Trying to put this column together Sunday, Nov. 7 and in checking the calendar for the rest of the year, I woke up to the fact that there’s just 47 more shopping days until Christmas. Several businesses have already put up Christmas trees, and, when I come home after midnight, I see city workers busy putting holiday lights on all those big trees on Omotesando dori. As I and many of my friends seem to be saying more and more, “Where does the time go?” Halloween, which really received a lot of hype this year, is over, even though a few places haven’t taken down their decorations.
It was fun, but emceeing three nights of people-packed all-night parties at the Lex, judging the costume contest at National Azabu supermarket and helping with a wonderful party for children with special needs at the Oman Embassy really did wear me out.
Seemed like old times seeing so many people really get into the mood with all kinds of fun costumes at Roppongi’s many happenings, Favorite’s for the guys included the late and great actor Heath Ledger’s Joker facial makeup, pirates, the Mad Hatter, vampires, Japanese animated characters and macho gladiators from the Warner Brothers film “300” and TV series “Rome” and “Spartacus.” There were lots of younger girls in Lady Gaga drag, while office girls seemed to favor pussycats, angels, devils and nurses looking for someone to take care of.
As always, Peter and Gina Capizzi’s kids were winners at National. Mia was a boxed Barbie doll, A.J. a cup noodles, and Dean an onigiri rice ball. Kudos as well to Abeer al Muslahi, the wife of the Oman ambassador. Her house was really well decorated with all kinds of fun ghosts and witches, as well as some really scarey background moaning and groaning. Dutch clown Rene Bosman entertained at the kids’ party and, as always, was great.
At one of the Lex parties, a group of 15 top Filipino actors, actresses, singers and directors showed up, and they really know how to party. After their Tokyo concert, they headed to Guam to entertain the huge Filipino population there.
Right after Halloween, I had the opportunity to spend three days in busy, booming Seoul on a film project. Former Tokyoites Ron and Maria Anderson, who had just visited there to “spend some time” with their good friends, Seoul mayor and Mrs. Se Hoon Oh, had given me some very useful advise. This included flying Asiana Airlines, which they think is great. I tried the airlines and agree with them all the way.
G20 was going on in Seoul so hotels were pretty much booked up. We did get rooms — unbelievable rooms — at the recently opened Banyan Tree. Talk about putting on the Ritz! Seoul is real happening, so colorful and so exciting, and a really great getaway that’s less than two hours away. My only regret was that there was no time to see the Broadway musical Billy Elliot that’s currently playing there. That’s another reason to go back soon.
Still on South Korea, a late but sincere congratulations on the super Korean festival that Dentsu helped put together in Roppongi Hills. The entertainment was really good, I was just sorry there weren’t more food outlets.
Here’s a few suggestions for inexpensive things to do when and if you have time: Drop by the TGIF restaurant in Roppongi in the evenings and catch the juggling show by the bartenders — those guys really know what they’re doing; Visit the farmers’ market on weekends in front of the UN University — there’s all kinds of fruits, vegetables, etc., as well as a half a dozen booths selling big healthy meals, fruit juices and more at really reasonable prices. Nice people, great ambiance.
Libyan farewell party
Prior to his departure, Libyan Charge d’ Affaires and Mrs. Anagih A.B. Anagin hosted a well-attended reception. The occasion was to celebrate the 41st anniversary of the great Alfateh Revolution. It was a relaxed gathering of interesting people enjoying the company and the bountiful buffet. Anagin and his family have returned to Libya for his new assignment. We wish them all the best.
Diplomats’ photo exhibition at Roppongi Hills
It was wall to wall people at the opening reception and awards ceremony for the 13th “Japan through Diplomats’ Eyes” photo exhibition in Roppongi Hills recently. The programs included welcome speeches by honorary president Princess Takamado, chairperson Colombian amb. Patricia Cardenas and representatives of the three major sponsors, Konica Minolta, BMW and Suntory Whiskey.
The Prince Takamado Memorial prize was awarded to Polish second secretary Tom Kuczynski for his photo “Whatever masks may be, they are not unreal — unless one wants to deny the playfulness of reality,” and the grand prize went to Bengt Westerblad, whose wife works at the US embassy for his photo “Bamboo Craft.” The photos were all excellent and each a reflection of the artistic side of those who took them. I, of course, had my favorites, “Zen Moment” by Anita Pratap, the wife of the Norwegian ambassador and another titled “Head Start for MOMO-NO-SEKKU” by Zimbabwe amb. Stuart Comberbach. A big and true congratulations to all the participants who made the exhibition the special event it was.
Singapore National Day
Sorry that Singapore amb. Chin Tiong Tan and his wife Maureen had to be out of Japan for their national day gala celebration at the Imperial Hotel. Guests, of course, missed the couple. The Tans asked deputy chief of mission Laurence Bay and his wife Elizabeth to host the event, and they really did a commendable job. People there that evening included top Japanese government officials, business leaders, diplomats and familiar faces from the arts, fashion and entertainment worlds.
Special guests included former prime minister and Mrs. Tsutomu Hata, as well as former prime minister and Mrs. Yasuo Fukuda. In addition to the bountiful buffet presented by the hotel’s food and beverage department, the Tans had arranged for several of the best Singapore restaurants in and around Tokyo to sit up booths and serve their specialities. The satay, dim sum and Hainan chicken were delicious.
Saudi Arabia’s national day celebration at the Imperial
There were guests galore at Saudi ambassador Turkistani’s festive celebration on the occasion of his country’s national day. Many of the students from Saudi wore national costumes, and several times during the evening groups went on stage and performed the energetic traditional dances. It really brought back some great memories of my two weeks visit to Saudi Arabia where I was a guest of the National Guard for the colorful, dynamic and truly spectacular Janadriya culture festival in the desert outside of Riyadh. What an experience that was! Our congratulations to our many Saudi friends on their national day.
Also, congratulations to Junko Matsuhisa — Nobu’s daughter — and her husband Yoshiyuki Sunoda on the birth of their daughter Elena in Los Angeles on Oct. 2. Many of you know Junko from her work at her father’s Tokyo restaurant Nobu behind the Okura Hotel.
On the sad side
I was really sorry to hear about actor Tony Curtis passing away. I spent considerable time with the really fun guy here, LA and in Hawaii. Once when he was here for an exhibition of his paintings, I took him to a party at the Argentine embassy and swear he kissed every lady there on both cheeks. A few of them jokingly told me they didn’t wash their face for a month. Tony, who was in his mid-80s had a very productive and interesting life. He’ll certainly be missed by his many friends and fans.