Junichi Kamei

As he approached the door his heart beat faster, he knew what he had said and done the night before to the woman he loved in the place he loved and he was not happy with himself.

It was 16:55. There was no tuxedo-clad doorman this time, no automatic door opening. Gianni found a pushbutton for a doorbell that he had never seen before; he took a deep breath and pushed it. After a moment the door opened and a man Gianni had never seen gestured for him to come in. Gianni followed the man into the main room and the man gestured for him to enter one of the smaller adjacent meeting rooms and take a seat at the table. Somehow Gianni was having trouble associating this environment with the happy interior of The Designer Club that he knew so well. Suddenly through another door to the meeting room Kamei san entered and abruptly took the seat opposite Gianni at the table. Gianni was prepared to thank Kamei san for the trip to Kyoto but at seeing him across the table somehow Gianni couldn’t speak.

Kamei san sat stone faced for what seemed to be a very long time just looking at Gianni, suddenly in a voice big, loud and clear he said:


Gianni understood everything even before the resonance of Kamei san’s words faded but he needed time to process a reaction. It was like a hard hit, knocking him off his feet and he was trying to get back up. The fact that Kamei san was Kumiko’s father alone was a huge piece of information.

“Kumiko is not a whore Maestro Grosso, and The Designer Club is not a brothel”

Again Gianni understood completely but was reeling from the impact of Kamei san’s words. What had he done last night, but he did see Kumiko in the arms of another man, what was she doing?

“The man Kumiko was with last night when you came into The Designer Club was Fujito Oyama, a business colleague of mine for many years and one of my very few good friends, he just learned yesterday afternoon that his wife and daughter were killed in an airplane crash. She was trying to comfort him, I was on my way to The Designer Club at the time to try and help him too.”

This was more than Gianni could bear, he covered his face with his hands, and he was breathing hard and absolutely unable to speak. Looking at Kamei san at this moment was unthinkable. He remained in that state for what seemed an interminable length of time; he was beginning to think he would never recover.

Kamei san clapped his hands and the man brought a pitcher of sake, and a pot of tea to the table, Gianni still could not move and was having a difficult time getting his breathing back in rhythm.

“Don’t be too hard on yourself Gianni, you are a good man and a man of passion, you are a musician. Please take a sip of sake, let’s have a man to man talk”

Gianni could hear and he felt his breathing returning to normal but he still could not speak or look at Kamei san.

Kamei san took the cup of sake and handed it to Gianni.

“Take the sake Gianni, you are going to be fine in a few minutes”

Gianni was so over taken with his feelings and he was only now beginning to comprehend that Kamei san, who had every right to be quite angry, was being extremely kind and thoughtful.

Gianni was trying to get control of himself and to speak but he still didn’t know what he wanted to say.

Kamei san said,

“Please take a sip of sake Gianni and take your time, you’ve had an intense few days”

Gianni took the sake and took a big sip. The time to say something was now but the words wouldn’t come, he was ashamed, he was overwhelmingly embarrassed and he was beginning to be aware that he was also in shock. It was becoming clearer what he wanted, what he had to say and Gianni simply was not used to having to humble himself as he knew he must. He sat up straight, wiped his face with his terrycloth handkerchief, cleared his throat and laboriously began to speak.

“Kamei san, I over reacted and ended up hurting Kumiko… your daughter Kumiko, insulting The Designer Club before I waited to understand what was happening and God knows how I must have affected your good friend in a time in his intense grief. And all these things together have affected you, with whom, in a very short time, I have formed a deep respect; can you ever forgive me?

“Gianni, you are a musician, a conductor, I am a clothes designer, and we both know that when this learning process stops we are finished. I know you have learned much in the last days. My respect for you is also deep and I feel sure it will continue to grow. Let us view this stormy story as a stone in the structure of the friendship we are starting to build, let us become wiser men together.”

“Where are the ruthless, heartless Japanese businessmen I have heard about?”

Kamei san laughed a little.

