As usual, don’t like being so late in covering the many special events, but our city just never seems to slow down.
By Bill Hersey
November and December really stayed busy with many Arab friends celebrating their National Days. These include Oman, Lebanon, the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar. In addition to those receptions, the many movie promotions, charity events and holiday parties really do keep us busy.
In hopes of catching up a bit, I’ll cut down on copy this month and use more photos. For your info, at the time I’m writing this there are 152 Ambassadors (16 are women) in Japan and that means all kinds of happenings. Thanks for your understanding. December 5 had two big events on the same day and the same time. The first was Thai Ambassador and Mrs. Upatising’s celebration of their much-respected beloved King, HM Bhumibol Adulyadej, on the occasion of his birthday at the Imperial. The second was Warner Brothers’ glittering premiere of their blockbuster film Gravity at the Toho Theater in Roppongi Hills. The director Alfonso Cuaron and superstar Sandra Bullock were here for that one. Several years back I did a birthday party for Sandra at the Kagua Show Club in Roppongi. Believe me, she’s still looking good.
The Thai party was beautifully done with live traditional music and dance, and a lavish buffet of Thai specialties that are so popular all over the world. Former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda was special guest, and he as well as the Thai Ambassador made short meaningful congratulatory speeches.
Thanks to Kyoko Spector, I got to both of these events, but neither of us was able to stay as long as we would have liked.
Once the traditional events for the long Japanese New Year’s were over, January continued to be busy. Paramount brought in director Martin Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio to promote The Wolf of Wall Street and Warner Brothers had a star-studded premiere of their local production Kuroshitsuji.
The Maruyama’s annual Chinese New Year’s dinner party at Tokyo Hilton’s Dynasty restaurant with 11 courses and interesting people was perfect in every way. Special guests included Prime Minister Abe’s mother, father, and mother-in-law, as well as Princess Takamado’s mother Fumiko Tottori. My congratulations to Fumiko for the special decoration she received from the French government for her work on so many worthwhile projects. My thanks as well to Fumiko for a copy of the book on her dynamic family.
In late January Lilo Maruyama and her son, Helge, traveled to Colombia and spent three weeks touring that beautiful country.
If you’re thinking about traveling when it’s a bit warmer, I suggest Krakow in Poland. Polish Ambassador Cyril Kozaczewski recently told me that this beautiful university city was named by travel experts as the #1 city to visit in 2014. I spent four days there a few years ago and really enjoyed it.
Other January and February happenings here included photographer Hiroyuki Suzuki’s original black-and-white exhibition of his creative photos of construction being done at New York’s Grand Central Terminal, which was held at the Grand Hyatt. Hiroyuki’s wife, fashion designer Junko Koshino, is—as always—on the go and involved in all kinds of activities. I saw her costumes for the world-renowned Japanese drum group Tao at their performance last year. The costumes were awesome, as was the group’s performance, at Bunkamura on January 31 this year. Junko’s a super talent in everything she does: and that’s a lot.
Other November, December and January outstanding events I’ll have photos of later included Irish Ambassador John and Mrs. Neary’s reception at the Okura for Ireland’s visiting Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, and a delegation of Irish business leaders, and a marvelous exhibition of paintings by Colombian artist Pedro Ruiz. HIH Princess Takamado was special guest that evening. She was also there for a party to celebrate the launch of a book on Oman, hosted by Omani Ambassador Khalid Al-Muslahi and his wife Abeer at their beautiful home.
The UAE National Day reception, hosted by Ambassador Saeed Al-Nowais and his wife Zahra at the Imperial Hotel; the Bahrain National Day party hosted by Ambassador Khalil Hassan and his wife Dr. Yoshiko Hatakeyama, also at the Imperial; and the Lebanon National Day festivities, hosted by Ambassador Mohammed Al-Dib and his wife Randa at the Okura, were all regal celebrations with many VIP guests, lots of party crashers and bountiful buffets of excellent food and legendary Arab hospitality. At the UAE, there was a name card drawing for tickets on the highly acclaimed Emirates Air to exotic destinations in the UAE. At the Bahrain party, a colorful and energetic group of Japanese drummers and festival dancers really livened things up. Lebanon’s celebration featured a huge selection of Lebanese cuisine, which is some of the best in the world. The wall-to-wall guests at Oman’s party at the New Otani showed off a kaleidoscope of color with most of the Arab ladies in beautiful designer Arab fashion. The dynamic hostess was super chic in a black-and-gold original creation.
While finishing writing this column in early February, I just received two tickets from Cirque du Soleil founder and president Guy Liberté for a performance on February 12 of the acclaimed show Ovo, which has had a long and successful run in Las Vegas. The show is sponsored by Daihatsu here, and will run at Big Top in Odaiba through May 11. Cirque du Soleil’s shows, as most of your probably know, are pure magic and well worth seeing. I hope you can check this one out for yourself.
Grace’s Charity Concert—Peninsula Hotel
Grace Saito’s annual autumn charity concert was held in the Peninsula Tokyo Grand ballroom on November 25. It was a marvelous afternoon of music—violin and piano, and tenor, soprano and baritone vocalists. Grace is one of our city’s most generous philanthropists, and as always at her events, there was a big turnout. The concert was in cooperation with Rotary Int’l District 2750 and proceeds went towards the eradication of polio. For the closing of the concert, the audience joined the participating artists in singing “We are the World.”
Sake Superstars Tasting
Advertising and marketing giant ADK, along with the Tokyo Weekender, Co-op Sachi, and the Sake Samurai Supporters Club, put on an awesome event at the Café Serre over at ADK Shōchiku Square. The talented palates who judge sake at the International Wine Challenge put together a selection of some of their top sake picks in 2013. There was a great spread of food to go along with the nihonshu, and the evening kicked off with some lively remarks from Tokyo Weekender publisher Ray Pedersen. We’re looking forward to their next event.
If you’re wondering, who’s that gorgeous young blonde you see around town and often on TV, it’s Roberta Ireton. Peek-a-boo Hair Salon’s boss Fumio Kawashima did a great job of changing Roberta’s long black hair to blonde for her role as a CIA agent in the TV drama, Naomi Closet. She also had her eyebrows reshaped by Hollywood’s Damone Robert, whose clients include Robert Downey Jr., Beyonce and Madonna.
Those long lines outside of Tokyo’s popcorn, pancakes, etc. shops are proof positive of the Japanese (especially the young ones) really following the US not only in fashion but with food fads as well. I had breakfast with some friends from the Big Apple recently and there are a few items that are very popular over there right now that I’m sure you’ll be seeing more of here soon. One big thing seems to be the pastry, cronuts—they’re a combination of a croissant and a donut. New Yorkers stand in line for more than an hour waiting their turns, and some people have been willing to pay other people as much as $40 for the cronut they had already bought. Other current fads include fondue stands where you can get hot cheese dips that are great for the cold weather, and you can find them just about everywhere. I also saw Starbucks’ first big beautiful tea shop in Shanghai on CNN, and heard they have plans to open them around the world.
The Rolling Stones who were here to do their Japan tour, “On Fire,” for Kyodo Tokyo have come and gone. I heard it was a huge success and even the “gold ring seats” at Tokyo Dome—which were ¥80,000 each!—sold out.