I no longer remember exactly, but to add an insult to the injury, the Japanese rights were sold to Shueisha’s arch rivals, Kodansha. I knew our rights department had fought and negotiated hard for our international editions, but to no avail. I remember some clever literary agent summing it up for me. There is no such thing as exclusive rights any more, that the rights now could be infinitesimally divisible. Whew!!

Soon the pattern followed when Playboy bought a bunch of short stories by Gabriel García Márquez, our internal table of contents started showing up with NO FOREIGN RIGHTS stamps in the bold type face. In my naiveté, I show up at García Márquez’ agent Carmen Balcell’s office in Barcelona.  I offer her $10,000.00 for foreign rights. She all but laughs me out of her office. But considering that after all I was a señor de Playboy, gives me as a gift, the original first edition of the master’s El Amor en los Tiempos de Cólera. The book I still cherish and from which read a paragraph now and then and be in awe of how fluid his original words in Spanish are.

Even though this phenomena of  NO FOREIGN RIGHTS  by now is more of a norm than an exception, I am still prepared to face the “squad” with whatever grill worthy issues they may have to confront me with.

But wonder of all wonders, this time around, not only they don’t have any bones to pick with Chicago, there are absolutely no group meetings planned. My whole week of already being in Japan and not wanting to see them so that I would have a better feeling of things Japanese, have thrown them off balance. Instead they have decided to meet with me individually or in pairs to discuss with me section-by-section of how they envision the future editorial direction of the magazine and are eager for my input. And even more astonishing is: other than a perfunctory quick visit to the editorial department, they have arranged to meet with me informally at cafes and bars. In restaurants and talk over lunches. Absolutely un-Japanese thing to do.

I guess I have earned my stripes over the five years since my last visit to Tokyo by collaborating closely with them and having facilitated several mutually profitable special projects. My week long trip through their country expressly designed to get know them better has added to the PR rhetoric from Lee and Ray. It has become clear to Shueisha, that Shah-san is not there to lecture them. That honest to God, as communicated to them, I am indeed there to roll up my sleeves and become a part of their team  in Tokyo and their solid ally when back in Chicago. They are appreciative and welcoming in the way I would have never imagined the Japanese would ever do.

I am overwhelmed by the biggest honor bestowed upon me one evening by the top Shueisha executive Mr. Tadashi Wakkana by hosting a dinner for me at the garden restaurant Happoen. Invited are about twenty of the company’s top executives and the editorial staff of Playboy.

It’s a traditional Japanese affair in which we are all seated on the floor in a large circle and are being entertained by a group of Geishas. What I remember fondly of that evening and with a smirk on my face is: as we settle down, an aging and experienced Geisha kneels down in front of me. She is holding a platter full of little ceramic Sake cups surrounding the tokkuri (carafe), ready to be filled . The polite most and the traditional thing for me to do would have  been to motion her to fill the cup and then wait for all the glasses being served and for Mr. Wakkana to propose a toast.

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