“Please forgive my immodesty for a moment. I am at the top of my business, I don’t have to prove anything to anybody, I only have to be true to myself; my ambitions have been realized and I have no fear of failure.”

Gianni wondered if there was a musician anywhere in the world who felt that secure.

“But Gianni, I think we have more important things to speak about”

Gianni knew that the inevitable conversation about Kumiko was about to begin and he was comfortable, he knew his thoughts well and he was not afraid to express them but the chronic aspect of the age difference was still painful not mention his new anxiety of how Kumiko would view him after his behavior the day before. Would Kumiko be as wise and forgiving as Kamei san?

“Our relationship started like a new version of an old story, a teacher and a student find each other attractive and they enter a flirtation period. But there was much more then just that, I saw the inner beauty that was there and the longer this flirtation continued the more fascinated I became. Did you know that we had never spoken? I asked her once if she spoke English and she just giggled and said skosh! It was just by eye contact and smiles that the attraction continued. Then came that evening when I randomly, just by chance wandered into The Designer Club; it was an amazing moment”

“Randomly, by chance? Destiny is a powerful element in our lives. We open the door in our first conversation for a most profound discourse. I am as amazed as you that you found The Designer Club in that way, whatever the force was that brought you through our door we may never know but it certainly has touched many lives.”

“Seeing Kumiko seated at that table was perhaps the most stunning thing I’ve ever experienced, I would like to know more about how destiny works”

Kamei san smiled and seemed amused.

“So would we all like to know more about the workings of destiny but I think the secret is the way we work with it when it touches us. It’s a fascinating study to try to understand destiny and to muse over the mystery of whether or not we have any control over it but how to control our lives after destiny has touched us if a far more pragmatic study”

Gianni understood Kamei san very well and agreed with him, he wanted to deal with the destiny that Kumiko and he were brought together but didn’t know how to start.

“At this moment I only hope Kumiko will talk to me after last night”

“Gianni san, you know Kumiko well enough now to know that she is quite wise for her years, I feel sure that worrying about her forgiveness is a waste of energy on your part”

“I’m sure you are right but I will feel much better after I have seen and talked to her”

“Please relax Gianni, that time will come soon”

Gianni was sure that if Kamei san was a western man he would probably be a saint.

“Until yesterday everything was perfect with Kumiko and me, that is except the age difference which, is always on my mind, I can’t help thinking about that all the time. Don’t you worry about that being her father?

“Kumiko is a very strong, independent and secure young woman, her mother and I were never faced with any of the accompanying traits of youth that have troubled most parents I’ve known. With Kumiko there were just never any problems, so much so that that fact in itself worried us!”

They both chuckled.

“When she started her education in Switzerland we never once had any moments of worry; she received the maximum high marks at the private school and at the University on Zurich all the way through her master’s degree. As you can imagine we were very proud, but I was aware of something her mother never wanted to face, Kumiko seemed to just bypass her adolescent period, she became a woman too soon. I visited her many times through those years; every time I went to Italy I would go up to Switzerland and stay a few days; this was at least five or six times a year and sometimes much more. But the time we spent together was strange to me, we were much more like good old friends that father and daughter. Well, I have to say very quickly that Kumiko is the only child I have and I have no other reference as to what was normal. I tried to be a realistic example and a good guide; perhaps in my naiveté I simply did the right things.

Gianni finally got up the courage to ask about Kumiko’s mother.

“It certainly seems somebody did many right things but please excuse my curiosity, what was Kumiko’s mother doing through all these school years?”

“Ah, Kumiko’s mother was a different case, when she broke away from Kamei Design and started her own business she became another person, She fell in love with her business and in fact I think she essentially was married to her business. I think, I hope she still cares about Kumiko but I have no idea when the last time they communicated was and I don’t think I’ve seen her for over three years. We are not enemies nor are we friends, she just disappeared. I’ve seen her business goes well but I don’t see her leading the market in anything”.

Gianni was still fascinated about Kumiko’s teen and early twenties years.

