A professor of agriculture and fisheries, from Tokyo, travelled with a Chinese fisheries graduate for a two week meeting in Harbin.
He said that the 82 year-old Emperor of Japan was in a critical state, and still having blood transfusions.
Emperor Hirohito was popular, and up to a thousand people a day made a pilgrimage to the Imperial Palace to pay their respects.
"It is said that when the Emperor dies, many of his generation will go with him," the professor added.
I took this to mean seppuku, or ritual suicide; it seemed like something out of a James Clavell novel.
A Chinese man who had the habit of growling up his phlegm, filled the fourth place. He peeled two apples, while the professor drank Coke and read a book.