Earlier this summer, i had the privilege and pleasure of going to Berlin for the grand opening of the Sony Centre on Potsdam Plaza in Berlin. It was, as you can imagine, a spectacular event with 2,500 guests from 31 countries attending. VIPs there included German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Berlin Mayor Eberhard Diepgen. Yoshiko Morita, widow of the late Sony founder Akio Morita, was there and it was nice when the mayor made his speech and paid special tribute to Yoshiko.
The highlight of the celebration came when Sony Chairman Norio Ohga stepped up to the podium and conducted the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Berliner Singakademie, 60 members of the Sony Philharmonic Chorus and four noted soloists in Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, op. 125. There was a much-deserved standing ovation for what Norio later said was the happiest moment in his life.
From the Philharmonic Berlin, guests made the fiveminute walk to the Sony Centre for a gourmet buffet, the traditional breaking of the sake barrel and world music performances which included the dynamic Koda drummers from Japan. Light, sound and multi-media projections made the forum of the Sony Centre a magnificent arena and perfect setting for the spectacular event. We met Daniele Yoshikoshi in the Frankfurt Airport and flew on to Berlin together. Daniele’s husband Koichiro runs Triumph lnternational’s operations in Japan and they had been at a big company gathering in Dublin.
Really surprised to hear long-time friend Hiro Kobayashi is leaving as Director, Brand Marketing, Asia-Pacific Starwood, for a new position as Regional Director Japan with Four Seasons, responsible for Four Seasons business out of Japan. As I mentioned a few columns ago, Hiro really knows his business, so I’m sure he’ll do well wherever he goes.
Thanks to the column and friends, I have the good fortune of meeting and getting to know some of the nicest people in the world. A perfect example is outgoing Qatar Ambassador Ahmed Abdulla Al-Kha! and his dynamic wife Hessa. The exceptional couple did so much to promote their country-an exhibition, fashion shows, seminars-during their all-too-short three years and three months in Tokyo. Unfortunately, they had to return to Doha before the 29th National Day and farewell reception they had scheduled for Sept. 4. The Al-Khals “loved Japan and the Japanese” people, and were highly regarded by all and loved by their many friends here.
Our congratulations to Moroccan Ambassador Mohamed Tangi and his wife Alia; she’s just back from Rabat where she enrolled their daughter Radia in the university there. Seems like Radia wants to follow in her mom’s footsteps and become a doctor.
On the Tokyo scene, there were several parties to which I had committed on the same evening, so got to Ambassador Gabriele Menegatti’s Italian National Day celebration quite late. Author and international business consultant Midori Nishiura was leaving as I arrived and told me, “It’s been a really nice evening, but most of the people you know have left.”
Midori was right but, even so, I was glad I had the opportunity to congratulate the ambassador, embassy staff and many Italians still there. Alitalia’s Romano Mazzucco also made sure I met several people I had not met before, and I appreciate that. Ambassador Menegattis’ wife Brigitte was in Europe at the time and the photo we’re using of the handsome couple was taken on another occasion.
The embassy’s spacious residence and garden were, as expected, about as crowded as they could get for the Bastille Day celebration hosted by French Ambassador Maurice Gourdault Montagne and his wife, Soline.
It was an all-day event for the popular diplomatic couple with a mid-day reception for the French community, an early evening for the diplomatic corps and another for Japanese government officials, business leaders and miscellaneous friends of France. As always at French functions, there were many familiar aces from the arts, fashion and entertainment worlds.
The embassy’s chief chef Herve Guillaume and his staff had done a monumental job of feeding about 1,500 people and feeding them well. The artistic food arrangements throughout the residence and garden tasted as good as they looked.
I enjoyed talking to friends from the Metropolitan Police Dept. (MPD) and International Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), all very conscientious men who go all out to make the city -the world- a better and safer place in which to live. It was a beautiful evening, perfect for the occasion.
It was indeed a grand night for singing at Sogetsu Kaikan when Grace Saito’s Tokyo Grace-Kai held its ninth anniversary charity concert. There were standing ovations for performances by soprano Nobuko Takashi, tenor Satoshi Chubachi and pianist Shinya Kiyozuka.
It was a full house and those attending included diplomats, business leaders and many friends and fans of Grace-Kai. Proceeds from the eveniNg were donated to the World Children’s Fund. Way to go, Grace.
It was another evening of Mitsuo and Lilo Maruyama-style hospitality when the popular couple hosted a sayonara dinner for outgoing Jordanian Ambassador Farouk Kasrawi and his wife Muazaz. They chose the Capitol Tokyu’s Starhill Chinese Restaurant for the occasion. As always with the Maruyamas, it was great food, interesting people and lively conversation-all in a laid-back atmosphere.
I know it was not intentional, but the timing couldn’t have been better. Just as four of those Shibuya girls (platform shoes, Hawaiian print wraparounds, circus makeup) walked into Roppongi Starbucks the other day, the song “Send In the Clowns” from the musical “A Little Night Music” began playing over the shop’s P.A. system. It could not have been more appropriate.
Lots of speculation about what kind of hotel is going to open right in the heart of Roppongi. Seems the bank took over the land that contained the small parking lot next to the Roppongi Square Bldg. I heard they sold it to the new owner for something like US$22 million. It’s a noisy neighborhood, and I can’t sec the average businessman (or woman) staying there. From the outside, the rooms in the nine-story Baden Hotel look small. It may well be legit but, if they rent by the hour and have mirrors on the ceilings, we’ll know.
*First published at the Tokyo Weekender