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Centenary Event Reports

Centenary Golf Match at Shin Numazu Country Club, 25th March, 2005

The ‘final list’ for the Centenary Golf Match included eleven names, but two hard-working British businessmen, perhaps in imitation of their pre-bubble Japanese counterparts, had to cancel the day before, citing ‘pressure of work’. Among the nine who did participate were one former President of C&O, Sir Stephen Gomersall from the UK, and two former Presidents of the Oxford and Cambridge Society of Hong Kong, Colin Cohen and Peter Earnest Wong. These overseas visitors were cordially welcomed by the C&O Golf members in attendance represented by Steven Thomas.
There were two potential pitfalls to this the first event in the Centenary programme: traffic conditions and the weather.
The golf course is located a little over 100 kilometres from the Tokyo entrance to the Tomei Expressway, which links Tokyo with Nagoya, where it then joins another motorway to Osaka and eventually Kyushu. Needless to say, the traffic is usually heavy in both directions. Tony Fordyce and Rupert Middle were kind enough to rise very early in the morning and collect the three visitors from Hotel Okura. Fortunately the traffic was running smoothly and everyone arrived on time, having enjoyed on the way the splendid view of snow-capped Mt Fuji nestling behind the Hakone mountains.
The organiser of this event, Tomoyuki Imai, had been planning to travel to Numazu on Thursday evening, but the second of the potential pitfalls prevented him from doing so. Much to his consternation, the clouds rolled in and the Kanto Plain was lashed by torrential rain, high winds, thunder and lightning. However, Friday 25th dawned bright and clear, although it was still rather windy and cold. These favourable weather conditions prevailed throughout the day, and indeed the entire weekend, and added to the splendour of the scenery. The mountains of the Izu Peninsula rising out of Suruga Bay were clearly visible above the greens and through the tall trees of the golf course, and the whole combined to form a beautiful picture. Colin Cohen asked what the large ‘lake’ (Suruga Bay) was called!
The match started with everyone in good spirits, but there was some evidence of frustration later caused by the greens (we were directed to play the sub-greens), which are generally rather small and tricky, as is the case with many of the older courses in Japan. Most of us enjoyed a leisurely lunch with beer and sake, taking particular pleasure in the sashimi starter that is a speciality of the clubhouse restaurant. One group, however, can’t have had a particularly leisurely lunch, having taken half an hour longer to play the first nine holes than the other groups!
As not all of the participants were sure of their handicaps, we used the so-called New (or Double) Periar system to calculate them. The results were as shown in the table below. The winner was Steven Thomas, who scored 77 (net 71). No wonder he used to wear a Blue Jacket for the Oxford Golf Team. The Club kindly presented him with a belt bearing a Club medal. One of the two runners-up was given a bottle of Toscana red and the other a bag designed to carry four bottles of wine. The two booby prize winners received three Tobunda golf balls each (Tobunda could be loosely translated as ‘long shoot assured’).
A couple of the participants raced home straight after the match, but the rest stayed on for a drink or two and left at 3:30 p.m. The traffic conditions on the Tomei were fine, but the Metropolitan Expressway was jammed as usual. Nevertheless, those attending the second centenary event, the Welcome Dinner at Ark Hills Club starting at 7:00 p.m., got back to Tokyo early enough to prepare themselves for the evening. All in all, it was a very successful day, and the organiser was able to breathe a deep sigh of relief.


Gross Strokes HDCP Net Strokes
1st Steven Thomas 77 6 71
2nd Rupert Middle 99 27.6 71.4
3rd Colin Cohen 112 34.8 77.2
4th Tony Fordyce 97 19.2 77.8
Takahisa Hashimoto 103 25.2 77.8
6th Tomoyuki Imai 105 26.4 78.6
7th Stephen Gomersall 114 34.8 79.2
8th John Sunley 125 36 89
9th Peter E. Wong 130 36 94

Tomo Imai

Welcome Dinner at Ark Hills Club on Friday, 25th March, 2005

The Welcome Dinner was the second of the Centenary events organised during the 2005 Easter holidays, but except for four of the nine golfers who had enjoyed a round at Shin Numazu Country Club near Mt Fuji earlier in the day it was the first.

The venue was Ark Hills Club, a modern but elegant club located on the 37th floor of the high-rise Ark Mori Building in Akasaka, central Tokyo. The view from the window overlooking the south-eastern part of the huge metropolis is particularly worth savouring: Tokyo Bay forms a dark backdrop, and Tokyo Tower stands colourfully lit in the foreground, seemingly almost within touching distance.

