This coming Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. the annual Asia-Pacific Festival and Charity Bazaar is scheduled to be held in the ANA Hotel, Tokyo.

More than 20 Asian and Pacific countries will set up booths of their own handicrafts, accessories and jewelry, foods and homemade baked goods. Traditional dances of the region will be shown.

The Japan booth this year gives prominence to Kagawa Prefecture and its specialties. As always, bazaar proceeds will be channeled toward welfare and disaster relief in the member countries of the Asia-Pacific Ladies Friendship Society.

The 2007 bazaar chairwoman is Pengiran Datin Hajjah Yura Alaiti Yusuf, wife of the ambassador of Brunei Darussalam.

Last year, two of the countries represented at the bazaar did not accept the money allocated to them. They preferred that those funds be shared among the other participating countries, to benefit their institutions. The two countries were Australia and Brunei.

“Brunei is a small country that tourists like as a good place to relax. Our people are friendly, living in closely connected families,” the ambassadress said.

Of royal blood, Yusuf is the daughter of a former ambassador to Japan. “My father used to bring me here, and then I sometimes brought my children for holidays,” she said.

Earlier, Yusuf’s father was the chief minister of Brunei and a member of the country’s legislative council. In his youth he studied at Hiroshima University and was in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped on the city toward the end of World War II. “He gave many interviews at the time and wrote a book about the Hiroshima bombing,” his daughter said.

As a girl, Yusuf was sent to boarding schools in England, at Brighton and Bath, for her higher education. Returned to Brunei, she undertook government work until she began her own family.

Yusuf’s elder daughter, now married and with one child, is a diplomat currently posted to the Brunei Embassy in Cambodia. Two sons moved away from diplomacy, one to a bank, one to an airline. The younger daughter is at school in Tokyo.

The ambassador and his wife have traveled frequently in accordance with his career requirements. Notably, he was posted as ambassador to India and to Germany before coming to Japan in 2005. She finds much to her taste in capital cities, appreciating architecture and atmosphere, and indulging her own artistic as well as social and charitable instincts.

ALFS works earnestly to promote friendship among the women who constitute its membership. That was the ideal visualized by Mutsuko Miki, widow of former Prime Minister Miki, in founding the society in 1968.

ALFS helps the sick, the poor and the orphaned in its member countries. It assists with training young people and rehabilitating the needy, especially women and children.

Since its founding, ALFS expanded its aims in order to have its members learn more about each other’s countries. As well as expending effort for welfare and disaster relief, the society maintains a calendar of cultural events separately hosted by member countries.

Last spring, Korea presented a cultural meeting highlighting its own traditional wedding ceremony. In the autumn, with Akie Abe, wife of Japan’s prime minister, as guest of honor, Sri Lanka showed its own costumed dances, sang its own songs, and put on its own drummers’ performance.

The society has also set up small interest groups for participating members.

Some groups offer dance and music, some give cooking and language lessons, some enlist sports lovers and travelers. Already this year ALFS has held its charity golf tournament and its friendship tour to Micronesia.

Appreciative of the continuing patronage of Princess Hitachi, the Brunei ambassadress is concentrating on the 2007 bazaar. She secured the donation of the Embassy of Brunei Darussalam’s top door prize of a round-trip for two from Narita to Brunei and two nights’ accommodation there.

Filling in the door-prize list are valuable gifts from participating embassies, more airline tickets, and gifts from members. About 150 items from embassies, Japanese companies and individuals comprise the raffle prizes.

Last year’s welfare fund helped recommended institutions in the member countries. The emergency relief fund went to five countries that had suffered different natural disasters.


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