Like everyone else everywhere, the Carbine Club of Tokyo looked forward in early 2021 to making up ground lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. Objectives included luncheons that would celebrate and capitalize on the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, highlighting the mighty Aussie contingents. Peter Gibson, a Tokyo club member and Executive Advisor to the Australian Olympic Committee for Tokyo 2020 was ready to help us contribute to Paralympics Australia for a second straight year.
Discussions of prospective luncheon focuses and schedules picked up early in the year and continued through our annual general meeting in March.
Alas, more of the same sorts of restrictions on using hotels, restaurants, and other prospective venues remained stubbornly in place to delay planning. Then in early April, the Japanese government declared a state of emergency and slapped on seemingly endless extensions that eliminated Games luncheon hopes and only ended on September 30.
To be clear, daily life in Japan was much easier during that time than in many Australian states, although many self-employed people in marginal circumstances continued to suffer, as in Australia, from losing their livelihoods. Still the situation meant that few people had an appetite for social activity, not that any useful venues were realistically available for Carbine-class gatherings.
But we never lost hope, and the 2021 Melbourne Cup presented an opportunity to return to form and work harder to raise funds on this very special day of the year. One member in particular, Emily Downey, posted numerous messages to the Tokyo club LINE group to stir up things up, and also booked a big table on the terrace of Ruby Jack’s Steakhouse & Bar to help kick off planning over Aussie steaks and wine. She suggested we hold our Melbourne Cup luncheon there for the first time because it would allow us to maximize attendee numbers while adhering to the Tokyo metropolitan government’s Covid safety protocols. The traditional venue, fabulous though it had been, was unable to offer sufficient seating this year. Several beverages and delicious dry-aged Aussie steaks into the evening, all attendees concurred that Ruby Jack’s was indeed the way to go.
So it was that we settled on our venue. Once the government ended the state of emergency the planning team swung into action, with President Patrick Sullivan and Treasurer Tim Barnstable leading the way. Such was the thirst for socializing in Tokyo’s foreign community that within a couple of days of announcing our luncheon most of the nearly 90 seats were sold. A significant number of seats went to ladies who have attended Melbourne Cups for many years in finery that would dazzle even at Flemington. They and some of the gentlemen at the luncheon would seek recognition in the annual Fashions on the Field contest.
Come race day and many attended reached the venue sufficiently early to enter, with a host of other Tokyo club members relieving punters of donations for raffles, which offered numerous prizes courtesy of numerous generous sponsors. It likely helped that people knew that proceeds from the luncheon would go to Very Special Kids, with which the Victoria Racing Club partnered for the Melbourne Cup Carnival. As many Carbiner readers would know, Very Special Kids runs a hospice for children with life-threatening conditions and provides profession
al family support services. Incidentally, we wish to offer special thanks to key sponsor Sports Travel & Hospitality Japan (STH Japan), as well as to club member Leon van Houwelingen, who helped package sponsorship and other graphics for a screen presentation at the luncheon.
Service was flawless for the luncheon proper, during which attendees were able to watch some live action from Flemington on multiple screens at Ruby Jack’s as the big race approached.
During that time, we showed two special videos. One was from Very Special Kids, poignantly highlighting how that organization has helped families overcome their adversities and underscoring more than ever for all attending just why this luncheon was so important.
The other video was from Glen Boss, celebrated for piloting Makybe Diva to glory in three Melbourne Cups. Member Darrin Hartshorn had contacted Glen to ask for a short video message. Glen had been very busy, and we weren’t all that sure he would be able to deliver. But he did so in spades, with a witty greeting in which he argued with three apparently boisterous “friends” off-camera, later revealing them as his miniature replicas of the cup. Later during the luncheon, special guest and Wallabies great Bernard Foley spoke about the Tokyo club’s cause in a segment with Patrick Sullivan.
The videos and prize lineups encouraged attendees to dig in deeper than every before. Once all the prizes were handed out, one of the winners wrested the mike from Tokyo club president and emcee Patrick Sullivan.
That person was Darren Morrish, a member and new general manager of the Tokyo American Club (for some reason, his club tie was missing in action that day). He had won a night’s stay for two at the swish Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills hotel, worth something like 60,000 yen (around A$730). Rather than accept this prize, he wanted to auction it to benefit Very Special Kids.
Darren launched into action, and within the space of a minute he had bids exceeding 110,000 yen (around A$1,342). There was a brief pause, with one member starting to sweat on realizing how challenging his overpriced purchase would be to explain to his wife (although she would doubtless enjoy the Andaz) if things stopped there. Emily suddenly relieved him of that burden, shouting what was the winning bid of 120,000 yen (around A$1,464) because, she said, our Melbourne Cup Charity deserved nothing less than enthusiastic support.
Thus ended the luncheon itself, after which attendees headed for the terrace to celebrate what had been a fabulous day by consuming copious beverages, later heading to the Hobgoblin Pub in Roppongi, one of our sponsors. A day later, Treasurer Tim announced that the luncheon had raised about round 730,000 yen (around A$8,908), bettering last year’s amount. He soon remitted these funds to Very Special Kids, a very special cause indeed.
Regardless of what 2022 holds in store, the Melbourne Cup luncheon was a welcome return to dazzling form. We will do our level best in Tokyo to do even better to serve our chosen charities, and look forward to Carbine members from around the world joining us, as some did back in 2019, once able to travel freely again. In the meantime, we wish you all in the Carbine community a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.