Shortly after 7 o’clock, all 46 participants had gathered in the Continental Dining Room. After the presentation of small gifts from the Society to our eleven overseas visitors (six from Malaysia, three from Hong Kong and two from the UK), Graham Fry, C&O President and British Ambassador, took the stand to welcome all with a splendid speech. An ample selection of delicious cold and hot dishes was served along with a good supply of excellent wine. At coffee time, the lights were suddenly dimmed and a large cheese cake with a tall, thin lit candle standing askew in one corner appeared. Sir Stephen Gomersall stood up and congratulated Tim Minton, honorary secretary, on his 46th birthday. It was pure coincidence that the two events had coincided, but it was a pleasant surprise for every one of us. Tim looked slightly abashed at Stephen’s humorous presentation but managed to respond in kind. Sir Stephen is Graham Fry’s immediate predecessor as C&O President and British Ambassador and had flown in from the UK to participate in our Centenary Celebrations.

It was a very convivial evening that augured well for all of the other events yet to come during the weekend, in particular the black-tie Centenary Dinner at Hotel Okura the following day.


Tokyo Lunch Time Bay Cruise
Saturday March 26, 12:00 to 13:30

On the yacht Lady Crystal from Tennoz Isle to Tokyo Big Sight and back

The sky was clear, the sea was calm, the early spring weather was warm enough for members and guests to have come out in light casual clothes. Visibility was good. Almost all the 53 or so who registered for the cruise came. There was a cheerful mood of anticipation and a spirit of goodwill evidenced by a rather higher volume of background chatter as people gathered in the Yacht Club House to have their names checked and be briefed about the cruise.

Reporting time in the Crystal Club House was 11:30 and boarding was from 11:45. Everyone arrived on time.

We raised anchor exactly at noon. As we were only around 50, we could not charter the whole boat. We reserved the Main Deck which at 80m2 was large enough for a buffet lunch with champagne, wine, whisky and soft drinks for up to 58 passengers. We had direct access to the Observation Out Deck, where members retired from time to time to view the sights and take pictures. The other decks – Lower Deck and Promenade Deck - were given over to ordinary tourist passengers.

Lady Crystal, which is hired out for regular Tokyo Bay cruises, is a yacht belonging to the Crystal Yacht Club, whose home port is the Club House at Tennoz Isle. It made its maiden voyage on 8 May 1990 and boasts the following statistics:

Full Length: 46.57m
Full Width: 8.8m
Draft: 2.1m
Gross tonnage: 346t
Speed: 12 Knots (about 22km/hr)

The eclectically-named light French buffet course at \6,000 which the Centenary Committee had selected was declared by all and sundry to have been good value both in quality and quantity. It consisted of:

1. Marinated salmon and raw fish carapaccio
2. King crab and avocado Salad
3. Melon wrapped in raw ham
4. Mixed Sandwiches
5. Quiche of Lorraine
6. Corn Soup
7. Veal cutlet in cordon bleu sauce
8. White fish meuniere in noisette butter sauce
9. Chinese snacks
10. Pasta
11. Dessert and Fruit
12. Coffee

Of the three cruise courses, the longest, a 2-hour cruise takes passengers out to the open sea as far as the Tokyo Lighthouse; the shorter course is 1 hour. We, however, took the medium course, a 1 ½ hour cruise which goes to the vicinity of Tokyo Big Sight. The long and medium courses take in spectacular views of Fuji Television Building and its distinctive globe, Rainbow Bridge and the many engineering feats of Tokyo's bay area. The Fuji TV Building was a scene of particular interest to some of our members who follow current affairs as an upstart IT company by the name of Livedoor was threatening to take over the mighty Fuji TV company, a jewel in the Sankei Communications conglomerate, in a sort of David and Goliath replay.
This route also features gigantic red cranes flanking both sides of the channel, loading and unloading bays and mountains of containers. This part of the bay is almost all reclaimed land: a testament to the huge amount of waste that a city of Tokyo's size produces.
By all accounts, the cruise was most enjoyable.
We returned to the Club House at exactly 13:30 to enable those who had booked to go to the next venue, Oedo Onsen, to make it on schedule.
The cruise ended as it had started: uneventfully but with a feel-good sense of satisfaction.

Louis Nthenda
SCC member

Hot spa event at Oedo Onsen Monogatari, 26th March 2005

During the early planning of the Centenary events calendar there was some scepticism about the suitability or indeed the feasibility of an event at the Oedo Onsen in Odaiba. As it turned out, however, the event was very well received by the foreign guests.

