It took me a while to decide, but I finally chose to spend the long holidays over both Christmas and the New Year right here in Tokyo. I was sure I would probably get bored somewhere along the way but I’m happy to report that I was so busy, that it just never happened.

First, there was an endless amount of interesting people-packed parties for the holidays at the New Lex.

In addition to our regular customers there were so many old time friends back in Tokyo and from all over the world.

We had some great get-togethers.

One of my highlights for the New Year was seeing violin virtuoso Ryu Goto back in Japan, he spends most of his time in the Big Apple where he’s a regular performer at Carnegie Hall.

He played a few concerts at the Suntory Hall while he was here in Tokyo and one of the best Christmas presents I got this year was an autographed copy of his latest album Paganiniana (Out now!).

Ryu’s sister Midori is also one of Japan’s top violinists and recently earned a black belt in karate.

From what I hear, that’s very unusual for someone who’s hands and fingers are so important in their profession.

I’d like to say a big and well deserved kudos to Filipina pop singer Charito, as well as local talented singers and the staff of the Franciscan Chapel Center for their beautiful standing-room only Christmas concert.

The show featured all the well known Christmas carols and popular holiday music and was truly excellent in every way.

Still on music, I woke up one early afternoon after an all-nighter working, turned on my TV and watched one of my all time favorite musicals, West Side Story.

I’ve seen this show about twelve times in about six languages in theaters all over the world.

I’ve also had the privilege of getting to know and become friends with many of the super talented act of both the stage and screen productions.

These include Chita Rivera who played Anita in the original Broadway show and Rita Moreno, a fun wild lady who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Anita in the film.

I also hung out with George Chakiris who played Anita’s lover Bernardo in the film when he was in Tokyo and Hector Mercado in NYC and LA where he recreated the role.

When the composer of the masterpiece Leonard Bernstein visited Tokyo, the then U.S. ambassador Mike Mansfield and his wife Maureen set up an afternoon reception in his honor.

Unfortunately after all their work Bernstein didn’t turn up! Oh well, that’s showbiz! There will be performances of West Side Story at the Tokyu Theater Orb in July and August this year.

I was sitting on my waterbed on New Year’s Day afternoon sorting out photos when the first earthquake of 2012 in Japan hit. A few friends told me a few things broke in their homes but thank God, it wasn’t all that bad but have to admit it was unexpected and a little scary.

It’s wishful thinking, but let’s hope that’s the last one for a while.

Before moving on to our city’s busy social scene I’d like to thank several friends that include Ron and Maria Anderson, Jane Scolinos, Grace Saito, Jane Yonamine, Daniele Yoshikoshi, Banjiro and Hisako Uemura and Mitsuo and Lilo Maruyama for helping me with the costs of postage on eight of those huge balikbayan boxes packed with clothes, toys and so much more I send to needy families in the Philippines on special occasions.

It’s just ¥9,000 to Manila and ¥10,000 to rural areas. The shipping company pick the boxes up at my home and they’re delivered directly to the families and institutions in the Philippines in about a week.

I still have cash for postage and have three half-full boxes in my garage to send. I’d appreciate just about anything in good condition (clothes, toys, household appliances, and especially kids shoes).

If you can help call me at 090-3200-6767 and we’ll figure out where I can pick them up. Believe me, you’ll be helping make a lot of good people happy.

The Roos’s awesome Sunday art exhibition at the U.S. embassy
It was really a VIP crowd and believe me, everyone fortunate enough to be there that day had nothing but rave reviews for the “Ties over time” event.

The unique exhibition featured art works by sixteen Japanese and American artists with links to both countries.

The evening also honored life-long achievements of the American laureate of the 23rd Praemium Imperiale, Bill Viola.

As I said it was a real classy crowd with so many chairmen, CEOs, presidents and leaders in art, theater and film, all meeting and mixing and thoroughly enjoying sharing the very special evening.

The buffet featured both American and Japanese favorites and the live music by American Shakuhachi player Bruce Huebner couldn’t have been better.

Kudos to the hosts U.S. ambassador John Roos, his wife Susan and the many people who helped get it all together.

Glittering Algerian national day reception

It was a special and people packed evening as well at the fantastic Arabic designed residence of Algerian ambassador Sid Ali Ketrandji and his wife Amal.

