People, Parties, Places

Bill's People, Parties, Places - July 13th, 2012
David Warren, the British ambassador, and three Vivienne Westwood models
Bill Hersey on another month mixing with the stars in Tokyo.

I drive through Roppongi a lot and almost every day I’m surprised by the many changes happening in and around what I think of as the area of Tokyo with the hottest night life. Recently, we celebrated the 34th anniversary of a small funky club I’ve been affiliated with since it first opened. It started out as “The Lexington Queen” and the name was changed to the “New Lex Tokyo” four years ago. Anyway, thanks to good friends, from here and from all over the world, the club is still popular with the young Japanese and expat “in-crowd” and is a favorite amongst all kinds of celebs when they visit Tokyo. Katy Perry, Lady Gaga’s dancers, the cast of the In The Heights musical, Marilyn Manson and Lenny Kravitz have all come along recently.

We’re really lucky about our location, which is off the main drag, behind T.G.I. Friday’s and beside the prestigious Seryna restaurant. The Nirvana dance club next to the New Lex Tokyo recently closed and has been replaced with yet another hostess bar. This is good for us as the many hostess bars in that area are mostly controlled by VIPs involved in the nightlife industry; they pretty much keep things under control. I have heard that like many businesses, hostess bars in many areas have hit a new low. This has happened before, though, and most seem resilient and tend to keep going until things get better.

Lots of relatively inexpensive new eateries are opening in and around Roppongi as well. When I’m not at a party, I usually eat at one of the many small Japanese restaurants in Hatsudai or Tomigaya. Often I’m the only foreigner there and in addition to enjoying good wholesome food, I almost always make a few new friends. Before I move on, I’d like to suggest a couple of my favourite restaurants in Roppongi. First, there’s the super popular Oakdoor, on the 6th floor of the Grand Hyatt.

My favorite thing there is the soft shell crab sandwiches; everyone I have introduced to them has just loved them. They’re not that expensive and, if you don’t drink a lot, you can get a great meal for a couple of thousand yen. Also, it has a great atmosphere with good seating inside and out. For fast food, try R Burger, next to the Roppongi crossing police box. The soup, sandwiches and salad are all original, healthy and excellent. My favourite order is a sesame chicken burger with tofu chips. Anyway, enough on food it’s time to move on to “old Edo’s” super busy social scene.

Huge crowds at the Thai Festival at Yoyogi Park

The annual Thai Food and Culture Festival at Yoyogi Park was colorful, fun and exciting. There was top Thai entertainment (with both traditional and pop music) and many restaurants serving Thai favorites at really reasonable prices. With all the Thai (and Japanese!) smiles, you could see that people there had two thoroughly enjoyable and memorable days.
I went early for the opening ceremony, which was Thai hospitality and it’s best. My thanks to Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kazuyuki Hamada, for introducing me to former Japanese Prime Minister, Yukio Hatayama, and several visiting Thai government officials. It was also nice meeting Belgian Ambassador, Luc Libaut, and his wife Karine for the first time. They were very busy a few weeks after we met, when the Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde visited Japan.

The buffet, featuring my favourite, Thai sticky rice and mango, was delicious! The two day spectacular was absolutely packed with people – it’s certainly the biggest and best of the many happenings in the park every year. The only downer for me was hearing that Thai ambassador, Virasakdi and his wife Aumaporn will be leaving Japan soon. We’ll sure miss that super couple.

Thai Festival at Yoyogi Park

Pictured, from left, are Thai deputy minister of commerce Poom Sarapol, Kazuyuki Hamada, the Japanese vice-minister for foreign affairs, Kittirat Na Ranong, the Thai deputy prime minister and minister of finance, Yukio Hatoyama, the former Japanese prime minister, with his wife Miyuki and ambassador Futraku

Wonderful World Garden Exhibit

A big domo arigato to Hotel Okura’s Rajesh Paul for getting me back on the list for their annual world gardening fair. This was the 12th year for the always popular and truly extraordinary exhibition. The ten world gardens this year were from Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Finland, Germany, Fiji, Thailand, Kenya, Argentina, India and Hungary. The creativity, originality, time and effort each of the participants as well as artistic direction and help of Kobe University Professor, Nobuo Shirasuna (he’s also a well known landscape designer), made all the gardens very special. It was relaxing and enjoyable to take half a day checking them all out.

Our sincerest congratulations to the Okura’s President/G.M., Masahiro Kiyohara, the many Embassy wives who participated and the hotel staff on this truly special cultural event. At the same time, big congratulations go to the Okura, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

The British Embassy Jubilee Party

On June 6th we were happy to hear the weather forecast wasn’t bad and, in fact, it turned out to be pretty good for British ambassador, Sir David Warren and his wife Pamela’s big event. The occasion was held in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday and, importantly, her Diamond Jubilee, which marks the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne.
The entrance to the residence was very impressive, with a display of top notch British cars and a beautiful Triumph motorcycle. My favorite car was a black and white Bentley convertible – talk about style and class.

The residence was beautifully decorated with flowers and the buffet had been set up under white seats in the garden. I had some great fish and chips, cheese and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

After a meaningful welcome speech by the ambassador, Embassy staff rolled out the red carpet for a fashion show. The much-anticipated event was the world premiere of the latest collection by legendary British designer, Vivienne Westwood. The designs and fabrics were outstanding. The models, who were mostly Russian, looked fantastic, their makeup was done by artists Vivienne had sent specially from London. Years ago, when she was visiting here, there was a party for her at the Lexington Queen. I remember how much fun she was and was so sorry she couldn’t come to Tokyo for the Warrens’ party.

I really enjoyed watching the world celebrating the Diamond Jubilee with so many events for the much admired, truly remarkable Queen. God bless the great lady.

Ambassador Roos and his wife at British Embassy Jubilee Party

Pictured here are two more Vivienne Westwood models with John V. Roos, the US ambassador, and his wife Susan

Glittering Kuwait National Day Party

Kudos to Kuwait Ambassador, Abdul-Rahman al-Otabi, his wife, Jamilah, and their four children – not forgetting the Embassy staff – on the beautiful evening they hosted at the Imperial Hotel. The huge elevated field of cherry blossoms had a tall ice carving of the Kuwait Towers at one end and another of Tokyo’s Skytree at the other. It was fantastic.

I had another work commitment so could only stay for a short time, which truly was a shame and I apologise for that. The huge reception hall was wall-to-wall with interesting people and the buffet looked a real feast. I did have time to check out a large traditional Arab style room where guests could sit on big pillows on the floor and enjoy dates, pastries, chocolates and Arabian coffee or tea. I’d love to have a relaxing room like that in my house!