The New Guest

The following week Gianni was having his sushi dinner at Sushi Koh. He had learned in his Japanese lessons how to ask for the sushi chef’s choice, which was always pleasant and interesting. And at the last Japanese lesson he learned how to ask for unusual things. Gianni got what he asked for; most of the exotic offerings were unidentifiable, and he didn’t have the language efficiency to ask what they were, but he liked everything; sushi was getting more and more interesting and he enjoyed trying many new things this night. He said sayonara to Sadayuki, the sushi chef, and took the walk to The Designer Club.

The Designer Club was always in perfect order but tonight things seemed especially prepared. Gianni couldn’t tell what but something was special was going to happen. One thing that was clearly different was that all the hostesses were warring kimonos. This was the first time Gianni had ever seen Kumiko in a kimono and again her beauty amazed him. The kimono was a very dark blue with an extraordinary array of hand painted exploding fireworks; her obi was a rich crimson red with a gold sun rising from a bronze mountainous skyline. Gianni knew little about such things, but he could tell this kimono was one of a kind and that someone of awesome skill and artistry had created it. He was also pleased to see that she had finally left the sequined high heels behind and was wearing the traditional tabi, the white socks that separated the big toe from the other four.

Gianni went to sit with Kumiko, who was sitting alone at the corner of the largest table. As Gianni took the seat at the head of the table to be as close to her as possible, Kumiko asked him to please sit in the seat opposite her so she could look at him. Gianni started the conversation with questions about the St. Lucia University of Music just to make another try at putting her music student status in the conversation.

“I didn’t see you at school today; do you practice there or at home?”

“In my dreams I would like to be a music student, I would like to have you as my sensei but today was a day of preparing for our visit of Kamei san.”

“Who in Kamei san?”

“Oh, he is our very special guest, he doesn’t come here very often but when he does we feel it is a very special occasion.”

“Why is he so special?”

“He loves this club and he loves everyone who works here. He is one of Japan’s most famous clothes designers. I see you like my kimono, Kamei san designed this kimono and presented it to me as a gift”

For the first time Gianni felt a twinge of jealousy regarding Kumiko, he had never given her a gift. Gianni was an enthusiastic but amateur jewelry designer, and he had already imagined the necklace, earrings and ring he would like to have made for Kumiko. But now in comparison to this overwhelmingly beautiful and unique kimono, Gianni felt quite inferior, it reminded him of his orchestra days when he was back stage standing next to Isaac Pearlman.

With great pride Kumiko described the kingdom of the Kamie Design. He started as a younger man designing scarves and slowly progressed to women’s clothes, then men’s clothes, jewelry, and according to Kumiko, somewhat embarrassingly to the famous Kamei fragrance, Geisha. Gianni was nervous and curious about meeting this extraordinary man.

Suddenly there was a commotion at the entranceway, and Gianni heard Miho san talking in a much higher and more excited way than her normal rich and reserved manner. As the door opened into the bar and sitting room, Gianni saw a tall slender man enter. He was older than Gianni, but radiated high energy. Immediately, everyone was on their feet and headed toward the door. Kamei san hugged and kissed all the girls and bowed to Sato san; Gianni could not remember ever seeing anyone bow as low as Sato san when he greeted Kamei san. Gianni did not know how to behave. He stood by the table at the other end of the room, watching the highly animated and excited chatter around Kamei san, not knowing if he should wait at the table, or go to where everybody was standing. Just as he started to move toward the crowd, Kamei san looked at him, and very quickly came over and introduced himself.

“Hello, You must be Maestro Giovanni Grosso. I’m so very happy to meet you! I know all about you - my name is Junichi Kamei.”

Gianni was so overwhelmed by this high-energy introduction that it took him a moment to absorb the fact that Kamei san was talking to him in perfect Italian.

“Please sit down; come everybody, please come and sit down.”

This time in English!

All the girls came to the table. Kamei san took the place at the head of the table, Kumiko sat at the corner, and Gianni opposite her; all the remaining places were filled by the other girls.

Before Gianni could recover from this explosion of energy, Sato san was bringing in trays of sushi, numerous other delicious morsels and an abundance of cold sake and beer.

Finally Gianni found a space in the continuous table conversation to ask,

“How do you come to speak such perfect Italian?”

“Oh Maestro, we both know it’s not perfect, but perhaps you’ve heard I am in the fashion business… Italy is the world center of that business; I have to speak Italian. You are from Firenze, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I lived there until about twenty years ago.”

“What a beautiful city! Kamei Design has a store there and we have a villa in Fiesole; do you know Fiesole?”