The occasion was to celebrate Algeria’s 57th national day and it was an Arabian nights mood with many of the guests in national dress.

I heard several people say Amal looked like an Arabian princess which she really did: What a beautiful dress!

The lavish buffet was set up in several rooms and with the Arabic arches, marble and tile floors and bubbling fountains, it was really exotic and as I said very Arabian Nights.

The Tsamados’s introduce Greek film celebs

It was a really cool evening at the home of Greek ambassador Nikolaos Tsamados and his wife Yasmine when they invited friends to meet a film delegation from Greece.

These included noted director Menelao Karamaghiolis and Greek-Albanian actor Alban Ukaj.

They along with others working in Greek cinema were here to promote the film J.A.C.E.

I really enjoyed getting to know the people at the party, the club and a special screening of the film. It was very well done and a bit heavy, dealing with dark themes of murder, abuse, human organ traffic, fear and male prostitution.

One of the highlights of the evening was having philanthropist Jane Scolinos there. She, as you can see by the photo below is looking good.

Zac Efron here for Warner Brothers

Young actor Zac Efron took time out of his busy schedule and flew to Tokyo to do a day of promotion for Warner Brothers hit flick, New Year’s Eve.

Zac, who’s a superstar here in Japan, drew a big crowd of fans at the premiere and gave a great press conference.

New Year’s Eve is a very uplifting film—something people here needed after 2011. He’s currently working on The Lucky One, another film for Warner Brothers.

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos whirlwind tour of Japan

Colombian ambassador Patricia Cardenas and Luis Genaro Munoz of Colombia’s National Federation of Coffee Growers hosted a well attended reception at the Imperial hotel for Colombian president Santos, during his three day official visit to Japan.

Guests were a powerful mix of Japanese government officials, diplomats and business leaders from both the Japanese and expat communities. The president’s wife Maria Clemencia as well as a delegation of business men from Colombia were also special guests that evening.

As expected, the visit was very busy; there was a meeting of the president and Senorita Santos with the imperial couple and meetings with Japanese politicians that resulted in a bilateral investment treaty and economic partnership agreement.

I had the privilege of meeting and talking with president Santos himself and it was easy to see why this personable leader is so popular.

He, by the way, is just one and a half years into his four year term and has already done so many good things for Colombia and its people.

From Japan, the busy president and his delegation flew to South Korea for meetings with government officials there.

American Apparel’s glittering Michael Jackson charity concert after party

I am happy to report that the two Michael Jackson memorial charity concerts—that starred three of his brothers Marlon, Tito and Jackie—were a huge success here in Tokyo. Special guests that participated in the sold out shows included the wild and wonderful Macy Gray, Japan’s Ai (pictured above), super dancer Travis Payne from Los Angeles and dozens of Japanese dancers, including Kento, AKA “Japan’s Michael Jackson”.

The party which didn’t start until midnight was held in the Shangri-La hotel and the grand ballroom as well as all the adjoining event spaces (the VIP room, Hennessey bar, Sony MJ dance games space) were filled to capacity with so many of our city’s beautiful people.

Macy did her thing on the big stage in the ballroom (wow!) and the different dance groups stayed busy doing their versions of Michael’s hits including all the classics like Billy Jean and Thriller.

Hennessey’s Ewan Matsuki, who I know from his occasional work at the New Lex, kept the drinks flowing. He’s a good guy and a really talented bar tender.

I also enjoyed relaxing in what I named the ‘jungle room’, it was full of lush green plants and trees and there were several girls with great figures, in animal-print tights, moving in and out of the jungle area and making sure everyone had a drink and food.

I had an early morning meeting that day so had to leave the party about 3:30 a.m. even though it was really still happening.

I did have a couple of hours coffee break a week later with American Apparel’s PR man George Inaki, he’s an interesting mix of Japanese and Filipino and that adds up to a lot of creativity and energy.

He told me about a few of the brand’s events to look forward to this year: in April, American Apparel will participate in the gay pride festival, in June they’ll throw a big pool party promoting chiffon fashion and in September the fashion brand will celebrate their seventh anniversary of doing business in Japan.

Finally, a late but sincere happy New Year, with all the holidays, it seems I’m even more behind than usual.

My apologies on this; I would also like to also wish all my Chinese friends a happy New Year and I hope that the Year of the Dragon is a good one for everyone!

Text by Bill Hersey