Bill Hersey brings us the latest installment on Tokyo’s longest running society page – on the web!
As I often say, this very special city that we live in just never really slows down. We’re already well into spring and Golden Week ends with Children’s Day on May 5th. The cherry blossoms, which were beautiful this year, have come and gone. I was really lucky to have the opportunity to enjoy them with an elite group of German ambassador and Mrs. Volker Stanzel’s friends in their awesome residence garden, check out the many trees surrounding the Indian embassy with mostly Indian friends, and party it up at a couple of fun celebrations in Yoyogi park with some Keio University students and friends who are all regulars at the New Lex.
Thanks to Deutsche Bank Group’s president/CEO, David Hatt, his wife, Helen, and world renowned art dealer Norman Tolman, I really got into this year’s Art Fair at Tokyo International Forum. The nearly two hundred exhibitors showed everything from traditional and classic art to off the wall and very original pop art – there was one booth who’s walls were covered with lots of show-it-all porno.
Sometimes there’s just too much going on. I had to pass on several colorful fashion events during Fashion Week thanks to one of the many viruses going round. And a big all night Hollywood party in Roppongi meant I just couldn’t get up and out for the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Omotesando. A real shame, as last year they had to cancel the always fun, people-packed event because of 3/11. Friends who were there this year told me it was bigger and better then ever so Kudos to the many Irish living here who put so much time and effort in to make it the super happening that it was.
I did get over to Yoyogi Park for the big and exciting Pakistan festival, as well as Thailand’s Songkran festival which was held over the same two days at the park. In addition to the many food, fashion and handicraft stalls, the free entertainment included some great Pakistani drummers, singers and dancers, as well as fashion shows and Miss Beautiful Pakistan and Mr. Handsome Pakistan contests.
The spirit of the many Pakistani people in the park really showed how much they love their country. It’s easy for me to understand why, as I spent ten days traveling all over their beautiful country several years ago and have so many great memories of that exotic travel experience.
I also enjoyed the Songkran festival; I didn’t get soaked with water like I did when I spent a Thai new year in Chiangmai a few years ago but the Thai food and smiles here made it all worthwhile.
Warm weather means more and more cultural, food and sports festivals at Yoyogi. I’ll do my best to keep you updated on what they’ve got coming up.
Tokyo’s skyline changes daily, just about everywhere you look you see new buildings opening, old buildings getting new looks and construction going on. A perfect example is the new big modern Tokyu Plaza at the Meiji-dori/Omotesando crossing. This is where Gap used to be, accross from Laforet. You can’t miss the many mirrors of the two-storey entrance, with its escalators right on the busy corner. It officially opened on April 18th – I’ll give you a rundown on that later.
I drive through Omotesando every day and was amazed at the several-block-long lines of people, of all ages, waiting patiently to get one of the many creations of the newly opened Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop in Omotesando Hills. It reminds me of the nearby Hawaiian restaurant Eggs ‘n Things, where you also always have to wait – the new ice cream outlet is really going to be a winner.
After years of really hard work, and I’m sure many more to come, the Yamate-dori highway, just down the hill from my house, is really starting to look good. There still is a lot of construction going on but with new overpasses, underpasses, tunnels, more traffic lanes, guard rails and, most recently, trees and flowers, it really is something special. OK, time to move onto our city’s party scene.
Republic of Kosovo 4th Independence Day Reception
To celebrate his country’s independence, Kosovan ambassador Sami Ukelli hosted a well attended reception at the Okura hotel. Two of my favorite Japanese friends, the legendary Sadako Ogata, U.N. high commissioner for refugees and JICA president, and Kazuyuki Hamada, parliamentary vice-minister for foreign affairs, both gave short and very informative congratulatory speeches.
Ogata-san is 81, and Kazuyuki, like Bill and Charo Ireton’s son Matthew, is a graduate of George Washington University. Sadako and Kazuyuki are both so informed on just about everything. They never use notes and really know what they’re talking about. The reception was casual and laid back, with interesting people and an excellent buffet of mid-Easter food. Ambassador Ukelli is a very well liked diplomat. We found out later why he seemed a little hyper.
It seems his wife was in Vienna waiting for the birth of their first child, and as soon as the Tokyo party was over the ambassador hopped on a special flight to Austria to be with her. Our congratulations to the Ukellis on the birth of their daughter Anna, on February 28th.
Minon Concerts Tour for Top Argentinian Tango Dancers and Musicians
Minon’s super successful Japan tour of performances by top bandoneon (a type of consertina) virtuoso Fabio Hager, with a vocalist and three award-winning tango couples, was proof positive of why tango dancing is considered one of the most dramatic, difficult, graceful and unquestionably sexiest forms of dance there is. It was a beautiful show in every way.
Minon, a subsidiary of Soka Gakkai, always has a full calendar of international cultural exchanges. I can’t tell you exactly how many great shows (Ballet Folklorico de Mexico, the National Acrobatic Show from Beijing, Jamaica Rocks, etc etc) they’ve given me the privilege of seeing. Minon also sends Japanese cultural groups all over the world to perform.
German Ambassador and Mrs. Volker Stanzel’s Beautiful Sakura Party
In addition to seeing the sakura in the Stanzels’ beautiful garden, guests got to the see and use the newly renovated tea house. The renovation was the gift of Dr. Genshitsu Sen of the Urusenke School as a contribution to the celebration of 150 years of German-Japanese relations. The program that afternoon opened with a very informative presentation by ambassador Stanzel, highlighting the history of the beautiful residence and the spacious gardens with all of its traditional treasures. After his talk guests were free to roam around, enjoy the sakura, take part in a tea ceremony, and listen to live music by shakuhachi master Seiho Nagai and his accompanist on the koto.
In addition to all that, I had the opportunity to spend some time with many friends I hadn’t seen for a while. It was a great day in every way. After the party I walked down to where the new National Azabu supermarket is fast rising and talked with Dale Toriumi and other friends, who are working at the small temporary National by Hiroo Segafredos until the new store opens in late August. It took me a while to get there as I really got interested in the photos on Germany (everything from politics to sports) exhibited on the long wall of the German chancery. Check them out, I’m sure you’ll find it really worthwhile.
Neary’s National Day Reception
It was wall-to-wall people at the home of John Neary for the popular Irish ambassador’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration. It was a nice crowd, with most of my Irish friends really enjoying the laid back ambience of the evening. We enjoyed a marvellous variety of Irish food, and, of course, lots of Irish beer. The only downer was when Neil Day told me they were closing down one of Tokyo’s most popular Irish bars, Paddy Foley’s which is in the basement of Roppongi Roi building. It has long been a favorite of so many Irish people living or visiting here, an the locals as well. Thanks for the good times Neil. All the best in your future ventures.
The Imperial Hotel’s Annual Reception for the Media
This year’s glittering reception, hosted for the media by the hotel’s president Tetsuya Kobayashi, was certainly first class all the way. The Hikari Room was beautifully decorated and the buffet presentation the epitome of high quality and good taste. Each of the many chefs were justifiably proud of the many gourmet dishes they had prepared for the event. It was really nice mixing with the many journalists I’ve gotten to know over the years, and it was nice having the hotel’s PR guru Nacio ‘Skip’ Cronin there to introduce me to interesting people I didn’t know. I was also happy to be able to introduce ceremony president Tsukasa Shiga to Halekulani Co. CEO Peter Shaindlin, who had flown here for the reception. A few months ago Peter helped me get Shiga a luxurious suite at his company’s renowned resort in Hawaii. It always amazes me how nice people are, and how lucky I am to have them as friends.