On Saturday, Apr. 20, Colombian singer Shakira and her band partied at the Lex and, from what I heard, the petite Latin pop star had her boyfriend, the son of a former Argentine president, with her, and they are a really nice couple.
I am not a big Eddie Murphy fan, but enjoyed the Warner Brothers’ flick “Showtime,” a cop comedy co-starring Robert De Niro. Bobby’s stepdaughter Drena has a substantial role as assistant to TV producer Rene Russo in the film. Drena’s mother is the actress Diahnne Abbott. I had fun showing her brother Raphael around Tokyo when Bobby brought him here several years ago. At that time Raphael told me he worked at a stable in Florida grooming horses and loved it.
It was the 18th National Day of Brunei Darussalam, and the new ambassador, P.S.N. Yusuf, hosted a grand reception at the New Otani to celebrate the special occasion. The crowd that evening was an interesting mix of Japanese government officials, diplomats, business leaders and, of course, people from Brunei living in Tokyo.
Kuwaiti Ambassador Azzam Mubarak Al-Sabah was posted here last November, and this was the first time he and his wife Huthamah hosted a reception in Japan on the occasion of their country’s National Day. The hosting couple, both dressed in national costumes, received congratulations from the many guests and friends of Kuwait at the entrance of the New Otani’s Ho-oh Room. Huthamah really looked marvelous in a black-and-gold Kuwaiti dress. Ron and Maria Anderson had told me what a dynamic lady she is and it is easy to see why they feel this way.
Azzam, as most of you know, is the son of Kuwait’s Amir, Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. He has an excellent academic background and recognized and proven natural requirements to be his country’s top representative to Japan. I was also happy to meet the Al-Sabahs’ 13- year-old daughter Wallah, visiting from Kuwait where she’s a student. She is as interesting and outgoing as her mother. It was a festive celebration, and the bountiful buffet included roast lamb and other Kuwaiti specialties. A colorful, traditional Kuwaiti room (dewaniya) had been set up, and there was traditional music by a Kuwaiti folkloric group. Huthamah flew to Kuwait with her daughter the next day. “I’ll be there a few weeks; have to get recharged,” she told me.
My sincerest thanks to good friends, Greek Ambassador Elias Katsareas and his wife Maria, for including me in their powerpacked guest list for a glittering reception they hosted for visiting Greek Prime Minister and Mrs. Costas Simitis. The special event was held in the palatial Akasaka Guest House, where guests were treated royally from the time they arrived until they left. Whoever trained the Guest House staff really did an excellent job, and they could not have been more courteous and helpful. Not only that. They smiled while performing their official duties, and this is quite unusual at such high-level happenings. The main reception room was wall-to-wall VIPs, and guests included many of Japan’s bestknown government officials, diplomats and business leaders. There was also a large delegation of Greek business leaders who included several of the world’s best-known ship owners.
It was nice seeing former Brunei Ambassador to Japan Pengiran Dato Haji Idriss, visiting Tokyo on a business trip. He’s a collector of classic cars, and I appreciate his thoughtfulness. “Come visit Brunei,” he said, adding, “My children will pick you up in an open touring car and show you our country.” Ambassador Yusurs full name is four long lines long, so I’m using the short version here. He’s married with seven sons and four daughters. His education was not only in Brunei but also in Malaysia and England, and here in Japan at Hiroshima University. His long and distinguished career has included many high-ranking government positions, and his accomplishments include writer-editor of the lyrics of the Brunei national anthem, “Allah Selamatkan Sultan.” His decorations include the First Class Order of the Rising Sun (Japan) and CBE (British).
Our congratulations to Brunei’s ruler, H.M. Sultan Haji Hassanai Bolkiah, and the people of Brunei on this special occasion. I would also like to welcome the ambassador and wish him a long, happy and successful tour of duty in Japan.
It was nice seeing Elias and Maria’s daughter Eftehia again. She was here with the Prime Minister’s entourage. Eftehia is not only knockout-gorgeous but also extremely intelligent and super nice. Once the Prime Minister and his wife arrived, they circulated in the crowd, meeting a lot of people and making lots of friends for themselves and for Greece. Speaking of making friends for themselves and their country, Elias and Maria have done that every single day of their all-tooshort (four years) stay in Japan. They will be returning to Greece at the end of this month. They will surely be missed.
Unfortunately, I missed getting to the Royal Netherlands Embassy where Ambassador Egbert F. Jacobs and his wife Francoise hosted a mid-day reception on the occasion of Queen’s Day. Midori Nishiura said it was a really nice celebration, perfect.
On Tuesday, Apr. 23, Czech friends, Ambassador Karel Zebrakovsky and his wife Marcela, held a chamber concert in their home. Guest artists were Czech pianist Jaroslav Saroun and Japanese soprano Keiko Michiyo.
Dropped by the Okura Hotel this morning for the 2002 Hana Matsuri, the World Gardening Festival. The very popular and always busy Princess Takamado joined the participants (ambassadors’ wives and their representatives) in the ribbon-cutting. Kudos to all concerned. The gardens were awesome, and of course I’ll have more later on that special event.
The National Azabu had its re-opening celebration after renovation on Sunday, Apr. 28. Booths selling fast food and other items had been set up in the parking lot, and the many people there were really enjoying the festive mood. Store owner, biz tycoon (self-made man) Banjiro Uemura, was there checking it all out.
I hope you got over to Omote Sando during Golden Week. The teachers and students of Sogetsu lkebana had lined both sides of one of Tokyo’s most beautiful streets with huge dynamic and original ikebana sculptures. It turned the street from Aoyama Dori to Harajuku Station into an outdoor museum of modern art.
As I mentioned before, India celebrates its 50th anniversary, and many of the festivities for this special event will take place at Hilton Tokyo. The hotel, the Indian Embassy and Taj Enterprises are jointly featuring an Indian promotion titled “Romance of India – a True Life Experience.” The Government of India Tourism Office and Air India are supporting the Ambassador. Activities include the best of Indian cuisine, a jewelry and fashion show, Indian dance, another fashion show featuring Indian models and arts and crafts exhibitions.
Refugees International Japan‘s annual Art of Dining Exhibition has been one of the major fundraisers of the very hard-working, worthwhile organization since it was first begun 12 years ago. This year’s exhibition at the Westin Hotel was as popular as ever. Princess Hitachi, chic and gracious as always, cut the ribbon to open the ceremony, toured the exhibition and talked with each of the participants about their settings. This year’s presentations included stylish and imaginative table displays designed by arts, media, showbiz and business personalities and leading members of Tokyo’s international and diplomatic communities. A job well done for a very worthy cause. Rl-J raises money for needy refugees all over the world. Since it began in 1979, the group has supported more than 400 projects in 40 countries, distributing more than $6 million to many thousands of desperately needy refugees.
*First published at the Tokyo Weekender