I remember opening a column a few years ago about how Tokyo was becoming more and more like Rome in August when things in general really slow down and sometimes even shut down. A lot of people are away on leave, and others are taking off for summer holidays. Traffic is not so heavy, and the streets (even in Roppongi at night) are quieter. Unlike in Rome where the Italians are really laid back, the Japanese don’t close many of their stores and restaurants for the whole month of August. I used to hate when I’d go to Rome for the end of summer sales and the boutiques would be closed. Some businesses here do close down for a few days during Obon, which was in mid-August. Our city seems to be even busier than ever the last few weeks, and looks to be busy right on into September. There is a full schedule of all kinds of events. These include international productions of long time favorites here in Japan: Blast until August 23, A Chorus Line until August 30 and South Africa’s Drumstruck, also until August 30. Japan’s top producer of broadway shows, the Shiki Group, have performances of their production of Wicked through September 6. I hear this is really worth seeing. I also hope to check out the all female Takarazuka theater production of Aidi. Many of those women are very talented, and the stage sets and costumes are always quite spectacular. There are still a few firework shows coming up and you should try to get to at least one of the traditional summer festivals. Our Muslim friends are celebrating the holy month of Ramadan, and this really cuts down the number of receptions in our city’s social scene until mid-September. Even so there are always an abundance of happening to keep even the most active (or hyperactive) Tokyoite busy. I feel that this is a good time to extend my sincerest apologies to many good people out there who have invited me to many worthwhile events that I am just not able to attend. Believe me, I really appreciate your friendship and thoughtfulness, but as I am sure is the same with many of you, travel and work create conflicting schedules. Sometimes I’m just too beat and sometimes, I’m sorry to say, a lack of a parking spot often means I can’t make it to things I know would be interesting and I’d enjoy. Thanks for understanding on this.
It was the first national day celebration that Italian Ambassador Vincenzo Pacheco Petrone and his wife Susana hosted here in Japan, and it was obvious from the moment you entered their residence that they and their staff had gone all-out to make it a special day in every way. The weather was beautiful so most of the many guests spent as much time outside in the embassy’s beautiful and legendary garden as possible. The many art objects on display both inside and outside the Petrones’ hold included an installment work Paradise in a Train Window by Nero Akamatsu. Vincenzo and Susana had really made a wise move when they put first class caterer Giorgio Matera in charge of the food that day. The man who’s the best in his field here in Japan chose seven top Italian chefs to prepare their specialties. There were long tables of everyone’s Italian favorites artistically displayed. All I can say is what a first class feast this was. The art, the marvelous mix of people there, and the warm, friendly Italian ambiance added up to ‘la dolce vita’ at its best.
Ruiz Cabanas’ Garden Party for Mexican Naval Officers and Cadets
I was late again and really sorry, as I missed what I knew would be a very inspiring and moving opening ceremony for Mexican Ambassador and Señora Miguel Ruiz-Cabanas’ garden party for the officers and cadets of the visiting Mexican naval training ship, the majestic Cuauhtemoc. The ceremony, I was told, with its color guard and very special Mexican flag, really brought out the pride and love that the people of Mexico have for their country. The embassy has a new chef, and the man really knows what he’s doing. Like everyone there, I pigged out and really understood why I’ve always loved Mexican and Tex-Mex food. As always at the Mexican embassy there was a festive atmosphere with live mariachi music, lively dancing and kids in traditional costumes. As I always say and really mean, Viva Mexico. You, by the way, have until August 30 to catch the largest ever exhibition of modern Mexican art every shown in Japan at the Setagaya Art Museum. I’m a big fan of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.
10th Thai Festival at Yoyogi Park
This festival is becoming a must for those looking for a full day or two of what is becoming an exotic Thai experience in Tokyo. Both days at the Thai Festival 2009 at Yoyogi Park were packed with people of all ages from all over the world, enjoying the picnic atmosphere, the Thai food and drinks, the entertainment, the shopping, and the mood. I was out late in Roppongi Friday night; sorry I missed the cultural show that was part of Thai Ambassador Suvidhya Simaskul and his wife Boontipa’s opening ceremony. I heard it was just great. Even so, there was so much to do. I stayed until it was over on Saturday, and went back on Sunday for a few more hours. In addition to the big stage in the park, several small stages had been set up, and there was a full schedule of Thai entertainment that included classical music and dancing, Muay Thai kickboxing, and music by half a dozen of Thailand’s pop entertainers. Good looking Thai guys and gorgeous Thai girls in glittering traditional costumes roamed through the crowd and happily posed for photos. With so many people there, it was also fun to pretend you were in Thailand by taking your photo after you stuck your head through a hole in a big set that looked you were riding a water buffalo or in a boat in the floating market. The variety of Thai food was endless. It was delicious and inexpensive. The farmers’ market offered the opportunity to buy all the wonderful fruits you find in Thailand, and prices were really cheap. I do want to mention the exhibition of tuk tuks (the best way to get around in Bangkok) and the Thai and Japanese teams competing in the popular Thai game takraw where they kick a small ball all over the playing court. It was a super festival, and if you can’t get to Thailand I strongly suggest you try to get to the festival next year.
Renewed Fiat Café Light Bright and Super Chic
I ran Into Bvlgari president Stephane Lafaye and a couple of his friends at the reopening of the Fiat showroom and café on Aoyama Dori. I couldn’t stay long, but I agreed with Stephane: the place really looks great. Stephane, who loves fishing, was really looking forward to taking his family for a couple of weeks to Wyoming and Montana. I’m sure they’ll really enjoy the beauty and nature of those two states. Sorry I missed Fiat country manager Tiziana Alamprese, as she had left a few minutes before I got there. My sincerest congratulations to that busy lady and her staff.