Hideo Nishimura had been a delightful host. He, and a group of his associates, had entertained me in a manner to which I was not accustomed ... superb food, genuine Geisha ... the works.

We were chatting in the car as his driver approached the south wing of the Hotel Okura. An exceptional evening was coming to a close.

As I was about to get out of the car, I turned to Nishimura-san and said, "I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed your hospitality."

His reaction was immediate ... from a warm smile to a frozen glare. He ordered the driver to leave at once.

The next morning, a friend asked how I'd enjoyed my evening. I told him it was great, but I couldn't understand why Nishimura had left in such a huff.

He asked what I'd done to upset my host.

"No idea," I said. "I told him I couldn't tell him how much I'd enjoyed the evening. That's all."

"That's all, indeed. What you actually said, my gaijin friend, was you couldn't tell him you'd enjoyed the evening. In Japan, we take people literally."