Guam Getaway

I began writing this column on the gorgeous island where America’s day begins: Guam, so I will begin this issue’s People, Places, and Parties with their local greeting, hafa adai.

I flew down there last month to relax, try to clear my mind and enjoy the perfect weather and the many swimming pools and beautiful beach of the Hyatt. I ate at my favorite Guam restaurants and discovered a few new ones too, and spent time with friends that included former Tokyoite Josef Budde who is currently the Head Chef at the Hyatt in Guam. We were Josef’s guests at the hotel’s beachside restaurant’s nightly barbecue, the food was exquisite, and the fire dancers were fantastic. We also tasted great local food at the legendary Kings Restaurant, great steaks at the Texas Lonestar, unbelievable Shanghai cuisine at Old Town Chinese restaurant (definitely order the walnut shrimp!) and excellent fajitas at the newly opened Chili’s. We spent considerable amounts of time roaming the aisles of the biggest Kmart in the world, since the store is open 24/7 and sells literally everything.

I also visited the vitamin world shop in Premier Shopping Mall and bought bottles of just about every energy pill, as they are so hard to get in Japan. They have a Macy’s in the Micronesian Mall that has really increased both their men’s and women’s fashion sections and carry most well known brands at reasonable prices. I could go on and on about Guam, but it is definitely better if you take one of Continental’s many resort shuttle flights (just over three hours) and check it out for yourself. Guam is a great getaway, and we all need one from time to time. The diversity of the island is spectacular, and the island hospitality is truly unique.

While I was in Guam I took some time to go through my pile of notes, and I would like to pass some of that information on to you.

First off, congratulations to the superb top talent Steven Haynes on the recent publication of his new Book-DVD, “Walking Can Make Your Dreams Come True.” Steve is a singer, dancer, and all around entertainer. He has been involved in the production of the Miss Universe Japan contests for years and he has used his vast experience in this book on how women can achieve their fullest potential through fashion, manners, and yes, walking!

We all know Roppongi has changed and in many ways not for the best. A few weeks ago, a couple of foreign gangs almost had a turf war with one another on one of Roppongi’s busiest corners. Some of these men were running around wielding knives (which are obviously illegal and could have easily hurt or even killed someone). Their altercation had other effects; beautiful pottery and Japanese trees and plants in front of the local businesses were destroyed. The police did show up and took several away, but it is difficult to understand why they are allowed to stay here. If they had acted like that in their own country I am sure that they would not have gotten away with it as easily as they did here. This may be a good time for the Ministry of Justice to start sentencing those who break the law to serve sentences of community service in the Tohoku region, it may teach them to respect the law of the country. They should remember that they are guests and that they must respect the Japanese people.

Speaking of Roppongi, I want to tell a positive story: Some entrepreneur friends of mine—hard working brothers—Dike and Rafel Echee from Nigeria, have really done well in the food business there. A few years ago they started out with a small truck roasting chickens. Inconsistent laws and harassment made it difficult to do business, so they opened a small restaurant called “Chicken Man”. They have an excellent menu of all kinds of innovative and really delicious chicken based dishes and are now doing really well. Their restaurant comes highly recommended: it was a favorite of former US Ambassador Howard Baker and his wife Nancy.

Chicken Man is located on the 6th floor of the Ishikawa building between Roppongi Crossing and TGIF. They are open daily and even do home deliveries. Tel. (03) 3479-0924. Check it out! Satisfaction Guaranteed.

A few months ago when Tokyo Midtown had their “open park” promotion, they held early evening free yoga classes in the park across from the main entrance to the Ritz Carlton Hotel. There was always a nice crowd there and everyone really seemed to be enjoying themselves. Unfortunately, it was only scheduled for a few weeks and has ended. In Bangkok’s Lumpini park in the center of the city they have held free yoga classes every evening for years, these are really popular and draw huge crowds. Perhaps Midtown could reconsider these kinds of community activities. (They are really what Japan needs in these trying times.)

The Tokyo Grace Celebrates 20 years
“Tokyo’s first lady of philanthropy” Grace Saito and her friends put a lot of thought into her Grace Kai charity concert a few months after the 3/11 disasters.

Grace has spent much of her life doing charity work and helping the less fortunate in north-eastern Japan. The 20th Anniversary of her Grace Kai concert series, which have helped so many, was in the planning stage for quite some time and Grace was able to get many of Japan’s top classical artists to contribute their time and talent. Everyone who was consulted believed in the healing potential of music and hoped to bring some light into people’s life with their music. They did, as hoped so by many. The concert was held at the Sogetsu Kaikan on June 1st. Proceeds will go to the Japan Disaster Recovery Fund as well as the Polio Eradication fund, which they have been supporting for 20 years.

A decade ago the late and great Prince Takamado and Princess Takamado were special guests at the 10th anniversary of Grace Kai. In his memory, Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado honored the 20th anniversary concert with her presence. The venue was wall-to-wall famous people and the concert was mellifluous classical music at its very best. Congratulations Grace, you really are a very special human being. Keep up the great work.

Jamaican One Love Festival at Yoyogi Koen a Huge Success
There was considerable rain during the two day Jamaican One Love Festival at Yoyogi Park, but that certainly didn’t keep the people from having a good time. I had the privilege of spending much of the show on the arena stage with Jamaican Ambassador Claudia Barnes. She is a great role model for women and it was wonderful hearing her say “I cannot believe it!” so many times. She was talking about the great turnout and how much fun everybody was having. I was surprised when she told me that there were only about 250 Jamaicans in Japan. (They must have all been there that day). Reggae musicians, energetic dancers, jerk chicken and all kinds of fascinating, exotic Jamaican foods, booth after booth of fun original and inexpensive arts and handicraft, and, of course, huge banners of pictures of Bob Marley all added up to two days of pure joy.

The most popular songs seemed to be “Stand Up for Your Rights,” and the theme of the event, “One Love, One Heart… Let’s Get Together and it will be alright.” The One Love festival was very special in every way. Congratulations to Claudia and all who put so much time and effort in the event. On another note, the BBC just showed a short documentary on Usain Bolt, the Jamaican who is considered to be the fastest man in the world. They mentioned that Jamaican yams may have helped him earn his title, it’s a shame we can’t easily get them here in Japan!

Sorry Folks
A big and truly sincere gomen nasai. I was in Guam and there was a communication breakdown, so I never got to read the proof of my last column in the photo layout of the Kuwaiti Charity Bazaar. One photo was missing and the names of the people in that photo were listed on another photo. I am running both photos with the correct captions in this column. As I have said before, to err is human, to forgive divine.