Even more so for our Yastaka Sasaki, who handled Playboy account for our Tokyo rep Ray Falk. Not only was his job to interpret the language portion of our communications with the editors and executives at our Japanese partners Shueisha, but also of making sure that what one of us said or wanted didn’t upset the sensitive cultural differences. Sasaki, as everyone called him, spoke fluent English. Almost instantly, he had earned my respect and if not exactly having become close friends, us two had established a certain honesty and trust into each other that went beyond simply working together. Those five days we spent together crisscrossing Japan sealed our bond which never weakened till the very end.

The last I saw of Sasaki was at my home in Evanston, October of 1993. Officially, I had already departed Playboy, but had invited for one last hurrah the group that had come to Chicago to partake in that year’s International Publishing conference. Turned out to be so much fun that it had to be repeated at the tail end of the conference. No more cigars, bemoaned Jeremy Gordin, the editor-in-chief of about to be launched South African edition. I had cooked Indian food and had caterers supply the rest. Everyone was spread out across several rooms of my house. I remember Sasaki and I, along with the Japanese editor-in-chief, the suave Suzuhito Imai sitting around the glass topped breakfast table in the corner, Jan (Heemskerk) standing by the kitchen counter and looking on. As Jan remembers it, placed in the middle of the table is a bowl full of fire red and deep green ultra dynamite Thai chili peppers. Sasaki picks up the red one and is about to take a bite.

‘Be careful, it will kill you!’ I warn.

‘I don’t think so. I am used to eating hot food.’

‘Yeah, but this is not hot food. This is the killer Thai pepper.’

‘Don’t worry, I can handle it.’

Our hands on our chests and our breathing momentarily suspended, we watch him bite off a chunk bigger than even I ever would dare. As if pierced by a sharp arrow, suddenly his face turns red and then contorted shriveled up fig. Tears begin to roll down his eyes. He runs to the sink, but it’s too late. Like three sadists, Jan and Imai and I laugh our butts off. I told you so. I want to say, but I spare him that bit of insult to his injury.

Beyond that, we may have stayed in touch for a while, but nothing in particular that I remember. Six years later I am living in Prague and am now editor-in-chief of successful Serial magazine, which as the name suggests, is focused on the popular television series. Suddenly, not the prime time, but the Sunday morning cartoon series Pokémon is all the rage on the Czech television. We decide to do cover story on the show. But as with other shows, the information and the images available through the local television network is limited to the press material, which everyone else too has. But I want to do an in-depth, but entertaining and informative feature on the show. I am specifically interested in the character’s creator, the elusive, Satoshi Tajiri. There is not much known about him and there isn’t a single photo of him available to accompany the text. Sasaki somehow manages to send me an old black and white shot of the man. We have a local artist do a color illustration of him.

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