Whenever I’m at the Hilton, I always meet interesting people. Recently these included one of the “toughest men in the world,” Brazilian pride fighter Vanderlay Silva with a tribal tattoo covering the back of his head; Duff McKagan, formerly of Guns n’ Roses, with his new band Loaded, and three young British guys: Paul Briffa, Ben Davies and Tom Fearnehough who are making a Japan 100-mountain trek to aid the Adopta-Minefield. The money from their project not only helps clear land mines, but also goes to survivors of land mine explosions. Good work, guys.
The International Ladies Benevolent Society (ILBS) sure picked a winner when they asked Yasmina Karem, the wife of the Egyptian Ambassador, to chair the 2002 Cherry Blossom Ball. Yasmina, a true Egyptian beauty, is outgoing and creative. She and her husband, Ambassador Mahmoud Karem, are a very popular couple, and their promotion of Egypt has been extraordinary, and I’m sure the ball will have a very magical and Egyptian touch. Sounds good.
A big welcome to Luisa Solchaga de Icaza. I had the privilege of meeting this dynamic lady on Aug. 2 at a party hosted by her husband, Mexican Ambassador Carlos de Icaza, to introduce Luisa. I’m sure she will be very popular on both the diplomatic and social scenes. A rundown and photos of the party later.
Spent some prime time recently with Konishiki, and he told me the little guy you see in the ocean and ofuro (bath) with him in the Bath ad on TV is his nephew, and the C.M. was shot on location in Hawaii. The retired sumo wrestler, now super popular showbiz personality, agreed to help me with this year’s holiday party for orphans at Hilton Tokyo (if he’s in Japan then; he travels a lot). That would certainly be a BIG surprise for the kids.
The weather was perfect for the midday Netherlands Queen’s Day reception hosted by Ambassador Egbert F. Jacobs and his wife Francoise Julien-Jacobs. That was my first opportunity to meet the couple, and I’m sure they will be very active and popular on the diplomatic and social scenes here. There was music on the big wind-up organ (draai orgel) set up in the garden, lots of tulips and girls in Dutch costumes serving herring and cheeses and, of course, lots of Heineken. A perfect day in every way. Our congratulations. Francoise (she’s French) is a former ballet dancer and, with her poise and grace, it is easy to see she must have been a very good one.
It was nice getting to know Norwegian Ambassador Odd Fosseidbraten and his wife Ingrid Susanne better at a concert they hosted in their home. The artist, pianist Izumi Tateno, gave an outstanding performance of an interesting program. Following the concert, guests moved into the dining room for a bountiful buffet of superb Norwegian specialties. Those guests included Takako Doi, and that popular politician is always interesting to speak with.
It was another enjoyable evening with Irish Ambassador Declan O’Donovan and a scholarly group of his friends. The occasion was to confer on Rev. Fr. Donal Doyle the Ireland Japan Association’s Lafcadio Hearn Award 2001. Adrienne Darby, chairperson of the association, had flown in from Dublin to make the presentation. Both she and Ambassador O’Donovan talked about the work of Fr. Doyle in promoting Irish-Japanese relations. Our congratulations to this special, and very busy, man. I’m glad I had the opportunity to say sayonara to Irish First Secretary Peter Mcivor and his wife Bernadette. They, along with their three great all-Irish children, Marie, Maeve and Daire, have returned to Dublin for Peter’s new assignment.
I lost count of the number of sayonara lunches and dinners for outgoing Philippines Ambassador Romeo A. Arguelles and his wife Azucena (“Annie”). It seemed like everyone wanted to do something for this super-popular couple before they left. I enjoyed the evening in their honor hosted by Saudi Ambassador Mahmoud Karem. The table setting was beautifully done, and guests were assigned to seats but able to get up and choose what they wanted from a buffet. It worked out very well. After dinner, everyone moved into the spacious main room for mint tea, coffee, dates and conversation. The tented ceiling, fountains and sand from the Sahara really reflect the history, culture and beauty of Saudi Arabia. A keyboard had been set up, and Romeo, an accomplished pianist, gave an impromptu performance. Other musical contributions to the truly enjoyable evening included an operatic aria by Grace Saito. Talk about a small world, Romeo and Bolivian Ambassador Eudoro Galindo have known each other since they were students at Harvard.
It was just a day or so after U.S. Ambassador Howard Baker and his wife Nancy arrived and he had presented his credentials, when they hosted a huge July 4 reception in their new home at the U.S. Embassy. (It was actually on the 6th.) The invitation list to help celebrate America’s 225th anniversary was so long, the Bakers had to schedule several parties that day, and they must have shaken thousands of hands. Thought I was getting there early, but the line waiting to congratulate the Bakers was already a couple of city blocks long. Enjoyed talking with Donald Richie, noted expert on Japanese film, and I appreciate the American School in Japan students working there cheerfully serving drinks. It was wall-to-wall people inside the residence. Even with the heat, everyone was enjoying the festive event – and the mountains of great American food. The traditional birthday cake sent over by the Okura Hotel was huge – and chocolate. I joined Maria Anderson on the terrace for a grilled hamburger and a hot dog. Agree with Maria when she commented how good the food was. I finally did get to shake hands with and congratulate the Bakers. I’m sure they’re going to be very popular (and busy) here.
My sincerest appreciation to Guatemalan Ambassador Antonio Castellano and his wife Ver for an invitation to a glittering reception in honor of Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo and his wife Evelyn. The couple was here with a delegation of government officials and business leaders on an official working visit. The young president, at one time a journalist, gave a brief but very dynamic speech at the beginning of the reception. Mrs. Portillo reminded me very much of actress Jennifer Lopez and that, of course, means very beautiful. Prince and Princess Hitachi were special guests at the gala evening. I talked with President Portillo a bit, and he told me he and the members of his delegation were very satisfied with results of their visit and felt it would further improve Japanese-Guatemalan relations.
My thanks to Ann Sado, president of the newly established Zona Club of Tokyo, but sorry I could not get to their first fundraiser at the City Club of Tokyo. Zona International is a worthwhile organization in more than 71 countries, and its members, women executives and professionals, work to advance the status of women.
Hilton Tokyo just put in all new equipment in its Fitness Center, and I’m trying to go there three times a week to get into a new workout routine. That’s not easy.
I had to pass on two days of the grand opening and preview of Tokyo Disney Sea Park and Tokyo Disney Sea Hotel Miracosta. Inspired by the ocean, the park’s seven ports of call are filled with never-beforeseen attractions, fun-filled shopping and a wide variety of restaurants. From all reports, it is quite spectacular. I’m sure it will be every bit as popular as Tokyo Disneyland, right next door.
Drop by the Hilton Tokyo for the multi-faceted Malaysia – Truly Asia promotion, the cultural and culinary experience supported by the Malaysian Embassy, Malaysian Tourism Board and Malaysian Airlines. It runs Aug. 30-Sept. 9. For more information, call 3344-5111, ext. 219, or fax 3342-0943.
*First published at the Tokyo Weekender