My taxi rounded the street past the Emperor's palace. I noticed seated to my right was my recently departed friend.
"Tsrutua-san," I exclaimed, "I thought you were dead!"
"Oh, come on, Meetch," he replied in his heavily accented English. "So how is everyone?"
I gave him an update on everyone I saw over the holiday season, and added "Everyone will be so happy to hear that you aren't dead!"
He nodded absently as the cab pulled up and deposited us in front of a hotel in Roppongi. We went into the lobby where Tsuruta-san introduced me to a gaggle of Japanese men in business suits. Some were from Matsushita, some from Sanyo, some from Sharp, and a few were from companies I wasn't familiar with. As I did the American bow-and-shake I thought how unusual it was to find a mixed crowd. That sort of thing just doesn't happen in Japan.
After introductions were made Tsuruta-san turned to me, "Okay, Meetch, now we leave. You must stay here."
"I can't go drinking with you?"
"No. You must stay here."
Tsuruta-san and the men receded further into the hotel. He turned one last time to wave at me, looking noticeably younger as he got further away.