FOR a long time now, the Singapore Embassy in Tokyo has been holding National Day receptions in early September, rather than on August 9, or close to that official date.
The apparent reason is that because August is particularly hot and muggy in Tokyo, many VIPs tend to escape to cooler climes during this season, leaving their junior officers to attend receptions on their behalf.
So the National Day reception was shifted to early September to ensure that more VIPs will turn up.
In addition to the main reception largely for Japanese and other foreign guests, the embassy also holds a second reception just for Singaporeans and their spouses, at which a videotape of the National Day Parade is played, Singapore food such as chicken rice and laksa is served and everyone is updated on developments back home.
This year's reception for Singaporeans, held last Thursday, saw the participation of some unusual guests – the Singapore contingent to the Asian Youth Para Games which runs from Sep 11-13 in Tokyo.
Together with officials and volunteers, the Singapore team in their red and white uniforms filed into the huge hall to the sound of thunderous applause from the several hundred guests present.
The AYPG is for disabled youths aged 14 to 19 years old from Asian countries who compete in six sports — athletics, boccia, goalball, swimming, table tennis and wheelchair tennis.
The AYPG replaces the FESPIC (Far East and South Pacific) Games for disabled youths that were last held in Hong Kong in 2003.
The Singapore athletes include Benson Tan Eng Kiong, 18, who is taking part in the backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle 100 metre swimming events. So too will Lawrence Tay Wei Siang, who is 15 years old. Sixteen-year-old Fitri bin Amran is taking part in the long jump and the 400 metres race.
Some of the Singapore athletes. From left: Lawrence Tay Wei Siang, 15, Fitri bin Amran, 16 and Benson Tan Eng Kiong, 18. PHOTO: Kwan Weng Kin
To cheer the team on was Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Mr Teo Ser Luck, himself a well-known sportsman and triathlete.
SPS Teo Ser Luck enjoys talking to some of the Singaporeans who attended the reception. PHOTO: Kwan Weng Kin
Addressing the Singaporeans at the reception, Mr Teo said: "I thought it would be meaningful to include our athletes in this gathering so that they can hear the cheers and encouragement from you all too. It would be a big morale booster for them.
"Because of their physical limitations, they face more barriers than able athletes. I wish them all the best," he added.
He also told the Straits Times that he had come to Tokyo to see how the Japanese hosts organise the opening ceremony and the logistics.
But Mr Teo had one more thing on his mind that night – finding out how Singaporeans were doing in Japan.
"Everyone has his or her own story to tell," said Mr Teo, after mingling with the guests. "Some have been in Japan for over 20 years but still keep in touch with Singapore."
"But I think some of them do not know who their MPs are," he laughed.
Reiterating an oft-repeated call by the government to Singaporeans abroad not to stay away permanently, Mr Teo first words to the gathering had been: "On behalf of Singapore, we miss you very much!"
Before the laughter had died down, he added: "Make sure you come back, or come back more often!"
Having spoken with the extremely gregarious Mr Teo and watching him in action here, I think many of those present that night would probably want to tell him: "We miss you too!"