It’s September, and as always, I find it difficult to realize how fast time really does fly.

By Bill Hersey

September meant back to school for most of the young people I know, and I’m happy to see that, so much more than before, many young Japanese are able to go to good schools all over the world. This will certainly lead to a better, more understanding world for people everywhere.

August and September stayed busy here in old Edo. The highlights for me were the many cultural events in Yoyogi Park. First there was the dynamic B-Boy festival, where thousands of rappers, Hip Hop DJs and break dance groups came from all over Japan for a lively and very exciting two-day competition to choose the best in each category. It was really amazing to see and hear.

A week later, my favorite festival, the all-Japan folk dance group parade took place in Omotesando, going past NHK hall in Yoyogi Koen. This was a competition as well, with 98 groups performing on the park’s arena stage. Some of the groups had as many as 50 members, and participants ranged in age from 6 to 86! The timing, the choreography, the colorful original costumes, the huge banners, and the overall happy mood of the event—a beautiful blend of traditional and very up-to-date Japanese song and dance—is an unbelievable show and experience. Watch for it late summer, 2014.

One of the 98 dance groups at the Yoyogi Japan Dance Festival

One of the 98 dance groups at the Yoyogi Japan Dance Festival

We’re already into a busy September with events like the visit of Colombia’s beautiful Naval officers’ training ship Gloria, Dewi Sukarno’s always successful annual Grand Imperial Dinner Show, the two-day Sri Lankan festival in Yoyogi, a Vietnam Airlines evening of Vietnamese song and dance, several National Holidays, and all kinds of cultural events as well. Tokyo really never slows down.

A big congratulations to the many who worked so hard in getting the 2020 Olympic games in Japan. I know many of the people involved, and I’m sure they’ll clean up the corruption that’s hurt big international events like this in the past. With that in mind, let’s move onto our city’s social scene.

Okura’s Garden Fair – Simply Magnificent

The 13th annual world gardening fair at Hotel Okura this year was, as always, a beautiful and special event. The Ambassadors’ wives from ten different countries—Venezuela, the USA, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Singapore, Turkey, the Netherlands and the UK—spent a lot of time in planning and working with Japanese landscape artist Nobuo Shirasuna. The gardens reflected the creativity and culture of each of the participants.

H.I.H. Princess Takamado, super chic, as always, was patron of the fair.
In addition to the 10 magnificent gardens, exhibition highlights included “English Roses in Full Bloom” and “The Rare Blue Flowers of the World.” Kudos to all concerned. Watch for the 14th fair during Golden Week 2014.

Spanish 2nd Secretary Cristiane Castilho, H.I.H. Princess Takamado, and her mother Fumiko

Spanish 2nd Secretary Cristiane Castilho, H.I.H. Princess Takamado, and her mother Fumiko

Things missed

Sorry I had to miss the glittering reception celebrating the accession of Croatia to the European Union and the start of the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. This was hosted by EU Ambassador Hans Dietmar Schweisgut, Croatian Ambassador Mrs. Mira Martinec, and Lithuanian Ambassador Egidijus Meilunas at the beautiful Europe House in Minato-ku.

As I mentioned in an earlier column, I really suffered from a bad case of food poisoning this summer, and had to miss Luxembourg Ambassador and Mrs. Paul Steinmetz’s National Day celebration, as well as Peruvian Ambassador and Señora Elard Escala’s National Day reception and food festival.

The Rooses’ Big US Independence Day Celebration

I did manage to get up and out for U.S. Ambassador John Roos and his wife Susan’s very big and very exciting American Independence Day blast. The residence and garden were packed with interesting people, the Embassy was beautifully decorated, there was a huge variety of mostly American and Japanese food, a lively program of song and dance, and it all really was—as the title of the evening said—“America the Beautiful.” The only downer was knowing that, after four years in Japan, John and Susan would be leaving Japan soon. As the US’s top representatives here, the super-popular couple did so much to strengthen the friendship between the people of Japan and the US, and made so many friends. Boy, will they be missed by everyone who had the privilege of knowing them. I would like to personally thank them for so many things they did for me during their four years here. Thanks John; thanks Susan. I sincerely hope you continue with your life with a wonderful family, endless friends, and so much effort in worthy causes and helping others. The Rooses are really very special people.

Rakuten founder and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani with US Ambassador John B. Roos and wife Susan Roos

Rakuten founder and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani with US Ambassador John B. Roos and wife Susan Roos

Busy People

I am always happy to see good things happen to good people. In the world of baseball, William Ireton, son of Bill and Charo, was signed by the Texas Rangers earlier this year. He was recently assigned to their Single-A league minor league team, the Spokane Indians in Spokane, Washington.

