TOHO TOWA and the media were disappointed that Spain’s top actor Javier Badem couldn’t be here (“for personal reason?) to promote the Oscar-winning film The Sea Inside. The director, Alejandro Amenabar, did come to Japan and gave a very interesting press conference. He told the media. “I never thought about doing a film about euthanasia, but I really wanted it to be realistic, and really teamed a lot about how we deal with dying.”
Congratulations top security man Nestor Takamiyagi on his recent marriage to Mild Otoi. Nestor keeps busy. He worked security for Bill Clinton both here and in China. I’m a big fan of the Clintons and was happy when Nestor told me Bill “really has a wonderful way of making everyone he comes in contact with feel important.” Nestor also was working with Richard Gere when he danced with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Gere was here to promote Shall We Dance? for GAGA. Not so long ago Koizumi sang a duet in his office with Tom Cruise. If he gets tired of politics perhaps he can go into showbiz. • To Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisian Ambassador Sala Hannachi and the Tunisian people on their National Day Mar. 20. If you follow my column, you know Tunisia is one of my all-time favorite getaways. I’ve been to the international Sahara Festival in the southern town of Dow three times and spent six New Year’s Eves in the Sahara. It’s a safe stable country and a great place to visit. • To big buddy Konishiki on the big hug the sumo-wrestling champion received from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice when she was Tokyo a few weeks ago. The photo, which really made the media rounds, showed Condoleeza with a big smile that you don’t often see.
• Qatar Ambassador Reyad Al-Ansari’s and his wife Muna’s son Ali, who won a gold award for a humorous speech in a contest at St. Mary’s recently. Ali, who’s also on the school’s wrestling team, will graduate this year. You couldn’t meet a nicer young man. • Bolivian Ambassador Joaquin Rafael Dabdoub and his wife Lillibeth, who was featured in “The Ambassador’s Table” article in the last issue of fash-ion designer Jun Ashida’s magazine. The glamorous couple (she’s drop-dead gorgeous) talked about the history, culture, current situation and food of their country. • Lilo Maruyama, who celebrated her birthday on Mar. 8. It, I might add, was a monumental celebration with many friends and a huge cake, all on board a luxury cruise ship on Tokyo Bay. Photos later.
On Feb. 24, Estonian Charge d’Affaires Argo Kangro hosted a midday reception at the New Otani Hotel. The occasion was to celebrate the 87th anniversary of Estonia’s Independence Day. There was a good turnout of interesting people who included Japanese government officials, diplomats, business leaders and even an Estonian sumo wrestler, Makushita Baruto, alias Kaido Hoovelson. Argo made a short welcome speech and conferred Japan’s former ambassador to Estonia Kensei Hasegawa with the Estonian decoration, the cross of Terra Mariana. Our congratulations to our Estonian friends on the occasion, as well as Hasegawa-san on his well-earned recognition. I later learned Netherlands Ambassador Egbert F. Jacobs received the same award in 1999 for his work as Dutch ambassador to Estonia from 1991 to 1993.
I really appreciated the invitation from John and Lynn Lai to a very special dinner at their popular and prestigious Jade Garden Chinese Restaurant. Special guests that evening included Professor of Oriental philosophy Lin Yun. He’s a founder and chairman of the Yun Lin Temple in Berkeley, California. His affiliations and projects are much to many to list here, but his name card leaves no doubt how active and important the man is. Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office Senior Advisor Wang Wei-Hsien also was there and I enjoyed talking with him about the many changes in Taiwan the last few years. John, who graduated from St. Mary’s High School and The Illinois Institute of Technology, is a very active businessman with a great sense of humor. Lynn is a master of her craft in Chinese cooking and directing the restaurant staff in preparing a large variety of Chinese favorites at their best — what a great evening.
The Parri Estate Wines from Australia, from what I heard, were really great. I, as you may know, don’t drink. It was a glittering evening at the beautiful new Spanish chancery. The occasion was a reception co-hosted by Spanish Ambassador Javier Conde-Saro and the commissioner of the Spanish Pavilion at Aichi Expo 2005, Pablo Bravo. There was an interesting mix of people there — many who I hadn’t seen for a long time. These included fashion designer Yamamoto Kansai and actress-m.c. Mako Hattori. Several exhibits had been set up and there were photos of Spain’s colorful artistic pavilion. The buffet, which featured many special foods, was complemented by the best of Spanish wines. The table settings were fantastic.
The names of Shintoyo Enterprises President Shohachi Katayama and his wife Mary have become synonymous with some of the world’s most prestigious projects. In addition to their chic showrooms for Jaguar and Aston Martin they recently announced the partnership between Aston Martin and Jaeger-Le Coultre, one of the world’s finest watchmakers. To celebrate the occasion they hosted a reception at their Akasaka showroom which showcased the exciting new AMVOX 1 watch line. The stunning designs are very special. Champagne sewed that evening was from another of the Katayamas’ prestigious partners, Jacquesson et Fils. Guests left that evening with a box of the famous Belgian Pralines-Leonidas.
On Feb. 25, Kuwaiti Ambassador Azzam Al-Sabah hosted a reception at the Imperial Hotel to celebrate his country’s National Day. It was wall-to-wall people in the hotel’s huge Peacock Room. The host, and members of the embassy staff, looked regal in national costume as they greeted the long long line of well-wishers. Large portraits of the Al-Sabah ruling family made a dynamic and impressive background for the reception line. The bountiful buffet had a huge variety of Japanese, Western and Arabic foods. The corner where they were making the traditional Shwarma sandwiches was really popular. A traditional Arab room, Dewaniya, had been set up in one corner where one could find Arabic coffee, mint tea and sesame-seed covered dates. There also were several large models of the historic and still very much in use Dhows.
I’ll have photos of the Easter celebration at the Hama Steakhouse in Roppongi next column. Not cutting in on our restaurant columnists, but have to suggest you try the food at Chickenman in Roppongi. I had a super salad and the best garlic chicken ever…all for just Y1,400. Nigerian owner Echee N. Dike’s small restaurant is on the 6th floor of the Ishiwata Building, between Roppongi Crossing and TGIF. U.S. Ambassador Howard H. Baker Jr. and Nancy loved the place. Me too. Call 03-3475-4123.
Twentieth Century Fox just released the 10-DVD disc set (plus a bonus disc) of one of the U.S.’s most popular and exciting shows, 24. Once you watch it I guarantee you’ll be hooked on the series. It’s available in Tower Records Shibuya. • Don’t forget the always exciting, always fun and very popular Asian Pacific Ladies Friendship Society’s Annual Bazaar on Apr. 26 from 11am to 3pm at the ANA Hotel. See you there.
*First published at the Tokyo Weekender
*Images Copyright: Tsukasa Shiga