Thursday, March 01, 2007

Well, that does not happen every day!

George W. Bush and I now have something in common.

As of tonight, we have both shaken the hand of Junichiro Koizumi....................

I had the opportunity to attend a party in Yokohama tonight. I really had no reason to be there, except that a Navy friend had been invited and he prevailed upon our host to allow me to come along. Our host , he said-whom we had both played golf with on separate occasions-was a "well connected" Japanese businessman. I did not realize exactly how well connected, until we got to the hotel, the Intercontinental in Yokohama, and saw the Japanese guys in black suits wearing earphones.

As we went through the receiving line, we were reminded that the food service would start immediately, and at 7, it would stop so we could be ready for the arrival of Koizumi-san. I did not realize our host was THAT well connected!

It was amazing. He came into the room like a rock star. The crowd applauded and applauded. They took him to a center table and unlike us common folk, he was poured some really GOOD sake. Us working schmucks got Asahi beer for the toast. However the sore daijin-he got the good stuff.

An introduction was made, and up to the stage he went. With poised composure that I had seen over and over again on NHK during press conferences and in public speeches on TV, he spoke in very clear and understandable Japanese. Turns out he was a good friend of our host's brother. He's been for 50 years. SO because of that he only felt it right to be here for the 45th anniversary of this man's company. (They are an electric lighting company......the guy is, as it turns out, filthy rich).

He is shorter than I expected. His grey hair though is exquisitely quaffed. He has that politician's ability to look you in the eye for that brief moment and make you feel like you matter. Idiot me, I was too embarrassed to address him in my poor Japanese. I simply looked him in the eye and said I was honored to meet him in English. Now mind you , he speaks fluent English, but at this party he spoke none, so all he did was nod.

So hey, now I can say I have shaken two President's hands and a Prime Minister's..(George H.W. Bush's and Bill Clinton's. See I am fair to both parties...actually it was just a case of being in the wrong place at the right time...on board one of America's floating bastions of freedom.......). However this was far more personal and enjoyable. Koizumi was very personable, he allowed LOTS of people to have their pictures taken with him. I talked to one of the Japanese guests who said that he is still very popular with the Japanese. I asked him why Abe -san was not so popular and he said it is because Abe-san has no charisma..............

Pretty good for a party I almost did not go to.

Add to that the fact that they had good food and some really good French wine...........hey, life is good!

Pictures to follow when I can figure out how to download them from the S.O.'s cell phone. It was the only camera we had............


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