Like many of us, not crazy about the heat and humidity in July, August, and often well into September. But because most places, and most taxis, in Tokyo have good air conditioning, I can’t really complain that much.
By Bill Hersey
Many of my friends who live here traveled in August so I thought I might get bored if I waited until Obon was over for most of the vacationers to come back. I love traveling, but with restrictions, crowded destinations, and higher prices for flights and accommodations, I decided to stick it out in old Edo, and start traveling in mid September.
I’m happy to say with all the interesting cultural events, and so many interesting visitors to Japan this summer—and thanks to lots of good people—I kept busy, and pretty much enjoyed it all.
If you follow the column you know for me, people are what it’s all about, and I’d like to open this column with a rundown on a few I enjoyed being with this summer, Let’s start out with Arnold Schwarzenegger who was here for Paramount to promote the latest “Terminator” film. Thanks to Bill Ireton I got to know Arnold over the years when he was here promoting one of his many films. Arnold still looks good and seems to be doing O.K.
Other superstars in town included Tom Cruise, who flew in from Korea and had two days here to promote the latest “Mission Impossible” for Paramount. The premiere was Sunday, August 2, in Shinjuku. It was really hot that day, and I just didn’t feel like getting caught up in what I knew would be a huge crowd of Tom’s fans.
Ran into film producer Georgina Pope at National Azabu recently and the Aussie lady looked cool with a new red spiked hairdo. Georgina’s been busy with the casting and shooting of the U.S. TV series “Girls.” I’m also happy to hear her film “Equals,” starring Kristen Stewart (“Twilight”) and Guy Pearce (“The King’s Speech”) has been accepted by the Venice Film Festival. Georgia, who really knows Tokyo, told me Roppongi is really losing its night-life image—but has great museums, parks, and restaurants. She said the real “in” place for foreigners in the know now is Golden Gai on Yasukuni Dori behind Mr. Donut, where the narrow streets are lined with all kinds of fun, tiny bars: check it out.
It was nice having Asia return back in town; she’s living in L.A. now and is the head of Tohokushinsha’s History Channel. My thanks to Asia for the six-hour special series, “The World Wars.” I like this kind of documentary and saw why it was nominated for three Emmy Awards. I worked closely with Asia and her mom Kiko on the daily paper for the first 10 Tokyo International Film Festivals, and it was fun talking about all the celebs we met and sometimes crazy experiences we had. The Iretons, as we all know, are one of the film world’s most knowledgeable, international, and interesting families.
In other movie news, my long-time friend and one-time business partner Tsukasa Shiga, the president of Ceremony Corp., has produced his first big film. The two-hour film is titled “Boku Wa Bousan” (“I Am a Monk”), and it stars popular actor Ito Atsushi. The cinematography is beautiful and the film, which has English subtitles, really shows Buddhism as few of us know it. If you’re interested in one of the invitational screenings let me know.
My thanks to Soka Gakkai’s Min-On Concert Association for so many invitations to so many international cultural shows. The most recent was a performance of the dance drama “Crested Isis” by 70 members of the Shanghai Dance Theater at NHK Hall. The costumes, the sets, and the dancers—and their grace and skill—were awesome.
In closing this long opening of this column, I’d like to remind you of the College Women’s Association of Japan’s (CWAJ) annual print show at the Tokyo American Club, from October 30 to November 1. It’s a great way to help young artists fulfill their dreams.
Italian National Day with the Giorgias
Mother Nature was kind and it was a beautiful evening in every way for Italian Ambassador Domenico Giorgio and his wife Rita’s glittering reception. The occasion was Italy’s National Day, and was held at the spacious, chic residence with its huge, beautiful garden.
Guests included top Japanese government officials, diplomats, business leaders, and familiar faces from the entertainment, fashion, and art worlds. It was nice seeing and chatting with long-time Italian friends like Koko Volpicelli and Japanese film director and Mrs. Masato Harada, whose latest film, “The Emperor in August,” opened a few days later.
The main buffet had been planned and prepared by leading Italian chefs and caterers, such as Giorgio Matera and Elio. It was truly Italian food at its best. For dessert there was a variety of gelato flavors, and Segafredo Espresso’s man in Japan (and Asia), Brian, had worked with his and the embassy’s staff in setting up a very special and popular Segafredo espresso bar.
