I’ve said this before: my wonderful grandmother (God Bless Her Soul) was right on when she said, “The older you get, the faster time goes.”
By Bill Hersey
2013 really flew by and seems impossible we’re already in 2014. I sincerely hope you and your loved ones had a very merry Christmas, and are enjoying the long New Year’s (Shogatsu) holidays here. I’d also like to wish you as well as the people of the world the best in 2014. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank you for your readership and your friendship for the close to 40 years I’ve been writing the column. I sincerely appreciate all this.
Met and talked with Tongan Ambassador Tania Laumanulupe Tupou recently at Grace Saito’s Charity Concert at the Peninsula. I appreciated her complimenting the Weekender and the column. She told me she had lunch at the Peninsula’s excellent Chinese restaurant, the Hei Fung Terrace, before coming up to the pre-concert reception. It was nice hearing that one of the restaurant staff had given her a copy of the latest Weekender to enjoy while she was waiting for her food. We appreciate that, and hope the other prestigious hotels will have their staff do the same. Ambassador Tupou is really a cool lady who I know will do well here.
Ran into Indonesian Ambassador Muhammad Lufti and his Austrian wife, Bianca, in the Ritz Carlton Hotel lobby recently and was really sorry to hear they’ll be leaving Japan soon. The popular couple did a lot to promote further good relations betweens Japan and Indonesia, and will really be missed by all who have had the privilege of knowing them. We wish them all the best in their new posting.
I had the privilege of meeting Cher twice, once backstage on Broadway when she was one of the stars of the play Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean and once when she was in Japan, and have been a loyal fan ever since. If you watch cable TV I’m sure you’ve seen her new video “Woman’s World.” I heard she’s 65, and she really looks and sounds great.
Another good friend, Mark Fritz, will be returning to New York City soon with his cool Filipina wife Hannah and their three beautiful kids, Conrad, Vivienne and Bertrand. Mark, who’s worked with Warner Brothers Japan for nine years, is looking forward to being closer to his parents and showing his wife and the kids what life in the US is like. These are truly good people who will also really be missed. Best of luck in your consulting business.
Fashion designer Junko Koshino just never slows down. I ran into her graphic designer son Yoriyuki at the Okura the other day where he was attending a big Father’s Day party. He told me Junko was just back from Myanmar where she had a very successful fashion show, and would be leaving soon for a big event she’s planning in Brazil.
On the down side, I really felt I lost a good friend when popular actor, super nice guy Paul Walker was killed in a terrible car accident in Los Angeles recently. I first got to know Paul when he was in Japan to promote one of the Fast and Furious films and hung out at the Lexington Queen club with his co-star Vin Diesel, and the glamorous Latin actress Eva Mendes. Had coffee several times with Paul when he visited Tokyo, and had planned to do something I seldom do, and get together with him when I was in LA. Really sorry I didn’t. Do the things you want to do my friends—no matter who you are, you just never know.
On December 3, Taiwanese designer Shiatzy Chen opened a chic new boutique just off the lobby at the Peninsula. I had a previous commitment: a reception for visiting Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, T.D., Taoiseach, at the Okura so couldn’t make it to the opening. But I did check the shop out on the 2nd, and really like their styles (for men and women).
TV Asahi’s ultramodern new Ex Theater in Roppongi is really something else. It looks like they plan on competing with Billboard for live entertainment, with most of the talent booked so far being Japanese. We’ll keep you posted.
One of our city’s many Starbucks—the big one in Tokyo Midtown—has changed their interior considerably. There are more long tables for the computer crowd, and I miss those big comfortable chairs by the windows facing the busy plaza. This Starbucks by the way is a good place to pick up the latest Weekender. See you there.
Had a wonderful Thanksgiving with Ken Shida, his super family, and some of his friends at his spacious luxurious new Patina Tokyo—the first in Japan of LA-based Patina restaurant group, which has more than 50 establishments in the US. The restaurant has a very international staff, and specializes in French-inspired California cuisine. It’s already a dining favorite of many of Tokyo’s most popular personalities. Located in Daikanyama, it’s in the new Italian-designed Kamiyama Forest building (1st floor) Tel: 03-5738-7031. Ask for Paul.
Shida-san is owner of 27 Shidax Karaoke Clubs and one of our city’s top catering companies, as well as a beautiful winery in Shizuoka. His wife Miyuki, and their daughters Imiri (who’s in fashion importing) and Arisa (who’s in film production), are fun, full of energy, international, and really with it.
