As Gianni and Kumiko sat on the floor at the table Gianni thought that a Kaiseki dinner is the only way possible to end this perfect day. Kaiseki is a dinner made up of the very best in ingredients, the very best in preparation and the very best in presentation. The cook prepares the collection of the best of all Japanese delicacies and presents them in the most beautiful way possible. Gianni had never had kaiseki before but he had heard of it. First came a beautiful assortment of sashimi served on the most beautiful earthenware and beautifully arranged. Gianni could see that every aspect of this meal was done in a superb way.

They didn’t speak for the first part of the dinner, neither of them knew where to start; their thoughts and feelings were high on a non-verbal level and both feared any words could break the magical spell. Gianni Finally broke the silence,

“What other possible kind of meal could we have after an amazing day like today?

“You are right, kaiseki is the ultimate in a meal and this was the ultimate in a day. Do we have to go back to reality or was today reality. I want to stay in this reality”

“I think this is part of our reality but the other part is pretty wonderful too; I’ve always wanted to conduct and I’m doing that and you love music and you’re studying that.”

“Of Course, I feel very lucky”

But Gianni could see that there was something more working in Kimono’s thoughts.

“You are thinking about much more that the orchestra rehearsal tomorrow right now, do you feel like talking about it?”

Kumiko was very quiet and had even stopped eating; she just sat and stared at her sake glass. Gianni was sure she was getting preoccupied with their age difference but he was afraid to start talking about it because of the deep and real fear that if it were discussed it just might bring Kumiko to a decision to end this new and unique relationship; he wasn’t ready to take that chance although he knew a discussion of that was inevitable. He held his glass up to Kumiko,

“Kompai, here’s to one of the most wonderful days I’ve ever had”

“Kompai, Gianni.”

Gianni couldn’t hold back his fears any longer,

“We both know that the age difference between us is not ideal for a happy relationship, is that what’s bothering you?”

“Oh Gianni, no. No Gianni sensei. Please forgive me for my small moodiness, but my thoughts are absolutely not concerned about our age difference, please don’t worry about that”

“Thank you for saying that but I do worry about it, it’s part of that other reality we were talking about.”

“You are right again Gianni sensei but have you followed through with your thoughts? If you were younger you would not be the man I know that has become so important in my life and if I were older I surely would not be the Kumiko that you spent this magical day with. Both of us are unique people; of course, any successful relationship for us will also be unique.”

Gianni was relived, at least for the moment, that subject of age was becoming less painful. But at the moment he was primarily concerned about what it was that was troubling Kumiko.

“Thank you for saying that, I guess you’ve sensed that was on my mind but don’t you want to talk to me about whatever it is that is on your mind? We start to know each other now; perhaps it’s time to move our verbal communication to a new level like we have other aspects of our relationship.”

Kumiko was quick to respond,

“Perhaps it’s that our relationship, moving into a new dimension, has opened thoughts in my mind that I have been avoiding. I am simply more future conscious than I can remember ever being. Excuse me for being selfish.”

“I don’t think that’s being selfish, it’s one of the principal aspects of our species, unlike the other beasts on this planet we are able to think in the passed present and future at the same time, most of the time that’s an advantage for us but sometimes it’s very difficult. Another advantage is that people who care about each other can talk.”

Kumiko smiled and laughed a little.

“Sensei, you are a wise and very persistent man. Don’t you think it’s natural after a day like today that my thoughts go into the future? And I think I am selfish again, it’s not necessarily our future I’m thinking about, it’s my future.”

Gianni was pleased to hear this kind of conversation from Kumiko; he could already tell he was about to learn more about her very soon.

“When I was a little girl in Kyoto I dreamed of two things; I wanted to be a musician and I wanted to be a Geisha. Please don’t think that’s strange, many young girls, especially in Kyoto wanted to be Geishas. They were a part of Kyoto life, there were parts of Kyoto where many Geisha lived and worked. I would see them almost every day, and they always looked so beautiful. As I grew older I learned more about them, I even knew some of them. A few were very kind to me and I would often meet them when I went in to the city, they would buy me treats, they knew my name and I was sure they knew my father. It was an honorable profession, many people misunderstand what Geisha are, especially people from the west.”

The room servant brought next dishes of the kaiseki which was a wonderful grilled fish and both Gianni and Kumiko had started eating, it had become a pleasant meal again with conversation that was expanding their relationship. They were both aware that this conversation which had worried them was not as difficult as they thought it would be, what was difficult was getting the conversation started. Gianni asked the question now that was most on his mind.

“Is your job as a hostess related to the fact that you wanted to be a Geisha?”

“Yes, of course, and The Designer Club could be very easily be viewed as the natural evolution of the Geisha world. The history of the Geisha has always been changing especially since the war and during the last decade the tradition has almost come to an end, The Designer Club may be the new manifestation of the Geisha world. I am proud of this new world and I am proud to be a hostess at The Designer Club. I think you know now that The Designer Club in unique in all Japan but Kamei san is very aware that there are several new clubs in Tokyo and one in Kyoto that are copying The Designer Club. Kamei san sees this as a good thing.”

Suddenly Gianni was very unsure of himself, he had not really addressed before this moment the fact that Kumiko was a hostess and with that also came the chronic insecurity he felt from the age difference and now suddenly the conversation got difficult again; how could he say what he was thinking when he wasn’t even sure of his thoughts?

“Do you envision yourself being a hostess for the future?”

“You still ask difficult questions Gianni sensei. I enjoy being a hostess and I have thought very little about changing to something else. Of course, I’m very aware that something new and important is happening in my life now, I will watch as things develop”

And still another course of the kaiseki was served; Gianni was experienced enough to know that either this conversation needed to slow down for the day or that the sake had to stop. Kumiko picked up the pitcher and poured Gianni another glass. Gianni was relieved, the decision had been made for him and he knew he still needed thinking time to be sure not make serious mistakes with his words.

