It was a very special evening in every way when former sumo star, now top entertainer, Konishiki hosted a reception at the Marriott Tobu Hotel to introduce the Konishiki Kids.
Konishiki is a man who likes to share, and one of his many worthwhile projects is the Konishiki Kids Foundation, an organization that helps children and their families from the neighborhood in Hawaii where he grew up.
One of the highlights of the project is bringing 35 sixth graders from Hawaii to Japan for five days, and their busy schedule included a day skiing in the mountains, a visit to a Japanese school, sightseeing and a few participating in practice at a sumo stable, traditional classes in ikebana and tea ceremony, and visits to Tokyo Tower, Odaiba and Tokyo Disneyland.
The Mahalo reception gave sponsors the opportunity to meet and mingle with the ethnic mix of dynamic kids here for the tour. Once Konishiki greeted guests at the door, one of the children presented each of them with a shell necklace and escorted them to a table.
I got to talking with Dieter and Ginger Haber! before going in. He’s Austrian, and she went to Arizona State University where I studied anthropology. Konishiki shouted, “Hey, man, I heard what you said – this is the first time you ever saw me in long pants.” We all got a laugh out of that.
I had a great table with Dieter, Ginger and Jeffrey McNeill of Market Makers Inc. who helped Konishiki get the foundation going. Also at our table were Yokozuna Musashimaru and two super Konishiki Kids, Justin and Chani.
The program opened with a performance by the Satomi Taiko Group. This was followed by Samoan, Tahitian and Hawaiian songs and dancing. Chani did a beautiful hula, and Laurissa put her heart and soul into the song, “How Do I Live?”
After the audience joined the kids for a hula lesson, Konishiki got on stage and sang “Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water.” He’s got a great voice, and he also made a very inspirational speech, saying, “When I was a kid in your neighborhood, we didn’t have much, but my family really gave me love. I hope that you can successfully meet the challenges in your life and give love and help to others.”
It’s great to see Konishiki who has a heavy schedule doing commercials, making TV and personal appearances, traveling, singing (he’s put out a CD or two) and, shades of Paul Newman, he’s about to market his own pasta sauce.
We should all take time to help others. As I said when I introduced him at an orphan’s party recently at the Hilton, this is a really big guy with a really big heart, and I’m so lucky to know a man and have a friend, such as him.
Also present was Soho Tsukikawa, the Japanese partner of Robert De Niro and Nobu Matsuhisa of Nobu’s Tokyo, who also operates Roy’s and Soho’s prestigious and popular eateries; he’ll open a new restaurant soon on the top floor of that futuristic all-glass building coming up on Omote Sando. More on this later. Madonna didn’t make it to the opening of Nobu’s in Paris but a made-over and good-looking Chelsea Clinton did. She turned heads when she came in with her boyfriend, Benjamin Cahn, and a group of Secret Service agents.
I just learned Konishiki’s busier than ever, planning his spring marriage. The lucky lady, according to reports, is 26 and works in a medical clinic.
There was a big turnout at the Swiss Embassy when Ambassador Johannes Manz and his wife Antoinette hosted a sayonara for Swiss Cultural Attache Christina Burgi Dellsperger.
If you’ve had the privilege of attending any of the many Swiss cultural events, you know how busy Christina was during her two years here. In addition to all that, she made a wide range of friends, wrote a cookbook and met the man she recently married, Peter Dellsperger who works with Credit Suisse out of London.
I enjoyed meeting and talking with Indian First Secretary C. Rajesekhar. He’s working with Hilton Tokyo on the big Indian Festival they’re planning for May. Christina, along with Johannes and Antoinette, have done an excellent job of introducing Swiss culture to Japan, and there’s much more to come.
The world renown Bejart Ballet Lausanne 2002 will perform in Japan Apr. 5-24, and the Zurich Ballet will take part in the fourth Tokyo International Music Festival June 5-15.
Christina is back in Switzerland working with the Foreign Ministry. She was sad about leaving Japan but, at the same time, happy she’ll be able to spend more time with her husband, Peter. We wish her all the best in both her professional and married life.
It was nice seeing friends from Ecuador’s leading tour agency, Metropolitan Touring, at the Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA) conference and later at a reception at the residence of Ecuadorean Ambassador Marcelo Avila and his wife Maria Teresa.
People at the Avilas that evening included United Airlines’ Mark and Yone Schwab and Kathy Bergmann. Kathy’s husband Barry had other commitments but dropped by later. Talk, of course, was mostly about Ecuador as a travel destination. It’s a beautiful country with a lot to offer. Check it out for yourself.
