Thanks mostly to my European friends pushing me, I’ve been doing a lot more of what I should have started a long time ago: walking. It wasn’t all that long ago I’d hop in the car and drive to the local market or restaurant — just a ten minute walk from my apartment. I discovered that walking is not only great exercise but you can meet nice people you probably wouldn’t meet otherwise and get to discover so many new and interesting places all over this great city. I live close to Yoyogi Park, it’s just a short walk from my place and once I’m there can walk for hours through the beautiful park, and once again meet people and watch the sports and other happenings going on there. Weekends are always fun, with flea markets or some sort of culture festival going on.

Here are a few places I’ve really enjoyed checking out the past few week.First, there’s the long European looking Cat Street in Omotesando (you enter by Shakey’s Pizza across the street from the Koban by the Ralph Lauren Store). The street is lined with all kinds of shops, boutiques and restaurants and is a favorite hang out for Tokyo trendies. It actually ends on Meiji Dori where you can turn left and be in youth oriented Shibuya, or right and check out the shops on the way back to Omotesando.

If you have time in Roppongi and feel like walking, you should spend time in the Don Quixote store. It’s six big floors of anything and everything. It’s easy to spend an hour or so just checking it all out. The store’s open 24 hours a day and nobody hassles you like they often do on the streets of Roppongi.

I have batteries put in my watches as well as minor repairs on the 6th floor. The man working there is really helpful and it’s relatively inexpensive. Ran into a Russian girl I know there and told her about the watch service. She used it the next day and told me she had several girlfriends who sold the expensive watches Japanese admirers had given them to D.Q and they were satisfied with what they got. Hostesses in the Roppongi area are known to do a similar thing: They take their customers to the pet shop near Midtown Mall on the main drag. That’s the one with all the doggies in the window, get them to buy an always cute, always expensive dog for them, keep it a couple of days and return it to the shop for a cash refund. One girl I know working at Fortune hostess club told me she’d had a half a dozen different dogs in a month!

I haven’t been to Ikebukuro for ages, but did go over recently for a contemporary dance show, “Chocolat”, a friend was dancing in. The venue was in the huge Sunshine City complex and after the show we spent three hours checking out shopping opportunities in the mall area. Really found some great stuff I hadn’t seen anywhere else. In addition to that there were all kinds of bargains, so plan on getting back there soon. Really plan on doing more and more walking and from time to time, so I will share some of my discoveries and experiences with you.

Oman Culture Day in Tokyo

Congratulations to all concerned who put so much time and effort into the first “Oman Cultural days in Tokyo”, the event was very informative and interesting. The idea was to strengthen relations between Oman and Japan and judging by the attendance alone, they certainly did that.

In addition to the multifaceted exhibition which included traditional handicrafts, manuscripts, Omani fashions, a photo exhibition and henna artists, there was a symposium at the UN University. Over at Tokyo International Forum, HIH Princess Takamado joined visiting dignitaries and the Omani ambassador to cut the ribbon for the inauguration of the the beautifully designed exhibition “Oman and Japan relations in the 21st century”.

Former Boxing Champ Onizuka’s Art Exhibition in Roppongi

Katsuya Onizuka former WBA super flyweight champion who created a boxing boom in Japan in the early 1990s showed another side to his personality and real talent as an artist at a recent exhibition of his  paintings. The Roppongi Gallery was filled wall-to-wall people from the sports, fashion, and entertainment worlds and was as close to a SoHo gallery in NYC opening as anything I’ve seen here in Tokyo. Special guests included popular actor Tsurutaro Kataoka, who I had met several times but never knew he had boxing skills as well. Katsuya’s paintings are strong and dynamic, most are contemporary and some almost pornographic! It was a colorful evening with Katsuya and his friends. He told me he planned on holding an exhibition in Mexico in the near future. Happy to see his work (which wasn’t cheap) was selling well.

Dewi Sukarno Annual Charity Gala

It was Dewi Sukarno’s 13th Grand Imperial Charity Banquet at Tokyo’s Majestic Gajoen Maiougi Hall, and the evening really was as is almost anything Dewi does,very special indeed. The main benefactors of the event were Nelson Mandela Foundation, South Africa, the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Association for Aid and Relief Japan. The huge venue was sold out and the fashions and jewelry guests wore for the occasion were proof positive that those there were from well heeled  families. As they say, “Diamonds are forever.” The theme of the evening was “Pulse of Africa” and the Producer Kazuo Ogawa who’s really good at what he does, did a great job. He’s actually a well known jewelry designer who works  with entrepreneur Atul Parekh The fashion show featured creations by the talented Japanese designer Junko Koshino and South African designer Danny Moordiliya. Baby M, the pop singer from South Africa belted out a Japanese and South African song, and the two member Drum cafe sang, danced and of course played african drums.

During one of their drum numbers Japan’s most famous transvestite Kaoru Maki (Director Akira Kurosawa’s  favorite) who was sitting at the table next to me got up went to the edge of the stage and put on quite a show. She who was legally declared a woman by a Japanese court several years back can really shake her   booty. Dewi, who changed costumes several times during the evening always looked good but was a real knockout in a chic red dress for the finale. As you can see by the photos the two Japanese models who dressed like Johnny Depp in “Alice in Wonderland” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” really were really pros and able to pull it off. Special guests for the truly fantastic evening included South African ambassador Gert Grobler.

Gracekai Charity Concert at the Peninsula Hotel

Happy to see a full house at the Peninsula Hotel Ballroom for Gracekai’s founder and president Grace Saito’s charity concert. She’s done this series of concerts for twenty years for a variety of worthwhile causes, It was a laid back afternoon of classic music by several top classical music artists, Grace works closely with the Rotary Club on this project.

Farewell to outgoing Westin Hotel G.M.

Andreas Trauttmansdorff and his wife Dominique were recently transferred to Shanghai. Andreas, who has been Westin G.M. here for almost four years, was asked if he’d like to move to Shanghai to run the Westin there. He talked to Dominique and although they love Japan, they decided that since they haven’t lived in the same city as any of their children for years, this was a real opportunity. Consequently, Andreas accepted the new Westin assignment and they’ll be leaving for that exciting city soon. The active and popular couple will really be missed on Tokyo’s busy social scene. We thank them for their support to the Weekender and wish them all the best.

An apology

Gomennasai to JICA President Sadako Ogata, I mistakenly said she worked for JETRO in the last column.