As I mentioned, the weather was beautiful and many of the guests moved from the residence to the garden where small white tents were serving food, and comfortable furniture to relax in was everywhere. It was a lovely, laid-back affair that went well into the evening.
Jordan Reception—Okura Hotel
I’ve known Jordanian Ambassador Demiye Haddad for a long time. Our friendship goes back to when he was first posted here as Ambassador so many years ago. Thanks to the late great minister of foreign affairs, Zentaro Kosaka, I had the privilege of meeting Jordan’s highly respected King Abdullah II Ibn Al Hussein while he was still a prince. I had a marvelous 10-day visit to Jordan and enjoyed every minute of it. Actor Harrison Ford had told me about the ancient city of Petra where he worked on the film “Indiana Jones,” so I made sure to visit there. Egyptian actor Omar Sharif had told me about Wadi Rum where he spent six months on location for “Lawrence of Arabia,” so I got off the beaten path and spent two nights in the desert there. That, my friends, was a real adventure. Here in Tokyo on June 15, Demiye and his lovely wife hosted a reception at the Okura Hotel’s Ascot Hall to celebrate the 16th anniversary of Jordanian King Abdullah II’s accession to the throne and the 69th Independence Day of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. It was a light bright evening with lots of good friends. Our congratulations to all concerned.
Philippines 117th Independence Celebration
The Philippines Ambassador and Mrs. Manuel Lopez hosted a beautiful reception in the Imperial Hotel’s Fuji Room. The occasion was in commemoration of the 117th anniversary of the declaration of Philippine Independence. It was wall-to-wall people in the light and bright Fuji room that evening. Guests included a great variety of interesting VIPs from all walks of life. The Filipina ladies were all super chic in their elegant national dress—the terno, and the Filipino men in their Barong Tagalog shirts.
The program opened with a warm and informative welcome speech by Ambassador Lopez. This was followed by congratulatory speeches by two high-ranking Japanese dignitaries. After this, guests moved to the beautiful buffet of delicious Philippine favorites. The Imperial’s food and beverage department had done an excellent job working with the embassy staff.
The people of the Philippines love music and dancing and they are often called the musicians of the Far East. At the entrance to the reception there were several girls—all, of course, in ternos—who played guitars and sang. They were really good. I can say the same about a group of Japanese university students who were into doing Filipino folk dancing. They put on a very energetic and enjoyable show.
I’ve said this many times over the years: Do yourself and your family a favor and take them to the Philippines while you’re in this part of the world. You’ll love the natural beauty, the people, the food, the shopping and the hospitality. I’ve been there 32 times, shot men’s fashion pages for a Japanese mag on location all around the country, gone to film festivals and many fiestas, and made great Filipino friends from all walks of life. If you don’t believe me, ask world traveler Lilo Maruyama. It’s one of her favorite getaways.
Junko Never Slows Down
Whenever I get an invitation from fashion designer Junko Koshino I know that whatever it is, it’s going to be very special. Just over the last few months, I’ve been to a summer party where most of the guests were wearing one of her new line of kimonos or yukatas, and a performance by the fantastic dynamic TAO drummers (she did the costumes) as well as an after party to meet with the cast and VIP guests. Her biggest recent project in Beijing was, from all reports, a spectacular show that not only showed off her latest collection, but really was a panorama of Japanese culture that attracted thousands of Chinese fashion, art and cultural fans to a tremendous show. I truly regretted not being able to go there, but as a friend and fan of Junko, I’m sure she’ll continue doing all kinds of worthwhile events all over the world.
Artists’ Party at Oakwood Midtown
Thanks to international art guru Norman Tolman, I was invited to Oakwood for an exhibition of paintings by Mayumi Oda, who is known as the “Matisse of Japan.” Mayumi, who was born to a Buddhist family in Japan, has done extensive work with female goddess imagery. I was really impressed with her paintings, which are very strong and very colorful. In addition to her work as an accomplished artist she’s a global activist participating in anti-nuclear campaigns worldwide. The busy, talented lady’s other projects include Ginger Hill Farm and Retreat Center on the big island of Hawaii. As always at Oakwood, it was an evening of interesting people, good food, and a totally relaxed mood.
Main Image: Photographer Benjamin Lee and kimono-wearing beauties at Junko Koshino’s Summer Kimono Party