Thai Charge d’ Affaires Pisan Manawapat hosted a vin d’honnour reception at the Thai residence on the occasion of King Bhumibol’s birthday anniversary. In addition to joining the festivities for the occasion, guests had the opportunity to meet new Thai Ambassador Kasit Piromya who had not as yet presented his credentials.
The large turnout of Japanese government officials and business leaders was proof positive of the excellent relations between Japan and Thailand. It was a relaxed mid-day reception with guests enjoying the mild weather and a wide variety of Thai food favorites.
King Bhumibol, one of the world’s most respected and much-loved world leaders, has had some health problems recently. Our prayers are with him and the Thai people for a complete recovery. We’d also like to welcome Thai Ambassador Piromya and his wife Chintana to Japan and wish them a long, happy and successful assignment here. It was another evening of marvelous music at the Hungarian Embassy when Ambassador Istvan Szerdahelyi and his wife Reiko hosted a concert by Ferenc Santa Jr. and his Gypsy Ensemble. The lively program by the noted group included both Gypsy and Hungarian songs. Everyone there loved it.
It was nice meeting lrish Ambassador Padraig Murphy for the first time. He, as you can imagine, was very busy with preparations for all the St. Patrick’s Day happenings in and around Tokyo.
I also enjoyed introducing Francoise Julien-Jacobs, the marvelous wife of the Dutch Ambassador, to several of my friends. In addition to all her diplomatic duties, she’s Executive/Japan, Radio Netherlands.
Sorry I had to miss the evening that Istvan and Reiko opened their home for a Street Children’s Committee charity evening. I heard that was very special as well. Also sorry I missed other interesting happenings which include several musical events, a piano concert at the Canadian Embassy, a MinOn Concert Association-sponsored concert by tango orchestra (and dancers) Orquestra El Arranque and Refugees International-Japan’s super-successful charity concert.
On the fashion scene, Junko Koshino and Issey Miyake held big parties, and over in the Aoyama boutique-infested area, there was an opening party for the Catherine Memmi shop.
As part of the celebration of Kuwait’s National Day, Kuwaiti Ambassador Sheikh Azzam AlSabah and his dynamic wife Sheikhm Huzamah sponsored an exhibition by Kuwaiti photographer Tabani Al-Ayoub. ln addition to the exhibition “Kuwait in My Heart” at the Japan Foundation Forum, there was a special documentary film and performances by a Kuwaiti folklore band.
Congratulations to Chilean Ambassador Demetrio Infante and his wife Angela on the marriage of their son Matias to Paola Quintero Palma. The wedding took place in Santiago on Mar. 9. St. Mary’s International School on what has been a great year in sports. The justifiably proud St. Mary’s Athletic Director Dave Ducharme told me about a few of the boys’ many achievements:
Senior Frank Striegl not only won the All-Kanto Wrestling Championship, but also was named the most outstanding wrestler. At the Far East Championships in Okinawa, Frank came out second in his weight class (135 lbs.), while another St. Mary’s student, Shu Yanui, was first in his weight class, 115 lbs.
The school has done very well in basketball too, coming out on top among the six schools competing in the AllKanto Plains League and the AllFar East Games (20 schools) in Guam. This is the first year since 1971 St. Mary’s has won the league and the second year in a row the Titans took first in the Far East Games. Top players included Lars Kelly and Nick Zarner.
On Feb. 22, 12 contestants competed for the Miss Universe Japan title. The competition was held at Kosei Nenlin Kaikan in Shinjuku. With those 12 beautiful girls and all that talent, it wasn’t easy, but the judges finally chose 24-year-old Mina Chiba.
In addition to race car driving, she does ikebana and tea ceremony and plays piano, sings and speaks English. She’ll go to Puerto Rico in May for the Miss Universe contest.
The International Ladies Benevolent Society’s (ILBS) annual Cherry Blossom Ball will be held on Apr. 19 and, with Yasmina Karem as chairperson, it is sure to be very special.
Don’t forget the poetry reading by Indian Ambassador Aftab Seth at the New Otani on Friday, Mar. 22, at 6:30 p.m. The ambassador, a poet and theater personality, will read “Poems of Nations,” including a few he wrote himself. Prince Mikasa will be the special guest at the reading, reception and buffet dinner.
On Mar. 25, Dewi Sukarno will hold the IBLA Foundation grand prize charity concert at Tokyo Opera City Takemitsu Memorial Hall in Shinjuku. When Dewi does something, she does it big, and she’s gathered noted musicians and singers from all over the world to make this what’s sure to be a grand evening of classical music at its best.
Take the kids to the Hilton Tokyo on Easter Sunday for traditional Easter egg hunting. Things start at noon in the hotel’s St. George’s Lounge, and admission is free. There is also a traditional Easter brunch buffet in the Marble Lounge from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
*First published at the Tokyo Weekender