Mansai Nomura gave his first kyogen performance at age 4, appeared in Akira Kurosawa’s “Ran” at age 17 and began lecturing in aesthetics at Tokyo University when he was 25. No wonder he hadn’t much time for my tardiness.

I scrambled into the hotel lounge, sopping with sweat and chilled by the sudden drop in temperature, to be met by Mansai wearing cool linen and a look of obvious irritation. First he looked at his watch, then he reached for cigarettes and finally he acknowledged my fevered apologies. A terrible start.

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