Society columnist Bill Hersey met Usain Bolt and some talented breakdancers, was thrilled by a Michael Jackson musical and spent time at some of Tokyo’s most international parties and events this month.
It’s a beautiful day and I’m working on this column at Segafredo’s in Hiroo. The place, which many of you will know, is packed, and I was really lucky to get a table out front.
A good friend of mine, “Brian” Mori bought the Segafredo Franchise for Asia and I’m happy to see he’s doing so well. It’s also great to see the newly opened National Azabu Supermarket across the street super busy with in-the-know foreigners and Japanese. Sole & Luna Pizza Parlor next door is going to be a very popular addition to the neighborhood too I can tell: a friend sitting at one of the outdoor tables there brought me a slice of pepperoni pizza and it was just delicious.
Firstly this month I must mention a few of the highlights of the last few weeks, including meeting the prime minister of New Zealand, John Key, who’s also minister of tourism, when he was here to promote his beautiful country. He also worked a bit with Warner Bros.’ man-in-Japan, Bill Ireton as Warner Bros. will release the The Hobbit, which was filmed in New Zealand, here in Japan in December and the anticipation for that is really building up.
It was a sporty couple of weeks after I spent considerable time with many Formula One drivers before their race on October 7th at Suzuka and partied with many of them all night after the race at the New Lex Tokyo. Actually I did pretty much the same with the drivers for the world endurance race a week later at Fuji Speedway, which was great. Then, thanks to dear friend, Claudia Barnes, the Jamaican ambassador, I also had the privilege of meeting Olympic superman Usain Bolt during his recent visit here and I’m happy to report he’s every bit as nice as I’d heard he was.
I love musicals and want to say a big domo arigato to Fox TV’s Dan Smith for the opportunity to see and really enjoy Thriller Live, which has come from London’s West End. It was two full hours of Michael Jackson’s hits, performed by a beautiful and talented cast. As critics in the UK said, it’s upbeat, high energy, a total blast and a great night out. The show is playing at the Blue Theater, by the International House in Roppongi and runs through December 9th. There were 530 people at Dewi Sukarno’s annual charity gala at Meguro Gajoen.
The women’s fashion that night was proof positive that “diamonds are a girl’s best friend”. Anyway, as the old classic by Sonny and Cher goes “The Beat Goes On”…
Malaysian Festival at Hilton Tokyo
I’m sure many of you are familiar with the song “Malaysia, Truly Asia” that we hear whenever Malaysian Tourism runs their promo films on TV. Other colorful promotions for that wonderful exotic country included a Malaysian food and culture week, when HIilton Tokyo joined Tourism Malaysia and Singapore Airlines in sponsoring a most colorful event. On opening day there were short, interesting speeches by Jamie Mead, Hilton Tokyo’s GM, Noor Azlan Abu Baker of Malaysian Tourism Promotion and David Lim of Singapore Airlines.
Singapore and Malaysia are, as you know, close neighbors and really have good working relations with each other. Four visiting chefs from Malaysia worked with the Hotel’s Food and Beverage Dept and the buffet was delicious. The sponsors had brought in a truly talented dance group who presented lively Malaysian song and dance shows during the festival. The show featured a very talented young group and they really made a hit and friends with most of the customers.
Yoyogi Park Festivals: Food, Fun, Culture, Music And Good People
As you know if you follow the column, I was an anthropology major, live near Yoyogi Park and try to get to all of the many Japanese and international food and culture festivals they have there. Here are a few highlights of a few of the most recent I was able to get to.
One of the most colorful, exciting and happy was the Genki Matsuri where 88 Dance groups, each with 30 to 50 people of all ages, came from all over Japan to take part in a parade along Omotesando-dori and to perform in a contest in the park.
The costumes, the colors, the huge flags, the choreography, the energy and the friendliness and joy all added up to a great Japanese experience.
Sri Lanka is one of my favorite travel destinations and their festival, with its many drummers and gorgeous dancers was a real blast. The Japanese – plus a few talented foreigners – B-Boys Weekend was wild with breakdancers, rappers and hip hop dancers from all over Japan competing to be the best.
Wow, it was really amazing to watch what those young people could do. I really enjoyed the Meet Vietnam Festival, with lots of Vietnamese noodle stands, theatrical performances, a fashion show and some great music by top VN rock stars who were flown in for the festival. The most recent for me was the Incredible India weekend.