Venezuelan Concert—A Beautiful Evening
I don’t get to Ikebukuro often, and it was my first time to go to the beautiful Tokyo Metropolitan theater there. The occasion was a concert by Venezuela’s music miracle El Sistema. The special evening was hosted by Venezuelan Ambassador Seiko Ishikawa and his wife Erika. They’re a popular diplomatic couple, and it was as expected—a big turnout of interesting people. These included former Olympic medal winner “Chik” Igaya, Aston Martin’s Sho and Mary Katayama, and most of the Latin countries’ diplomats and business leaders.
The 180-piece orchestra, one of the many youth and children’s orchestras and choirs of Venezuela, are governed by the Simon Bolivar Music Foundation. The Foundation’s goal is to fulfill young Venezuelans’ dreams of personal and professional realization through music. Today El Sistema is the world’s largest music school based on ensembles. In 2013 there were 285 music schools in Venezuela, and many of the approximately 300 youth orchestras have performed and are widely acclaimed all over the world. The Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra first performed in Japan in December 2008, and were a phenomenal success. The October Sistema festival at Ikebukuro marked the 75th anniversary of Venezuelan/Japanese diplomatic relations, and was truly a beautiful evening in every way.
Konishiki and His Wife Chie’s Show at Oakwood
It was an evening of Hawaiian music—which I love—at its best when former sumo great Konishiki and his gorgeous wife Chie, plus a group of talented friends did a Tohoku charity show at Midtown Oakwood. Konishiki keeps busy helping others, and his rendition of Hawaiian music sounds better than ever. In a relatively short time Chie has not only learned to sing in Hawaiian, but has really mastered Hula dancing as well. They really are a marvelous, talented and giving couple.
National Azabu’s Party is in Arisugawa Park
The completely renovated National Azabu Supermarket not only stocks a great selection of food favorites from all over the world, they now have many special events (holiday happenings, barbecues, entertainment events, etc) that the community can participate in and enjoy, including a fun flea market. These have really attracted a lot of people, so recently they moved from the store parking area to Arisugawa Park across the street.
Jun Ashida’s 50th Anniversary Show
It was a full day show of shows (three to be exact) of the super chic fashion creations of renowned fashion designer Jun Ashida. The event in the Grand Hyatt Ballroom was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jun’s world-renowned company, The Collection. As always with Jun, it was very special, as was the well-to-do fashion-conscious SRO audience at each show.
Saudi National Day Reception
Congratulations to Saudi Ambassador Bin Almas Turkistani, his staff and our many Saudi friends (mostly students) living here on the festive celebration at the Okura of their 83rd National Day.
It was wall-to-wall people and the guests included top Japanese government officials, diplomats, business leaders and familiar faces from the fashion, arts and entertainment worlds. I should also mention most of our city’s well known party crashers took advantage of legendary Arab hospitality, and somehow managed to get in, eat a lot and make contacts with people they’ll probably try to use in the future. Guess this goes on all over the world.
Really enjoyed talking with fashion designer Yumi Katsura who’s known worldwide for her wedding fashion creations. I’m sure most of you have seen her huge white building that resembles a wedding cake on the main street from Roppongi to Aoyama Dori by Nogizaka Station. Yumi always tops off her original, chic fashion with a Theda Bara (the silent movie star) turban.
Most of the many Saudi students at the reception wore their national costumes. The designs were classical and really elegant. The dancing with swords and canes they did on stage really added energy and excitement to the evening. They also brought back great memories of my eight days in Saudi Arabia as a guest of the National Guard for the annual Jenadriya culture festival. What a fantastic travel experience that was.
Shiga’s F-1 Parties—New Lex Tokyo
It was four exciting days of partying with the world’s top car racers when Ceremony President Tsukasa Shiga hosted his annual series of parties at the New Lex Tokyo for the F-1 drivers here for the race in Shizuoka on October 13. This was the fifth year he’s done this, with the help of London-based car-racing journalist, Adam Cooper. The majority of the racers, as always, showed up for all four days they were in Japan. I heard many flew to Tokyo right after the race in Korea as “There’s no decent hotel near the Korean race track.” Lewis Hamilton was one of the first to arrive and when he came over to say hello I hardly recognized him. He told me he was watching his diet, getting more sleep and working out on a regular basis. The results are great.
The New Lex Tokyo was super busy for four nights with the drivers, their management, their pit crews and many friends. Those people all really know how to party. Talked with one young girl who truly stood out from the crowd, with her bright red hair and full-arm tattoo. Turned out she was Russian and her wealthy family actually owned an F-1 team. She, of course, is a F-1 fan and “goes to the races all over the world.”