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German and Italian Leader Sample Island’s Hospitality

By: Stephen Carr

Date Posted: 2000-09-01

Continuing our series about the hotels stayed in by Heads of State visiting Okinawa last month for the Group of Eight Summit, this week we focus on the Hotel Nikko Alivila, which hosted Germany and Italy’s political entourages.

The Hotel Nikko Alivila is a charming sprawling hotel built somewhat in the style of a Spanish hacienda, in secluded beautiful grounds. It is miles from anywhere, set amidst acres of sugar cane plantatations, overlooking a picture perfect beach. “Did you find us all right?” enquired staff member Chibana Kozue. “Some people get lost because we are so out of the way”.

This was not a problem for German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder or Italian Prime Minister Guiliano Amato who arrived with entourages of about 80 each for the Group of Eight Summit last month. The German leader was the first to arrive, by helicopter, a day before Amato. Chibana says she had a stereotypical image of Germans before the visit. She thought the Teutons were stolid, unemotional types, sticklers for rules. Schroeder did not fit this image at all. He was warm, relaxed and friendly and enjoyed his beer every night including Okinawa’s own brew, Orion.

Amato on the other hand, confounding the Italian reputation for flamboyance was quiet and did not drink alcohol, except for a small cup of awamori given to him at the welcoming ceremony. Chibana says the part of the welcoming ceremony Amato enjoyed much more, was the traditional dance performed by a group of children from Ginoza, some of whom took the part of shisa dogs.

The two leaders usually ate in different restaurants. Schroeder liked eating outside, so his dining location was switched to allow him to do this. He seemed to relish all aspects of Okinawa’s tropical setting, including the flaming torches lighting the tables at night. This was perhaps natural for someone who comes from a colder country than the Italian. Amato by contrast, in whose country eating al fresco is very much the norm, usually preferred to dine within the air conditioned comforts of the hotel’s Verdemar restaurant, which specializes in Mediterranean cooking.

A Tokyo chef who specializes in Italian cooking and his assistant were brought over to help cater for the hotel’s distinguished guests. These two will come again to help stage the Italian Fair, a full course dinner on October 9, expected to cater for 100 diners at two sittings.

The Nikko Alivila did not make any special alterations to the hotel in preparation for Summit week. The only difference was that it could not take ordinary guests from July 18 until the end of the Summit on July 23 (which could have been a maximum of about 800 for its 400 rooms). Instead it adapted to taking care of its unusual clientele of the German and Italian heads of state and their entourages.

Chibana says the Summit gave the hotel a great deal of positive publicity and that among the staff there was elation and the feeling that they had handled well an assignment with unusual difficulties and sensitivities. She says the mood of triumph after the event has made most of the staff much more confident now.

They were touched by the departure of Schroeder, whose helicopter lifted off and slowly circled the hotel as the Chancellor waved from one of the windows. They were all present at the leaders’ departures, which they had not been at their arrivals, for security reasons.

When Amato left it was raining heavily outside, so the farewell ceremony had to be held indoors, which Chibana says was a nice way to say goodbye, more intimate than the outdoor ceremonies.

During their stay neither of the leaders occupied the hotel’s premier suite, as it would have sent the signal that one was more important than the other. Instead both stayed in very comfortable but second ranking accommodation.

Staying anywhere in this hotel would not be a hardship. Its pale pink washed stone arches, ceramic tiled benches, intriguing alcoves and palm fronds lend it the atmosphere of an Andalucian palace which has somehow magically manifested on the shores of an island in the Pacific.

The Italian Prime Minister and the German Chancellor probably take back memories of their stay every bit as warm as the ones they left behind among the staff of the Hotel Nikko Alivila.

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