Over 300 people took part in the different stage performances, there were lectures, workshops, meditation sessions, yoga sessions, art and even elephants – well, actually big bamboo and paper mache replicas of what are my favorite animals.
Hopefully I’ll be able to keep you posted on future happenings there and more of you will be able to take advantage of the always fun, always interesting things going on at Yoyogi Park – I’d love to see more of you there.
The Arrours’ Special Evening At The Okura
As always, Moroccan ambassador and Mrs. Samir Arrour’s celebration of the anniversary of the enthronement of H.M King Mohammed VI was a glittering, exotic event. The people packed evening took place in the Okura’s chic Ascot Hall.
The hosting couple, Samir and Utako, were super chic in Moroccan national dress, there was a huge ice carving of Morocco’s national emblem and the buffet featured both Moroccan and Japanese dishes. Special guests included Yuichiro Hata, Minister of Land Infrastructure Transport and Tourism and son of former Prime Minister Tsutome Hata, parliamentary vice minister of foreign affairs, Kazuyuki Hamada and Diet member, Kenji Kosaka.
Many years ago his father, Zentro Kosaka, one of Japan’s most famous ministers of foreign affairs, introduced me to King Mohammed VI when he was still Crown Prince and since then I’ve had the privilege of meeting many members of the royal family during my visits to that fascinating country. On one of those visits I drove from Tangiers in the North to Tan Tan, a desert town on the southern border.
A few days ago I watched a CNN travel program on Morocco and did that ever bring back some great memories of what a wonderful travel experience I had. Other interesting people I met at the Moroccan evening included famous hotel owner Norimisa Nishida. He heads the huge Toyoko Inn Chain, which has 50,000 rooms around Japan as well as several hotels in other Asian countries. The fun, really outgooing man was with his daughter, who I already knew; she’s president of the hotel chain.
The Arrours had arranged for one of my favorite bakeries, Maison Kayser in Midtown, to serve a variety of their great breads and pastries at the party. As I was leaving, one of the girls from the bakery who knew me came over and gave me a bag of croissants, etc. and said, “this is for your breakfast.” Talk about nice.
The Massets’ Beautiful French National Day Reception
It was a “Vive la France” day all the way at the residence of French ambassador and Mme. Christian Masset when they held a huge reception on the occasion of their national day.
The Japanese boys choir who were there to participate in the program spent much of their time watching the master ice carver who created some extraordinary carvings in the garden.
Later they sang the French national anthem and after the welcome speeches joined the many guests in trying and really enjoying all the French gourmet foods in the bountiful buffet.
It was really great seeing so many French friends I hadn’t seen for a long time and make some new friends as well. Kudos to Christian and Helene and their hardworking staff on a marvelous day in every way.
The Ben Shitrits’ Glittering Israeli Evening At Opera City
Israeli ambassador Nissim and his wife Carmela and many other Israeli friends had two special events to celebrate recently. The first was their 64th independence day and the second the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Japan. They did, as I knew they would, really go all out to make it a beautiful and memorable celebration for the many invited to the gala evening, which was held in Tokyo Opera City. The program started off with a message sent by Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion.
This was followed by a welcome speech by the ambassador and congratulatory speech by Koichiro Gemba, the Japanese Foreign Minister. Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra gave great entertainment, with world renowned conductor Dan Ettinger who was flown in to conduct and take part in other related events and three of Israel’s top singers: leading soprano Merav Barnea, mezzo-soprano Edna Prochnik and tenor Yotam Cohen gave a standing ovation performance.
I have great memories of two of Israel’s top entertainers, Yafa Yarkonic – who is often referred to as ‘Mother Israel’ – and award winning pop star Ofra Hazaalso.
I first met Yafa in Narobi I was in Kenya on Safari and she was singing at the New Stanley Hotel on the night the Israeli athletes were murdered at the Olympics in Munich in ‘72. Somehow Yafa, a strong lady, was able to pull herself together and do her show that night; believe me that was one emotional evening.
I met Ofra when she first came here as a contestant in a music competition. She won, became quite popular and came back several times to perform. Both of these ladies have passed on but I thank them for some great memories and their friendship. God bless their souls.
Note: A printed version of this article, published on November 1, appeared alongside a picture of Diya Sinha, the daughter of Vishal Sinha of British Airways. His name was misspelled in a caption, a mistake for which we apologize.