They were quiet again, the kaiseki was wonderful and they were still very happy. Gianni relaxed and began to enjoy the moment. Kumiko was less relaxed; she put down her glass and started to talk again.

“While I was in Zurich I majored in Languages and international relations and have a masters degree in both”.

“I’ve been wondering what languages you speak”

“Of course, English, German and French and I can understand and speak a little Italian and Spanish.”

“It seems to me that with all those languages plus Japanese and a masters degree in linguistics and international relations you would be a perfect candidate for a very good position in the government”.

Kumiko seemed more introspective then Gianni had seen before; he could tell she was struggling.

“You are probably right but I think that I must have very strong business genes not to mention the connections I have through my parents and The Designer Club”

“And where does music fit in this picture.”

The room servant came in with a new portion of the kaiseki, this time it was tempura, presented so beautifully they joked that they should just look at it. It tasted as good as it looked.

“I think you know how important music is to me; I have to have music in my life, but to be true to myself I really don’t think I’m a good enough oboe and English horn player to compete professionally and win a position in an orchestra and if I did win an orchestra job I’m not at all sure I would like that life”

Gianni said nothing but he agreed completely with everything she had just said. Kumiko was a very good player but probably not good enough to win in an orchestra audition. Further, she was so multi-talented that he was sure she would feel quite unfulfilled with an orchestra position. He was pleased Kumiko had the vision to see that.

“Even though I will have a degree in music I think my role in the music world will primarily be as a very appreciative listener.”

“I’m sure you will be that but with your other talents you might very well involve yourself with some aspect of the music business.”

Then the question that Gianni was afraid to ask came to his voice before he had time to filter it.

“How much longer do you expect to stay a hostess at The Designer Club?”

“I know that westerners see the work of a hostess as questionably respectable, I hope you do not see it that way but I’m afraid you do. First please let me tell you that it is considered my most Japanese people as respectable and particularly The Designer Club is respectable as well as prestigious; please remember The Designer Club is probably the number one hostess club in Japan. Although I think what I’m about to tell you is a very private matter I am going tell you anyway. I make very good money working at The Designer Club, Kamei san pays all of us very well and the tips we get are far more. So that you will understand why I am not thinking about changing my profession soon, I will tell you that it is not at all unusual for me to get ¥ 100,000 from a guest in one night and frequently more than that. Why should I look into another profession as long as I am attractive and can be charming?”

Kumiko filled Gianni’s glass with sake and Gianni drank most of it. The thought of Kumiko accepting these huge amounts of money from her very rich guests was very unsettling, as well as the fact she had no inclination to change. It all reached Gianni at the most basic level and as he was very much aware of his western background. He remembered hearing somewhere since his arrival in Japan some one joking:

“You can take the boy out of the west but you can’t take the west out of the boy”

Right now it wasn’t funny; it was too true. It all was too much: the continuation as a hostess, the fact that it was clear now Kumiko made much more income than he and that most of that formidable income came from the very rich men she entertained. He knew that processing all this information was going to take some time and he knew this night was not the right time to create a problem, but jealousy, and insecurity were in his heart and mind.

“Gianni sensei, I think I am understanding you better than you think I am, please be patient, all things will be better understood with time. Let’s finish and enjoy this wonderful meal and celebrate this wonderful day”

She filled Gianni’s glass again and held his hand for a moment.

“Your smile melts me, you are truly a magical woman”

“Do you believe in Magic Gianni?”

“I don’t know but I love dealing with the question. I will tell you this though, those people who do believe in magic always seem to be attracted to me”

“And how did you happen to fine The Designer Club that first time?”

“It was random, I was just walking and I saw the entrance.”

“And what are the chances of that happening randomly, what were the chances of our meeting in The Designer Club? Had you ever heard of The Designer Club, did someone recommend it to you?”

“Well if it were magic then who caused it? Was it you?”

“I wanted so badly to meet you away from school, I think you know sensei and students are not supposed to be friends. I wished so much you would walk through that entrance. And you; I could see you wanted to meet me too. Do you think it’s possible we caused together your footsteps to lead you The Designer Club?”

“I really don’t know but I can say that what ever caused my footsteps to go there I am very thankful”

“Does that mean you are a religious man?”

If Kumiko was trying to get Gianni’s mind off the hostess scenario with the jealousies and insecurities she was doing a very good job.

“In my mind religion is not so different from magic and my answer is the same; I am a fascinated skeptic.”

“I like the way you think Gianni, is it possible the thoughts you cause through your skepticism form your philosophies of life”?

“I enjoy thinking about them but I would have trouble if I found myself dependent on them. When something unbelievable happens, like me walking into The Designer Club, I just like to say thank you for this incredible coincidence and move on to enjoying it or whatever is appropriate.”

The last part of the kaiseki was served; it was a beautiful assortment of fruit, some of which Gianni had never seen before.

“Shall I call the driver now, it will take 3 hours to get back to Hiroshima.”

They said thank you to the room servant and the woman at the reception desk, the driver took their bags, and opened the door to the car for them. Gianni put his arm around Kumiko and she put her head on his shoulder, in five minutes they were both asleep.

It was the lights of Hiroshima that woke them. Gianni said,

“We’ll take you home first. I don’t even know where you live.”

“No, please you first”

And Gianni understood as Kumiko told the driver to go to the Rihga Royal Hotel. At the hotel they kissed goodbye and as Gianni got out they said they would see each other tomorrow.

Continue to Section 11: Orchestra Rehearsal, The Real Designer Club

Copyright 2005. Design by Rose Schweikhart