The party assembled right on time after the Bay Cruise and we set off for Tennozu Isle Station. From there it was a short ride on the Rinkai Line under Tokyo Bay to Tokyo Teleport Station in Odaiba where, fortuitously, we arrived just in time to meet the Oedo Onsen bus service. We had estimated that we would be unable to meet this bus, but the day was turning out just so. As the 23 of us piled into the bus, filling it to capacity, two rather disgruntled tourists were left behind at the stop mumbling to themselves. After arriving at the Onsen (to be joined by one more guest who arrived on a motorcycle), we took a group photo and went inside to be welcomed by the surprisingly well-organised staff. The Onsen allows guests to choose their own Yukata and Obi, which is a nice touch. From there, through the changing rooms to the Village inside. The atmosphere was of a Disneyland theme park - a Japan summer evening matsuri, but the Cherry Blossom theme gave it a seasonal feel. We split up into four groups headed by Nobuko Yamazaki, Huw Williams, Louis Nthenda and Julian Culliford.

The Onsen is traditional in the sense that there are men's and women's baths, both with Rotenburo baths outside. The water in the central baths is authentic spa water. Almost everyone took a dip in the spa, and very enjoyable it was too, particularly the environment outside with a beautiful clear blue sky to admire.

Inside the main building, there were various events going on, including some variety style shows as well as an array of matsuri kiosks with games and little prizes. A few of us tried some beer, sake and a few snacks. A couple of discrete photographs were taken for our records, outside the baths of course! After just over two hours of taking it easy, we all changed back into regular clothes and reconvened outside.

We walked the short distance to the Telecom Center Station to catch the Yurikamome Line for our return to the Okura. The weather was fine and clear, and the view when crossing Rainbow Bridge on the Yurikamome was excellent. A pleasant end to the event, and we were all looking forward to the Centenary Dinner, of course.

Huw Williams

Centenary Dinner, 26th March, 2005, 6.30 p.m. – 12.30 a.m., Hotel Okura, Tokyo

The organisation of the centenary events started with the first meeting of the Special Centenary Committee (SCC) in March, 2003, and one of the most important early discussions concerned the choice of venue for the ‘Main Event'. Many candidates were proposed, but it became clear fairly early on that the hands-down favourite was Hotel Okura, not only because of its status as one of Tokyo’s leading hotels but more importantly because its founder, the late Baron Kiichiro Okura, was a Cambridge graduate and Honorary Secretary of our Society.

The evening was planned in three parts (with long arguments at SCC meetings about whether to use words like postprandial in publicity): pre-dinner drinks; dinner; after-dinner drinks. All well and good, but where should each part take place? Once we went to the Okura to have a look at the banquet rooms, there was little argument over the one we should choose for the dinner itself: the Continental Room on the ground floor of the Main Building (Honkan) was the obvious choice with its elegant wood panelling and ability to accommodate two long rows of tables in vague imitation of a typical Oxbridge college dining hall layout.

The suggestion of the first floor (British first floor, that is) of the Shukokan Museum of Art in the hotel’s grounds as the venue for pre-dinner drinks came from one of the hotel’s managers and was enthusiastically supported by Baron Kiichiro’s grandson, Yoshihiko Okura, Chairman of the museum. It was also enthusiastically supported by the committee when we had a look at it.

Securing the opulent Baron Okura Room for after-dinner drinks involved lengthy negotiations, as the sum we were prepared to pay for its exclusive use did not seem to impress the manager greatly. One suspects that Yoshihiko Okura might have exerted some pressure behind the scenes!

Members and their guests, the gentlemen kitted out in black tie (apart from two in national costume—Malawian and Scottish—and one or two whose DJs hadn’t come back from the cleaners in time) and the ladies resplendent in their finery, began to arrive a little before 6.30 at the Shukokan Museum to collect their name badges and randomly selected seating assignments for the dinner, a slightly lengthy process that had people queuing all the way down the stairs during the peak registration period. Any slight irritation dissipated quickly, though, once they entered the cavernous museum itself to enjoy a wide selection of aperitifs and the company of their fellow revellers. None of the no doubt priceless artworks had been damaged when we were ushered back to the main building for dinner around 8.15 p.m.

At 8:32 p.m. H.I.H. Princess Takamado (Girton Cambridge, 1972) graciously took her seat at the high table. The proceedings opened with the reading out of congratulatory messages from the Vice Chancellors of the two Universities and from the Oxford University Society and the Cambridge Society. Everyone stood for a rather lengthy Latin grace purloined from a certain Cambridge College, and the first of six courses was served (a copy of the menu is attached below).

