As the old saying goes, “There’s no business like show business,” and, from the looks of things, 2011 is going to be a big year for film, music, dance and drama here in Japan. I recently had coffee with busy actor Masaya Kato, and, believe me, no one is better informed on what’s happening in both the Japanese and South Korean worlds then he is. Masaya is a true international actor and did a film in Australia with Brooke shields and another with Jacqueline Bisset. He’s also had a major role in a Chinese film with Jackie Chen and worked with some of South Korea’s top actors on several projects. I rerlly got to know him well when he was working with one of my best friends, actress Diane Lane on a Japanese production here in Tokyo. He recently starred in “Umizaru 3: The Last Message”, a 3D film about the Japanese coast guard, and his next project is titled “Unfair”, which was originally a very successful TV series about a woman detective about five years ago. It was later made into a two-hour, made-for-TV movie and then a film for theatrical distribution. Masaya, as I said, keeps busy.
The acting career of another good friend, Takumi Saitoh, is also on the fast track. In addition to a long list of film and TV credits, he often does stage plays. Takumi tells me most of his days now are spent shooting early am to late pm on a new TV series in which he plays a young doctor.
It was nice seeing young actor Osamu Mukai at Marc Jacobs founder Robert Duffy’s unveiling of the company’s Tokyo flagship boutique. Osamu, a long-time friend of the New Lex is big news now, and Warner Brothers Japan has high expectations for their soon to be released film “Paradise Kiss” in which he stars.
On the music scene, super cool Pop idol Jin Akanishi is really making waves since he’s left the group KAT-TUN. He left the Johnny’s Jimusho group, went to the United States, studied hard and really improved his English. When he came back to Japan he decided to go solo, worked this out with Johnny, hired some great backup dancers and went to Los Angeles for his first concert. It was a big sucess, and in a matter of months, he and his dancers went back to the states for a five-city concert tour. After this, he and his group returned to Japan and did concerts in several major cities here. Jin also hopes to do more in films. Last year he had one of the leading roles in a Japanese film titled “Bandage”. Just heard that he auditioned for and will have a part in the American film “47 Ronin”, which stars Keanu Reeves, and that the producers were having a difficult time finding enough young japanese actors that speak good English to fill all parts, so may have to hire a few South Koreans. Whatever, it’ll be interesting. Lots more to write about, but for now, time to move from the showbiz to the social scene.
Arab events galore
The last few months of 2010 were super busy and, as always, I am a little bit more behind then I like to be. Our arab friends really had a busy schedule, so let’s start with Algerian ambassador Sid Ali Ketrandji and his wife Amal Nor’s people packed reception on the occasion of Algeria’s 56th National Day. It was held on Nov. 1 in their beautiful new home in Minami-Azabu. The house is the epitome of fine Arabic design with lots of marble, graceful arches and bubbling fountains. It was perfect for mixing and relaxing with the many interesting friends of Sid Ali and Amal. Our sincerest congratulations on the celebration and the Ketrandji’s new home.
On Dec. 2, United Arab Emirates ambassador Saeed Al Nowais and his wife Zahra really went all out to make their country’s national day one of the best ever. They chose the Imperial as the venue, and the huge Peacock Room with its ice carving of the UAE’s national emblem, long line of floral congratulations and tents where guests relaxed over Arab coffee, mint tea and an amazing variety of dates (I loved the chocolate covered ones) made it all very special. The highlite of the evening was the drawing of namecards guests had dropped in a box when they arrived. Many won roundtrip tickets on United Arab Airlines and Ethiad Airlines to Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Have to admit, I was a bit envious. I’ve traveled to the UAE five times and even drove through all of the seven emirates. Believe me, each time was a great travel experience. I took my former business partner, Tsukasa Shiga, who had just come back from the F1 race in Abu Dhabi to the reception and was happy he had the opportunity to thank Saeed for getting him reservations at the new Armani hotel in Dubai.
On Dec. 15, the Kingdom of Bahrain celebrated their national day, and ambassador Dr. Khalid Hassan also chose the Imperial as the venue for his recption. Once again, it was well attended, relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable. I especially enjoyed the live Arab music by a very good Japanese group. The only thing missing was the ambassador’s wife, Dr. Salwa Almahroos, who was in Bahrain on family business. She, like the ambassador, is a medical doctor. He specializes in pediatric surgery, and she in diabetes, a growing problem in the Middle East now. Both have helped me with my annual orphans party at the Hilton Tokyo, and it’s amazing how much warmth and love they show the children.
This was Qatar ambassador Yousef Mohamed Bilal and his wife Jamila’s first year to host their national day reception in Japan, and knowing the experience the Imperial hotel has had, and based on advice from their friends, they held their celebration at the Imperial. It was, as I knew it would be, a truly nice evening. All the above parties had bountiful buffets that featured roast lamb, other Arabic specialities and both Western and Japanese favorites. Many of the guests at each party brought their children and that always makes it even more special.
Each of the sponsors also offered their guests a wide variety of books, magazines, maps and even dvds on their countries, and after all these years, I really have a wonderful collection of info on the Arab world. Thanks my friends for your consideration once again. Our congratulations to all concerned.
Vietnam’s building boom seminars in japan
Vietnam’s prestigious HD Real, a huge housing-developement real-estate company brought in a large group of their top executives, bankers, investment consultants and city, residences, hotels and resort developers to meet with leaders in the same fields here. I couldn’t get to any of the programs but did meet many of the participants at a dinner at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. My thanks to long time friend Va Ngoc Chau, son of the former Vietnamese ambassador to Japan, for the invitation to the dinner. His father is currently ambassador in Geneva. I will always remember him making it possible for me to visit his beautiful country.
Paul Morris was also a special guest that evening. He’s with refined resorts, who have some beautiful property in Vietnam and around Asia. If you’d like to check into this, let me know. From all reports, vietnam has a bright future, with many opportunities for foreigners as they say it’s a good time for property investments in Vietnam, a promising tourist paradise. Check them out.
I’m really trying to get into doing more walking, and through this, discovering all kinds of new-for-me, interesting places all over the city. Starting now, I will pass these on to you through the column from time to time. I think I and many of my friends as well look better when we have a suntan. Haven’t been to Guam, the Philippines or Thailand the last few months, but thanks to Dale at National Azabu, I found a great tanning studio that’s just a 10-minute walk from the Grand Hyatt. It’s called 82F and is located in the Sambu building at 1-12-5 Nishi-Azabu in Minato-ku. I usually walk up Roppongi dori from Roppongi Hills toward Shibuya to the big crossing where there’s a police box on one corner and Kozo Hasegawa’s huge Gonpachi Japanese restaurant across the street.82F is just a few buildings toward Roppongi from Gonpachi. They’re open noon until 9 pm, Tuesday through Friday and 10 am to 7 pm Saturday and Sunday (Closed Mondays; 03 3405-1407). Ten minutes under a great tanning machine is just ¥1000. Ask for Mitsuo Hoshino. Satisfaction guaranteed. (Bill Hersey)