Sort of tired of all the doom and gloom talk about the economic situation here in Japan and, of course, I am happy to see and hear that things are getting better. Knowing the Japanese as I do, I sincerely feel they’ll get it all together in the not too distant future. The hotel business is picking up, and it’s nice to see more and more people in the major hotels and restaurants. Most of my hotel-related friends are pretty optimistic, and it’s nice to see the smiles on their faces when they talk about how much better room occupancy, banquet services bookings, etc. have been the last few months. Lets hope it continues.

On the showbiz scene, friends at Kyodo Tokyo and Udo Artists International were super satisfied with the sold-out concerts for Sarah Brightman (Udo) and David Foster and friends (Kyodo Tokyo). Tickets for each were ¥13,500, about what you would pay on Broadway, in Vegas or in London’s West End. Thanks to friends, I saw both shows, and believe me they were entertainment at its very best.

Looking to the near future, Udo has a star studded schedule with Olivia Newton John, Bon Jovi, Bad Company and Sting doing concerts here.

I had some time before the Foster show, so I checked out Mitsukoshi’s new 12-floor annex in Ginza. Talk about chic, trendy, luxurious and pricey. The merchandise is all top class and beautifully displayed. Service, as usual in Japan, is excellent. After you shop until you’re ready to drop, there’s an excellent selection of both Japanese and international restaurants, as well as coffee, tea and pastry shops to relax in. Mitsukoshi’s advisors and planning department had to be optimistic to take on a project like this.

Being realistic, a complete recovery is going to take time. I drive through Yoyogi Park every day, and those long lines of homeless waiting for food handouts are not only depressing, they seem to be growing. A lot of both Japanese and expat friends have lost their jobs or had salary or benefits cuts. Several friends have left Japan to look for new jobs. Singapore seems to be a favored destination.

Friends in the know tell me that the Japanese people have money but have become more careful of how and when they spend it. I think we all see this. Expensive boutiques are often empty, and more and more people, especially the younger ones, do their shopping at less expensive shops like Uniqlo, H&M, Forever 21, etc. Most restaurants have inexpensive lunch sets on their menus. Yoshinoya’s is just ¥280 yen. At lunchtime you also see inexpensive obento stands everywhere. My mailbox is aways full of flyers from new restaurants; I just got one for delivery of very cheap Mexican food — the world gets smaller.

Still, when you think about it, we’re all pretty lucky. All’s you have to do is watch BBC or CNN to see what so many people in this old world of ours have to go through every day to maintaiin even the most meager existence. Count your blessings my friends, help others when you can and pray things get better for everyone out there.

Rocking Pink Party at Peninsula’s Peter

Congratulations to the prestigious Peninsula Hotel general manager Malcolm Thompson, public relations man Mark Kobayashi and the hotel staff on the success of their charity party in the hotel’s popular and trendy Peter restaurant/bar/lounge. The occasion was to launch the Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It was wall-to-wall beautiful people, many of whom followed the dress code and wore something pink. The crowd there enjoyed the sounds of DJ Verbal, the food and the ambiance. It was a great night for a good cause, with proceeds of ¥1.68 million going to that cause.

Indian Dancer Astab Daboo Performs in Tokyo

My thanks to outgoing Indian Ambassador Hemant Krishan Singh and his marvelous wife Mrinalini for the opportunity to see a performance by the pioneer of modern dance in India, Astab Daboo, at the Indian Culture Center in the Embassy. Astab came directly to Tokyo after his highly acclaimed performance at the opening of the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. He’s performed in 65 countries and has received many awards from both his and many other countries. His work includes productions for designer Pierre Cardin and he’s worked with my all time favorite band, Pink Floyd.

Vietnam Celebrates its 65th National Day Anniversary

The Vietnamese ambassador to Japan, Phu Binh Nguyen, his dynamic wife Le Thieu Ngan and their staff hosted a huge celebration at the Imperial Hotel on the occasion of their country’s independence day anniversary. The great number and quality of guests there was proof positive of the importance of Vietnam to Japan and of the excellent relations between the two counytries. Guests included visiting dignitaries from Vietnam, top ranking Japanese government officials, diplomats and business leaders.

The program included several interesting and informative speeches, a musical program by a top Vietnamese string orchestra, a bountiful buffet of Vietnamese, Japanese and western foods, and a relaxed, friendly ambiance where you could chat with old friends and make new ones as well. It was a very special evening, perfect for the occasion. Kudos to all concerned. I, by the way, fell in love with Vietnam and its people when I visited there a few years ago and am planning another visit in the near future. Try and get to that fascinating country while you’re in this part of the world.

The Portuguese Majestic Tall Ship, the N.R.P. Sagres, Visits Yokohama

My long time love of the sea and boats started back in Perrysburg, Ohio where I was born. We didn’t have a sea, but I spent much of my leisure time on small sailboat on the Maumee River. I also made my first trip to Japan on a Japanese freighter out of Long Beach, California. More recently, I’ve had the privilege of spending time on some of the world’s most beautiful naval training tall ships. These included Chile’s Esmeralda, Mexico’s Cuauhtemoc and most recently the much-awarded Portugese Navy’s Sagres. The Sagres was on an around-the-world trip and stopped in Japan as part of the special events to celebrate the 150th anniversary of peace, friendship and commerce between Portugal and Japan.

I drove to Yokohama with Colombian Amb. Patricia Cardenas, and we, along with everyone there, marveled at the beauty of the illuminated tall ship with 22 of its main sails decorated with red Christ crosses. Once we we were piped aboard and met Amb. Zanatti and the ship’s captain, Pedro Mendes, several of the 200 member crew took us under their wing, gave us a tour of the magnificent ship, served us food and drinks, and told us some of their experiences sailing around the world. I have to admit that I had some thoughts about stowing away when the pulled out a few days later. My thanks to Amb. Zanatti for including me in that great experience and to Amb. Cardenas for helping me get there.