I have returned to Tokyo that Friday night from our six day long exploratory trip through the country. On Saturday morning, I am met by Yuko Kato of Shueisha. American educated, Yuko is not a part of the creative editorial staff. She is more of an “it” girl who is assigned to expose me to the bustling with colors and the neon lights in the high decibel city of Tokyo. Yuko is in her mid-to late twenties, moon faced – sort of an attractive girl who is brimming with energy and enthusiasm to add and to finish up what Yastaka Sasaki had started out. It’s a rainy and a crowded day. Not that Tokyo is ever without crowd, but it’s Saturday and the people are out in troves, further cramming the space with their colliding umbrellas. Yuko and I huddled under a large umbrella loaned by the hotel, we negotiate the streets and alleys of the city. Duck in and out of the various places that I would visualize years later when I began to read works by Haruki Murakami. Neighborhoods clustered with cafes and jazz clubs and the cozy little bars and down home compact and crowded mom and pop eating places. The dark and narrow alleys, dingy little public establishments, the smallness of everything that would eventually define Tokyo and Japan for me.

After having stuck to the typical Japanese eating places through the week, Yuko takes me to the Italian Toscana and French Ile de France.  At night we end up at the Tokyo branch of the discotheque  Maharaja. We spend most of the Sunday roaming about the all alluring neon signs bedecked Ginza. That night I have a date with uncle Jaman’s publishing associate Frank Watanabe accompanied by Mrs. Watanabe and his son Nori. They take me to Zakuro, an exclusive and expensive Shabu-Shabu restaurant. Sort of like Swiss fondue, cooking your own food in the boiling water in a larger pot, instead of in smaller fondue pot sizzling with oil. We are seated on the floor and are served by traditional Geishas. They prepare the spread for us, making sure that the water is properly heated and spiced and then bowing, reverently walking backwards, leave us to prepare and enjoy our meal. Popping in now and then to make sure our Sake cups are filled and if we’re in need of anything else.

Submerged in all things Japanese for an entire week, now I feel ready to face the Shueisha crowd and hopefully be able to ask and answer and defend a group of them sitting across the long conference table, with me alone on the other side, albeit Sasaki or Kayo Hayashi interpreting by my side.

Even though I have already forgotten about the hot water I had found myself in five years earlier over Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song,  however faint the memory, it still plays out in the front of my eyes.

As I face about ten of them, sitting across the table from me, the showdown about to erupt, conjures up the image of a hundred Kauravas to my lone Arjuna with Krishna as my chariot driver on the battle field of Mahabharata. Me having to fend off my hundred step-brothers, the bows tensed and the arrows ready and pointed at me like in a modern firing squad, over something I had presumed settled between them and the rights manager Jean Freehill in my office. The Japanese language rights to the excerpt  of the Mailer book. That was 1979 and to the best of my memory the beginning of splitting of the rights to the text that was bought by Playboy. Up until then, the rights to the text would normally be available to all of our editions around the world. But not in the case of The Executioner’s Song. The foreign rights were sold separately. Playboy wasn’t even given an option to bid on them.

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