Bill Hersey tells us all about the latest goings on on the Tokyo social scene.

Wow, there have been so many happenings in Tokyo in the last few months!

Lets begin with the big news being talked about by many of my friends: the late August opening of the new, ultra-modern National Azabu supermarket in Hiroo. The new home for the Tokyo institution of more than 50 years is much anticipated.

The products it imports from around the world really make life easier and more enjoyable for those of us in Japan who occasionally miss home. Word has it that there will be a new deli counter and a Baskin Robbins and that hair salon, Maroze, will again be a part of the facilities. Perhaps the best things about ‘The National’, as most people call it, is that it has a really bright and cheerful atmosphere. I often run into old friends and am always meeting interesting people there.

Check out the National Azabu Facebook page for more info. Hopefully I’ll see you there! Helpful French-Canadian, Dale, who many of you will know, will be there every day.

Banjiro Uemura

Banjiro Uemura

Moving on slightly, I would like to congratulate Banjiro Uemura, the founder of Tohokushinsha (the company which owns The National). He was recently honored by the government with The Order of the Rising Sun Gold Rays with Rosette for his distinguished achievements as a leader in the entertainment industry.

The Order, which has various levels – the Rosette is the third of eight – is awarded to those who achieve something special in promotion of Japanese culture or international relations, or those who advance their field.

Over the years Banjiro has really supported me on my projects to help less fortunate children here in Japan, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea. I feel very fortunate and proud to have this exceptional man as a friend.

I send my sincerest congratulations to my friends at Sony Pictures for the spectacular world premiere of the their blockbuster hit, The Amazing Spider-man, at Roppongi Hills.

The movie’s stars, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, made the trip to Tokyo with a large number of VIPs involved in the production of the film (take a look at our picture at the top of this page).

Several years back I had the privilege of getting to know previous Spider-Man actor, Tobey Maguire. One of my most prized possessions is a huge silver Spider-Man poster, which Tobey autographed for me, writing: ‘To Bill, my lighthouse in Tokyo.’ It became even more special when I read, in a Hollywood weekly, that he is known to hardly ever sign autographs.

I took some time to check out all the Spider-man merchandise that Sony had arranged for this movie promotion; the funniest for me was a Spider-man teddy bear. I had to buy one – it is quite funny looking but my Japanese friend has a Russian girlfriend, who collects teddy bears, and she just loves it.

IsraAID and Hilton Tokyo reception

IsraAID, the Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid, which was set up in 2001, has been working closely with the Hilton Tokyo on all kinds of projects to help the victims of the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami. The first IsraAID team, who have a lot of know-how, arrived just four days after the disaster and distributed food, medicine and educational materials. Today, IsraAID regularly works with around 30 different groups, spread across eight cities in Miyagi and Fukushima. The Hilton Tokyo supports the activities, which include training teachers and aid-workers and holding leadership and therapeutic workshops.

IsraAID hosted a ‘Voices of Tohoku’ reception at the Tokyo Hilton recently. It was a dynamic and interesting evening with a program that included informative speeches by Maira Aboulalia, the IsraAID chairperson, Jamie Mead, Tokyo Hilton’s GM and Kunio Saito, the Mayor of Watari-Cho. It was nice to be able to be with so many people who do so much for others.

Gracekai Charity Concert

Grace Saito and participating opera stars

Gracekai founder and president, Grace Saito, on stage with the participating opera stars

I was really happy to see one of Tokyo’s most generous philanthropists and, I might add, nicest ladies, Grace Saito. The concert hall at the Sogetsu Kaikan building was full for her recent charity concert.

The only downer was that the scheduled special guest, Princess Takamado, couldn’t be there. I’m sorry to say that Prince Tomohito, who had been ill for a long time, passed away that morning. God bless his soul. I have had the privilege of working with him on several projects with handicapped children’s charities.

I was proud to be able to sit next to Grace and we really enjoyed the music from Bizet’s Carmen, my favorite opera. Kudos to Grace and the Rotary Club for getting it all together.

Algerian celebrations

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Algerian independence and diplomatic relations with Japan starting, Sid Ali Ketrandji, the Algerian ambassador, and his lovely wife, Amal, brought two big cultural events from Algeria to Japan. The first was the award-winning Algerian National Ballet, and next was a series of concerts by the Algerian National Ensemble of Andalusian Music. The program of Algerian classical music, inherited from the Arab muslim epoch in Spain, was excellent.

ALFS culture event at the Indonesian embassy residence

It rained a bit but it was still a beautiful day when Muhammad Lutfi, the Indonesian ambassador, and his chic wife, Bianca (she’s from Austria) hosted the ALFS (Asian-Pacific Ladies Friendship Society) spring cultural event. The residence has a large exotic garden which had been decorated in an Indonesian style for the special event: there were many hand-painted umbrellas, a replica of a Balinese temple, a stage, an elevated catwalk and flowers everywhere.

It was nice to hear ambassador Lufti give much deserved credit to his wife, Bianca, who, along with her many friends from ALFS and VIP visitors from Indonesia, had put a lot of time and effort into setting it all up. There was a fashion show, with the latest collections of two young Indonesian designers, Sebastian Gunawan and Priyo Oktaviano and traditional Indonesian dancing.

The ambassador had to leave a bit early but looked in great shape; Bianca told me that he spent most of his free time training for a marathon. My thanks to the Lutfis for the invitation and to their assistant, Dheny, for all the help.

Yoyogi Park is always a happening place

As I live in Moto-Yoyogi, I drive past Yoyogi Park at least twice a day and really marvel at the variety things going on there. The international food and culture festivals are always fun.

Claudia Barnes with friends

Jamaican ambassador, Claudia Barnes and her Jamaica loving friends

The Thai Festival is probably the most popular, with lots of delicious Thai food and great entertainment.

My other favorites are Jamaica’s “One Love” festival – lots of reggae, color and action – Sri Lanka’s, with its lively drummers and dancers and the Brazilian and Vietnamese events.

Check them out for yourself and I’m sure you’ll have fun and make new friends from all over the world.

Oakwood Premiere Midtown Celebrates its 5th Anniversary

This is another place I often stop by whenever I’m in the neighborhood. I love Oakwood’s Midtown property; it’s a perfect place to relax, do a bit of writing, meet people and really unwind. The staff are great – thanks you guys and girls, including Martin, Eric, Amy and all the others working there.

When I stopped by recently, Darrell Harada, a famous Hawaiian psychic, was there and he and two of his assistants invited me to be a part of a blessing ceremony he was about to do. It was great and, believe me, I was really impressed.

Pakistan National Day

Noor Muhammad Jadmani, the Pakistani ambassador, and his wife, Amnat, hosted a colorful and elegant party at the Hotel Okura for their country’s National Day. The ice carvings were awesome and the food couldn’t have been any better.

Ramzan Siddique (owner of the Siddique restaurant) and his staff had worked with the Okura’s team and prepared some excellent Pakistani dishes. Special guests I met after dining and watching dancing that evening included a large group of Pakistani girls who were here to play cricket against a Japanese team; they all were very friendly and outgoing.