The Hussains are a very popular couple and, as expected, there was a big turnout that evening. Guests included top-ranking Japanese government officials, diplomats, business leaders and an interesting variety of the hosting couple’s friends from all walks of life. Former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori was there and made a brief, but very meaningful, speech about Japan-Pakistan relations and Pakistan’s importance in the world today. The buffet included some delicious Pakistani food. The New Otani, with the help of the embassy, is really good at this.
I really enjoyed talking with Minister Sathiarathai who was leaving that afternoon to join Thai Prime Minister Taksin Chinawatra in London. I met the Prime Minister last year when I was in Bangkok. Both men are very personable and outgoing. They share the same enthusiasm and energy as well.
Over at the U.S. Embassy, Ambassador Howard Baker Jr. and his wife, Nancy Kassebaum Baker, hosted what was pretty much a day of parties to celebrate the 226th anniversary of American independence. I caught the last half-hour of the one for diplomats and government officials and the first hour of the one for Japanese and American business leaders, as well as a select group of Americans living here. The Bakers had certainly added their own personal touch to that special day. Just inside the entrance, an African American sailor, Michael Symonette, was sitting on a stool belting out some American standards on his guitar. The host and hostess were flanked by two Marine guards, Sgt. Hamlet M. Rodriquez and Sgt. Wesley L. Missenhimetz, and were kept busy greeting and chatting with their many guests.
One of America’s best friends and my favorite countries, the Philippines, also celebrated the 104th anniversary of its independence. To honor the occasion, Philippines Ambassador Domingo Siazon and his wife Kazuko (Kay) hosted a grand reception at the Hotel New Otani. It was nice seeing so many of the Filipino guests wearing their national costume, a terno for the ladies, and barong tagalog for the men. It was easy for me, as I did not have to put on a suit or tie but wore a colorful barong I had bought during a recent trip to Manila. That’s fashion as it should be cool and comfortable.
I enjoyed talking with the Philippines’ personable Minister and Consul General Ernesto C. Castro. He’s left Japan by now for his new posting as his country’s ambassador to Iraq. It was an enjoyable, laid-back celebration with good people, good food including adobo and mustic, all very Filipino. Our congratulations.
As you know, several countries, including Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India, are celebrating the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Japan this year. We’ve gone over a few of the events India and Sri Lanka have held and will have more later. This column, I’d like to talk about the reception Pakistani Ambassador Touqir Hussain and his wife Rafla hosted at the New Otani in honor of the occasion.
Muchas gracias to the Consul General of Peru in Japan, Carlos Alberto Yrigoyen Forno, for his invitation to a special Peruvian music concert held on the occasion of celebrating the 181st anniversary of his country’s national independence. The concert was held at the Naka Meguro Plaza Hall on Sunday, July 28.
Over at the Hilton Tokyo, another colorful culinary experience, “Malaysia-Truly Asia” (just like the TV tourism promotion spots), opens Aug. 30 and continues through Sept. 12. There’ll be the best of Malaysian food, ethnic dance performances and a fashion show. The promotion is jointly organized by the Malaysian Tourist Board with the support of Malaysian Airlines.
Spend some time with and congratulate your Latino amigos on Hispanic Heritage Month which starts Sept. 15.
The Thai Food Festivals in Yoyogi Park was a phenomenal success. The third two-day festival was held on a Saturday and Sunday. I’m usually out all night Friday, so don’t much like Saturday happenings but, even so, I did get up and make it over to Yoyogi Park for the 11:30 opening ceremony of the festival. I’m glad I did, as it was an interesting and colorful cultural event.
The ceremony included brief speeches by Thai Ambassador Kasit Piromya and Shibuya Mayor Motoi Ogura. Visiting Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs Surakiart Sathiarathai struck the gong to officially open the event, followed by a classical Thai dance performance.
A month after the festival, Ambassador Piromya, his wife Chintana and members of their staff hosted a thank you party at the couple’s residence. “It’s to help those who helped us make it a big success,” the ambassador told me. “More than 300,000 people came to enjoy my country’s food, products and culture, and we’re already planning the fourth Thai Food Festival.” A few days later, Chintana hosted a two-day exhibition of Thai jewelry at her residence. I couldn’t make it, but friends who were able to go and know good jewelry told me the designs were fabulous.
*First published at the Tokyo Weekender