As much as I love Japanese food, raw fish as in sushi and sashimi and all, I just haven’t acquired taste for the two of their most traditional beverages. Green tea and Sake. And what I really feel like having is and normally drink with the Japanese food is one of their great beers – fresh and chilled.  Either Kirin or Sapporo. But at the time, I am in my newly acquired taste for the crisp and cold Asahi Dry phase. I almost accept the cup of Sake, and then thinking to myself, that would mean an evening full of drowning the potent liquor that I didn’t care for in the first place, why not be honest and have a beer instead? After all, I am the guest of honor! I also know that by then I have accumulated fair amount of capital in the goodwill, perhaps I can risk just a little bit of it and dare order a glass of the thirst quenching beer instead.

So I ask the Geisha, whether they had any beer? For a moment, just for a split second, there is a palpable hush in the room. I have knowingly committed a faux pas. But then, without missing a beat, from the opposite side of the circle, Mr. Wakkana commands: ‘I’ll have a beer too!’ And guess what? Everybody in the room orders biru. Very Japanese thing to do. Deru kui wa utareru. Literally: Nail that sticks out, gets hammered  down!

It turns into a lovely evening. Along with the exquisite food, first the beer and than the Sake also flows. Rest of my stay goes well. The discussions, the agreements, the concrete plans and the time table for their execution of editorial changes and the promotion to follow.

But there still had to be a group meeting. Not the kind I remember from my earlier visit, cooped up in a windowless corporate meeting  room, sitting around with a group of editors at a long conference table with me alone on the opposite side with Kayo or Sasaki sitting next to me to interpret.

This time around, they have another surprise waiting for me. On Thursday afternoon, Sasaki and I board yet another bullet train and head for the resort town Hakone, known for its hot springs and picturesque Mount Fuji, about sixty miles (96 km) south of Tokyo. After having checked into yet another Ryokan, Sasaki escorts me to the inn’s spa featuring its own private hot tub. Sitting around are all the editors I have worked with through the week, naked as jaybirds and sipping on their Kirin beers, the bottles resting by them over the rim. The splashing in the tub and drowning of beer and an elaborate dinner that follows makes for a wonderful farewell. Mission accomplished, I am touched at finally being admitted to their inner circle.

© Haresh Shah 2014

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks

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Next Friday, November 28, 2014

UNDERNEATH HER CLOTHES

You might think that the glamour photographers who shoot the nudes would be devoid of any such male fantasies. After all, what would remain to fantasize about when you see the most beautiful women in their most seductive attributes through your lens and watch them prancing around the studio in the nude, day in and day out?

 

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