During the coffee, the President of The Oxford & Cambridge Society of Malaysia, Elizabeth Lee, and a former President of The Oxford & Cambridge Society of Hong Kong, Colin Cohen, kindly presented gifts to C&O, which were received on behalf of the Society by Graham Fry. We were then treated to two marvellous speeches, one by the current C&O President and British Ambassador, Graham Fry (now but not then Sir Graham), and the other by his immediate predecessor in both posts, Sir Stephen Gomersall. (For texts of these speeches, click here.) At 10:30 p.m., some 90 of us trekked over to the Baron Okura Room at the top of the annexe (Bekkan) for further drinks and cheese (and cigars for a few) while the rest raced home. This part of the evening was scheduled to finish at 12.30 a.m., but it actually continued for at least another hour after that. Terry Nakamura managed to grab the remaining cheese and wine, and the final venue of the day was his room, where about ten of us carried on until around 4 a.m. A truly wonderful night it had been.

A total of 157 people ranging in age from their 20s to one gentleman in his 90s were on the list for the evening, and 156 came (including the gentleman in his 90s, Eikichi Itoh, K.B.E.). Sir Stephen Gomersall ended his after-dinner speech by toasting ‘what we share and treasure in our common Oxbridge DNA: Blue Genes’, but I have to report that the balance was tilted slightly towards the light blue strain with 60 representatives vs. 50 dark blues. Two of those present were a mixture, having attended both Universities, and the rest were guests. It should also be noted that in addition to the two representatives of Oxbridge Malaysia and Hong Kong mentioned above, we were delighted to be joined by five other visitors from Malaysia, four others from Hong Kong, and five from the UK, including Sir Stephen.


Afternoon Tea at the British Ambassador’s Residence, 27th March, 2005, 4.00 to 5.30 p.m.

The Ambassador and Mrs Toyoko Fry’s invitation to tea at the Residence was a much appreciated addition to the original list of events for the Centenary Weekend, and with just over eighty people in attendance, it turned out to be the second most popular event in the programme. It has to be admitted that some of those who had taken full advantage of the previous day’s activities were feeling slightly woozy even this late in the afternoon, but we were all on our best behaviour, honoured as we were by the presence of T.I.H the Crown Prince and Princess Takamado, both members of C&O.

Nowhere in Japan is more archetypically British than the Ambassador’s Residence, and the British members of C&O have always, I suspect, looked on it as a kind of home from home thanks to the kind hospitality of a long succession of British Ambassadors to Japan. While C&O members may well, therefore, be quite familiar with the house and garden, the same does not apply to those who were visiting Tokyo from overseas to attend our Centenary events; the opportunity to visit this jewel in the Tokyo landscape must have been particularly welcomed by them. And it has to be said that the Frys themselves clearly enjoyed meeting old friends made during their posting to Malaysia.

March 27th was not a particularly warm day, but it was bright enough for the event to take place in the magnificent garden. The lawn was still in its winter hue of brown, but the sunlight, the early blossom here and there, the clinking of porcelain, the scones and sandwiches, and the convivial chatter all made for a thoroughly cheerful atmosphere.

The refined glamour of this event contrasted strongly with the down-to-earth elbow-jostling, beer-swilling proceedings at Gompachi that followed immediately afterwards, but similar contrasts permeated our Centenary weekend: the modern high-rise elegance of Ark Hills Club vs. the old-fashioned low-rise opulence of Hotel Okura; the glitz of the Lady Crystal yacht vs. the mostly hideous scenery of Tokyo Bay, through which she cruised; the ‘low-town’ babble and gaudiness of the hot spring ‘resort’ Oedo Onsen Matsuri vs. the aristocratic treasures of Hotel Okura’s Shukokan Museum. But such contrasts are a feature of Tokyo life in general.


C&O Centenary Closing event at Gompachi

The final event of the Centenary celebrations was held on Sunday 27th March from 19:00-21:00 at the Minami Azubu branch of Gonpachi.

Gonpachi is a rather theatrical restaurant run by the Global Dining chain. It features a huge open kitchen, slightly cramped "zashiki" Japanese-style seating (i.e. on the floor), and lots of sake and traditional Japanese pub food in an atmosphere supposed to be reminiscent of old Edo (the name of Tokyo before the Meiji Restoration in the mid 19th century). It was a perfect setting for the evening concluding our centenary celebrations.

About 40 of us rubbed shoulders on the mats for the evening, and with the free flow of beer and sake had a magnificent time.

About 135 pictures of the evening can be found on this reporter's personal website in an online photo album:

The highlight of the evening was a very impressive kampai (toast) speech by former President of the Oxbridge Society of Hong Kong, Colin Cohen. Although his words have not, to the best of my knowledge, been preserved for history, a photograph that conveys the most important part has:

Several other speeches were also given, the essence of which can be gleaned from the images in my online album.

Even though the details may have been forgotten, it was a memorable finale to a highly memorable weekend.

Gerhard Fasol

Posted in | Submitted by tim.minton on Sun, 2005-03-27 15:00.
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