I have a sister who would like to have her picture in The Weekender.” Her sister wasn’t there that day, but promised I would take them together one of these days soon. These are the kind of things that make doing the column fun and gratifying.
Comberbach sayonara dinner for Motswagae
It was a laid-back fun and an enjoyable evening at the home of popular Zimbabwe ambassador Stuart Comberbach and his dynamic wife Dickie. When they hosted a sayonara dinner for another popular diplomatic couple, Botswana ambassador Oscar Motswagae and his dynamic-as-well wife Kopano. After 5 years in Japan, they are returning to Botswana for Oscar’s new assignment. Guests were an interesting mix of diplomats, artists, promoters, show-biz personalities and other friends of the hosts and special guests. Dickie is a great friend, and I had also heard that she was a great cook. The buffet was a variety of interesting, beautifully presented delicious food. It’s easy to see why so many are interested in her cooking classes. It was a special evening with good people, perfect for the occasion. Oscar and Kopano were very active here and involved in so many worthy causes, they really will be missed on Tokyo’s diplomatic and social scene.
Turkish Armed Forces Day celebration
Newly arrived Turkish military attache captain (navy) and Mrs. Erkan Oral hosted a reception at the Turkish embassy on the occasion of the Turkish Armed Forces Day. It was nice to meet them and also to congratulate good friend Turkish ambassador Sermet Atacanli, who was with them in the receiving line. The newly decorated Kenzo Tange-designed embassy was wall-to-wall with military attaches from Tokyo’s many embassies. The variety of uniforms and number of medals and decorations was quite amazing. As always at the Turkish embassy, there was a bountiful buffet of excellent Turkish cuisine which, as you know, is very special. I just saw a BBC documentry on Istanbul, and it really was a reminder of what a great city that is.
Moroccan Gala Evening at Okura Hotel
On the occasion of the 11th anniversary of the enthronement of Moroccan king HM Mohammed VI, ambassador Samir Arrour hosted a lavish reception in the Okura’s Ascot Room. It was a colorful event with many diplomats and their wives wearing national costumes. The buffet, which was laid out around a large intricate replica of a famous mosque in Marrakech featured Japanese, Western and, of course, Moroccan cuisine. Business tycoon/environmentalist Yasuyuki Nambu was there that night, and I always enjoy talking to him about his many projects.
Sayonara to two great Irish friends
I really got to know, admire and, yes, love Irish ambassador Brendan Scannell and his wife Margaret during their 6 year posting in Japan. They are a very special couple, and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to get to know them and have them as friends. At their sayonara I told them that we all wish they could stay longer, and Brendan said, “We’ve had 5 years and six prime minsters, Bill. We love Japan but it’s time to move on. Anyway, we’ll always have a place for you if you come to Ireland.” I did visit there several years ago and drove much of the countryside. It’s a beautiful country and Irish hospitality is the best.
At the ANA /Intercontinental Hotel’s chic new bar lounge Mixx
Fergus Stewart, the General Manager of the ANA/Intercontinental, and his hard working staff at the busy hotel just never slow down. A few months ago they opened their popular Pierre Gagnaire French restaurant and a few weeks ago they opened the Mixx bar and lounge. The 36th floor high-in-the-sky, hot new dining and entertainment destination is super chic, spacious and the perfect place to get up and out of our hectic city and relax.
The view of Tokyo is magnificent, the cocktails innovative and the food cosmopolitan. What a great place to meet old friends and make new ones. The crowd at opening night included French ambassador Philippe Faure, as well as business leaders, bankers, airline execs and familiar faces from from the art, fashion and entertainment worlds. Many of Tokyo’s beautiful people made the scene that night. The main host Fergus and his staff kept busy filling the guest’s champagne glasses and making sure everyone was having a good time, which they were.
I enjoyed talking with former Miss Universe Hiroko. She’s not only gorgeous, she really knows how to dress and is nice. She’ll be moving to LA soon where she recently signed with a top model agency. I also enjoyed chatting with several friends from India who are top execs here, Rahul Gupta from Shinsei Bank, Vishal Sinna, who heads British Airlines for Japan and South Korea, and Prem H. Samtani of Morgan Stanley. Moët Hennessy Diageo’s Ewan Matsuki was there that night. I see him from time to time at the New Lex as the club does a lot of happenings for MHD’s Belvedere Vodka.
From all reports Mixx is really doing well. I hope to get back there soon for one of film producer Eric Nyari’s regularly scheduled monthly parties for “Cut!” the film that he is currently working on with New York-based Iranian director Amir Naderi (winner of the Cannes Flim Festival Jury Award and recent Venice Film Festival Golden Lion nominee).