In her memoirs, Barbara Bush described one of those most embarrassing moments that inevitably occur, even on the most carefully advanced of foreign trips. Along with her husband, then the Vice President, Mrs. Bush was lunching with Emperor Hirohito at Tokyo's Imperial Palace.

Sitting next to the Emperor, Mrs. Bush found the conversation an uphill task. To all her efforts at verbal engagement, the Emperor would smile and say "Yes" or "No," with an occasional "Thank You" tossed in for good measure.

Looking around her elegant surroundings, she complimented Hirohito on his official residence.

"Thank you," he said.

"Is it new?" pressed Mrs. Bush.

"Yes."

"Was the old palace just so old that it was falling down?" asked Mrs. Bush.

In his most charming, yet regal, matter, Hirohito replied, "No, I'm afraid that you bombed it."