“Of course, the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole is where I started conducting when I was working with the Orchestra Giovanile Italiana.”

“Oh, that’s on via Fontenelle; our villa is very close to the music school - where do you stay when you work in Fiesole?”

“I stay at the Hotel Villa Aurora at the top of the road in Piazza Mino.”

“That’s a wonderful place, and the restaurant downstairs on that terrace over looking Firenze is one of the best restaurants in the city. It would be wonderful if we could manage to be there at the same time some day.”

“Well, I really don’t teach there any more… I did teach there for 17 years, and I hope to visit for one or two weeks a year for master classes. It’s such a beautiful place and very special; there’s no other music school in the world quite like it and I’m sure I’m going to miss it.”

As they talked, Gianni noticed that Kamei san had the same conversational gift as Kumiko; he was leading the conversation the way he wanted it to go, and Gianni was feeling very comfortable with that. As Gianni looked across the table at Kumiko in her unbelievable work of art that was her kimono and that had been a gift from Kamei san, Gianni wondered what the history was between the two of them. Whatever the history was, it was abundantly clear that at this moment, Kumiko seemed radiantly pleased and happy.

Gianni was happy that he had already had sushi for dinner, because the delicious morsels that kept coming were so good that if he hadn’t eaten, he would surely be making a pig of himself by this time.

For the first hour or so after Kamei san’s arrival, Gianni was a little uncomfortable; Kamei san was a designer, and was dressed immaculately in the elegant casual clothes he had probably designed. He had also designed that beautiful work of art, the kimono Kumiko was wearing. Further, he was struck by the fact that through the whole time, Kamei san was clearly focused in him, and not the many beautiful women. For a short time, Gianni thought he might be gay. He was a little ashamed because he considered himself a liberal sophisticated man but still he was more at ease when he determined Kamei san was straight. Gianni was not sure exactly what convinced him, but he was sure it had something to do with the fact that there was something significant in the history between the Kamei san and Kumiko. This both comforted and troubled him; what was this obvious connection?

Sato san appeared with a new supply of beer and sake. Gianni’s musical ear alerted him that the pitch, dynamic, and tempo of the table conversation were slowly getting higher. The games, riddles, stories, songs and dancing were all getting more and more amusing. Laughter was becoming more frequent, and when some of the girls started to dance, falling down in uncontrolled laughter, it was clear that the party had reached a new level. Gianni was laughing just as hard as everybody else.

Suddenly Kamei san sprang to his feet yelling,

“It’s time to play dragon”

Kumiko screamed and giggled,


And she got up and ran to a place as far away from Kamei san as possible in screaming hysterical laughter. Kamei san now became the scary monster, growling, flailing and attacking the damsel in distress. Suddenly he was on his hands and knees doing a very convincing choreography of a dragon on the attack. When he yelled to Gianni to come and help, it was too much for just one dragon, for two or three seconds Gianni froze not knowing what to do. In an instant he filled his sake glass, downed it in one gulp, repeated the same thing a second time, slammed his glass on the table and hit the floor on his hands and knees and became the fiercest Asian dragon he could be.

The girls were running in all directions laughing and screaming and Kamei san and Gianni were crawling and roaring after them, at last the dragons had managed to corner Kumiko, force her to the floor and then in spontaneous improvised unison roared and pounded their chests. That was as far as it could go with everybody; Kamei san and Gianni fell to the floor in convulsive laughter, Kumiko stood up and faced the corner with her hands over her mouth laughing with tears coming out of her eyes and the other girls were in various states of trying to get to their feet but when they would look at each other the laughter hit them again so hard they fell back to the floor. Slowly over about the next five minutes everybody returned to being moderately composed. The first one to speak was Kamei san:

“Oh! My sides hurt so much from laughing.” Suddenly everyone had a relapse and the laughter erupted again.

“ This isn’t funny any more; it hurts too much!”

There was one more burst of laughter.

It was late, the party was over and both Kamei san and Gianni stood at the same time and said thank you and good night in their own ways. As Gianni past Kumiko on his way to the door she touched his hand and gave it a small squeeze, no one noticed except Gianni.

Passing to the exit Miho san gave Gianni his credit card and said that there was nothing to sign tonight. All that Gianni could think of the say was thank you. On the street Kamei san, Kumiko and all the hostesses said sayonara and that they looked forward to the next meeting.

There was a car waiting for Gianni, the driver got out, opened the door, Kamei san said something to the driver, Gianni got in.

“Thank you and sayonara”

He looked back and they waved until the car drove out of sight.

Continue to Section 6: The Tuna Eye, The Envelope

Copyright 2005. Design by Rose Schweikhart