When I was buying antiques on Shinmonzen-dori in Kyoto, I'd have lunch at Tsubosake's, a walk of a few blocks in the delightful Gion district.

Another local habit was to buy cookies at a small shop in the building next door to the Minamiza Theater nearby the restaurant. On this particular day, I'd finished my lunch sooner than Teiichi Hazu, my friend and purchasing agent. I excused myself, said I'd be back in a few minutes and went to get my cookies. The woman running the shop recognized me as a long-time customer and handed me the package without my asking for it.

When I returned, I offered Tsubosake-san a cookie. With a sad smile, he took the entire package and thanked me for my consideration and understanding.

After we left the restaurant, I asked Hazu-san what was that all about. Why did Tsubosake-san, with such an unhappy expression, take the package and sound so grateful?

Hazu explained. The grandson had just died, and my cookies were understood to be a gift to the little boy.

I remembered the boy very well. At an earlier visit, he had proudly shown me a live lobster on a leash. He led it across the room.