William played ball in high school (Mid-Pacific Institute in Honolulu) and college, graduating summa cum laude from Menlo College with a degree in international business. William is really a super nice young man. At the time of writing, his parents are on a flight back from Italy, where they accompanied superstar Ken Watanabe and other members of the cast of the Warner Brothers remake of Clint Eastwood’s classic western “Unforgiven” (titled “Yurusarezarumono”) for a special screening at the Venice Film Festival. From all reports, the film was one of the highlights of the festival.

Warner Brothers will also release the baseball film “42” here in Tokyo on November 1st. This is a real-life drama about Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play major league baseball. Believe me, it’s a real winner. Still on films, Ken Watanabe’s next film will be “Godzilla.” More on this later.

A big congratulations to a good friend: great guy Brian Mori and his wife Cheryl (she’s American) on the birth of their son George Natsuo (August 22). Brian is President of the Segafredo Espresso Café chain throughout Japan, and franchise director for Asia.

Infinity Memorial for Kazuo Ogawa

On May 1st, 2011, so many of us lost a wonderful friend, world renowned jewelry designer Kazuo Ogawa. Kazuo’s long-time friend and business partner, (Infinity’s) Atul Parekh, and Kazuo’s family hosted. There was a beautiful memorial party for Kazuo at the Paul Bocuse Restaurant in Aobadai. It was as we knew it would be: a fashionable, colorful gathering of interesting people from all walks of life.

The program started with a very emotional and meaningful speech by Atul in front of a large portrait of the always smiling Kazuo. There were lots of tears during his truly great and much-deserved tribute.

An emotional evening for Atul Parekh at his partner and long-time friend Kazuo Ogawa's memorial evening

An emotional evening for Atul Parekh at his partner and long-time friend Kazuo Ogawa’s memorial evening

Kazuo was not only an innovative and creative jewelry designer, he was a talented hair stylist and beautician, a celebrated choreographer, show producer, music coordinator, kimono stylist and fashion coordinator. One of his favorite countries outside of India was Japan, which he visited more than 150 times. He also created unique and beautiful jewelry collections inspired by America, Hong Kong, South Africa, and Egypt. He as also the man behind several annual gala shows for H.I.H Princess Takamado and her much-loved cause—bird life.

The fashion musical extravaganzas he produced with so many Japanese showbiz personalities were always very popular and very professional. Kazuo was really talented and gifted, and he made the shows some of the most popular on our city’s busy social scene.

It has been two years since we lost Kazuo and for Buddhists, this is Sankaiki, when the soul begins its travels to its intended destination. It was a special evening in every way. It was perfect for the “multi-talented maestro” and “always smiling 60s.”

In and Around Town

Norman Tolman has done it again! Not wishing to be known as a one-note art dealer because of his great identification with Toko Shinoda and all the exhibits he has planned for her celebrating her 100th birthday, he has pulled a great move by opening a fantastic jewel box of a small gallery selling his long-forgotten imari collection which he “wrapped and put aside” and forgot to look at for 30 years! He says he opened it with great care and to his delight, from the 10 large boxes not a single piece turned up broken. The new place is just at the end of the tunnel that runs under Mt. Atago, where the famous Atago Shrine is. If you are looking for a trophy piece as a wedding present or some other special occasion, go and have look. I don’t think you will find little dishes for the kiddies, though. Tetsuro Okagawa is the guy who runs the place, you’ll love him. Just like all the guys who work for the Tolman Collection, he is as nice as can be.

Hopefully you won’t need it, but thanks to a young doctor friend of mine I located what seems to be the only (almost) all-night pharmacy in Tokyo. Actually, they close for four hours during the early morning everyday. For more info, it’s Jounan Pharmacy near the Azabu-juban Metro Station. Tel: 03-3451-8400 or 03-3456-3727.

We all like bargains, and if you’re like me, I’m sure you visit one of the many 100 yen shops from time to time. Last week a friend of mine introduced me to Seria, one of the best I’ve seen. It’s conveniently located in the Marui Department store JAM building on the 7th floor, a short walk from Shibuya station—on the same street as Tower Records. Seeing is believing, and you really need to see Seria. The variety of 100-yen merchandise is really tastefully displayed—and frankly, quite awesome. Check it out and I’m sure you’ll agree.

A few columns ago, I listed a few shops (Goro’s American Indian jewelry, Eggs N’ Things pancake restaurant, and Garrett Popcorn, where you almost always have to wait in line to get in). I recently discovered what has to be the best cheesecake in Tokyo at Pablo’s Bake Shop in Shibuya, and you’ll probably have to stand in line there too, while the store’s bakers make sure you get a just-baked choice of a half-dozen different premium cheese tarts. Prices are reasonable. Pablo’s is right behind the huge Forever21 fashion store near H&M and ABC Mart.

Main Image: Bill, Aerosmith’s Steve Tyler, New Lex Tokyo manager Taka Masuda, real estate tycoon Shin Kawamoto and TV comedian TKO Kinoshita