“But didn’t Kumiko ever take part in any of the fads and esoteric fashion statements in the period; didn’t she have a boy friend or boy friends? Was she never a rebel?

About boy friends I just don’t know, but as for having a rebellious period, I think she may be passing through that stage now. Have you seen those ridicules shoes she wares?

Gianni laughed.

“Yes, this girl with the most sophisticated tastes wearing those shoes with the silver sequins always has made me wonder.”

Now Kamei san laughed.

Kumiko has always had wonderful taste in the clothing she choose to ware even as a very small girl; as a clothes designer I’m very proud of that. I think that she is passing through a small part of her rebellious period now and the shoes show that. I’m very thankful that she has never been tempted by the present day fads like tattoos or piercing. I don’t think I could bear seeing her with a ring in her nose or a diamond on her lip.

Gianni grimaced.

“I wouldn’t be comfortable with that either. But if the shoes are the only thing I would say you are very lucky”.

Kamei san suddenly got very serious.

“The shoes are not the only thing Gianni san, there is something much more important happening now, Kumiko has fallen in love with a much older man”

Gianni took a deep breath; it was time to discuss that which he avoids thinking about.

“I was sure you would want to talk about that. Personally, even though I try to not to think about it, it seems to always be on my mind”

Kamei san smiled.

“In a way I’m happy to hear that. I would have been quite disappointed if the age difference was a fact that you simply didn’t notice, I also hope it’s something Kumiko notices. First of all let me assure you that I intend to do absolutely nothing to influence any resolution to this situation; it will resolve itself in the right way, whatever the right way is. In fact, what I just said is not quite true; your trip with Kumiko to Kyoto that I arranged was my interference in a way, I knew it would help the two of you to learn more about each other. I’m very happy you had the opportunity to meet Kumiko’s grandmother, which, by the way I can’t take any credit for arranging, however, I have heard that you and she got along beautifully, both Kumiko and I are very fortunate that she is who she is. I also heard about the netsuke she gave you; that was a gift to her from my father when I was a very young boy, I remember I loved to play with that and I thought it was very beautiful. You are lucky to have it and I must also say I am very pleased you have it. Of course, you know as I do, that you are too old for Kumiko but I can tell you that, other than that annoying fact, your seem to be a perfect match for her.

Gianni was deeply touched by what Kamei san had just said and was quite at a loss for words.

“But as you and Kumiko learn more about each other you will have to deal with this reality. Is it destiny’s small joke or is there something far more profound here for the two of you to learn? I’m sure you will find out!

“You are a very wise man Kamei san, I hope we can stay good friends for a very long time”

“Me too, and again we have to trust in destiny.”

Gianni stood and gave a deep bow of respect to Kamei san and Kamei san returned it.

“I must leave here now Gianni san, please wait here a few minutes, someone wants to see you”

Ah, and one more thing that I’m sure will interest you. Kumiko will be having a birthday very soon as I think you know. She is a highly educated and specialized woman, she can handle herself in business, public relations, social grace and diplomacy. The Designer Club is becoming big, it is becoming known in the circles of most powerful men all over Japan, I didn’t intend it to be that way but it would be foolish for us try and stop this growth. Logic tells me it’s time to open a second The Designer Club in Tokyo. I have made the decision to give The Designer Club to Kumiko for her birthday. Of course, I will keep a close watch on how things progress but I am sure in a very short period of time Kumiko will have the vision to guide The Designer Club in the continuing kind of direction that it is now. I know, of course, that change will come, that’s the one thing we can depend on but I am sure that this change will be a positive thing in Kumiko’s hands. She doesn’t know about this yet but I will tell her soon. I know you have asked her how long she intends to stay working at The Designer Club Gianni san; from what I’ve just told you I think you can depend on it being a very long time.”

“That’s a huge piece of information, it will be on my mind and, of course, you can depend on me not telling her. Thank you for this time you have given me this evening Kamei san, it meant a lot”.

“Good-bye Gianni san, I will try and attend one of your concerts as soon as possible”.

Continue to Section 13: How Could You Have Thought Those Things?

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