Most of the inhabitants here have some connection or other with the
demimonde business to earn their keep. A married man, working at some
post with a fantastic title on the brothel's floor, would get busy
there like a bellboy, announcing the visit of customers, keeping
tallies of visitors' foot-gears and jingling the droll ritual bell
every now and then. But how funny it is to see his wife sending off her
husband in 'haori' from their home! According to the lustral practice
of his profession, she would strike a fire out of her flint and steel
at his back.
However, this practice is justifiable if we think of his risk of
being incidentally involved in any pattern of violent mass-murder or
coerced double-suicide, which is all too familiar in that town of
passion and agony. So the husband and the wife may not see each other
forever after their parting. Nonetheless, he would go out for such a
lethal post as if for pleasure!
Then, what are they about? Some one is said to be a sub-attendant to
a certain 'Miss' of a court-lady's name in the brothel O'Magaki, and
the other is said to belong to a certain brothel at Hichiken and is
seen hustling about the street with a sign-lantern in hand as a guide
to the prostitutes who are called for from one brothel to another. But
what, after all, are they going to be?
A fashionable woman of about thirty, dressed in gingham clothes and
wearing dark blue socks on leather-soled sandals, would often be seen
walking with a bulky thing in the wrapper at her side. No one asks what
she is, much less what she is carrying. By her purposeful rat-tat-tat
on the approach-bridge to the teahouse door she would report her
coming, and say: “No going way round! Let me fork out this over here.”
Mention must be made that she passes locally for a custom tailoress.
Generally speaking, the mode of life of this place differs very much
from other districts. Few girls look tidy with their sash (obi) tied at
the back. They love fashionable broad affairs and girdle them around
the waist without a tie. Let alone the adults, the elusive elegance of
saucy middle teens childishly blowing a ground-apple in their cheek is
a repulsive sight. However, we can hold nobody to blame, because it is
a characteristic of the place.
The prostitute, who yesterday was going by some gorgeous name after
Wistaria, being united overnight to Kichi, a cock of the street, is
running a small wayside grill today under his direction. When dead
broke, she might very well go home again to roost. In view of her
professional airs exercising more attraction than ordinary women, there
is no fry but take to her pattern.
Just for instance, see how they take part in the farce at the
autumnal festival. Their mimic performance after Rohachi and the dance
after Eiki are only wonderful. What would Mencius' mother say at their
speedy accomplishment? A cheer or two of 'well done' for a tot of seven
or eight will make him so self-conceited as to leave home with 'just
one round as usual for this evening' after a professional's manner. And
by the time this little wretch grows into the middle teens, so rapidly
would his precocity make its progress that he never goes out without
wearing a towel on his shoulder and humming spicy songs all the way.
And then what?
In the singing class at school, boys would beat time over their sober
lessons with the tune of a popular note of 'gitchon-chon.' During a
school athletic meeting, they might not abstain from rooting for their
exercises with the terrible tune of 'kiyari-bushi.' What will
schoolmasters do with them?
Not far from Iriya in the midst of this earthy quarter, there was a
small private school, called Ikuei-sha. In spite of being a private
institution, it had an enrolment of almost 1,000 almost overflowing
every class-room. This prosperity naturally spoke of the schoolmaster's
popularity, and it went simply by the name of 'school.'
Pupils were from varied kinds of families. Some were sons of either
firemen or scaffold-builders. They were so sagacious as to know of
themselves what their parents were about. One of them would say 'my pop
is at the watchshed near the drawbridge.' And the other would
eloquently announce in proper techniques such as 'peeking at the love'
when they are playing at ladder drill. One may be a pettifogger's son,
and the other may be a petty collector's to be hired by some restaurant
or brothel. The latter would be so shy as to blush at his playmate's
word for fun that your pop is a horse's what?' (The collector must walk
at the debtor's heels like a horse.) Mention may not be omitted of the
boy of a brothel owner. He was brought up by his parents as the apple
of their eye.
He was under the lavish care of many attendants at the brothel's
dormitory. So he put on the airs of a blue blood. In fact, he cut a
figure with his perfect composure in a tufted cap and clean-cut dress.
Just see how those, who have some connection or other with the brothel
for their living, were currying favor with this spoiled boy, calling
him courteously 'Master! Master!'
Outstanding in these flocks of notorious characters was a boy under
the name of Shinnyo of Ryugeji-temple. He had a fine head of hair, to
be missed before long, as he was promised to go into holy orders to
succeed his father in the temple sooner or later. He was
religious-minded, if he really meant so or not at his age, and diligent
as well. Above all, he was gentle by nature. But it went sadly against
his classmates that they often played miscellaneous practical jokes
upon him. One day, for instance, they brought a dead cat in a rope, and
left it to him to read the burial service of his profession. However,
the story is now a thing of the past. At present, he is looked up to as
No. I in school, and is not insulted any more.
He is fifteen, and is of average height with his hair close-cropped
like their boys. However, he looked somewhat uncommon, and though they
were asked to read his name in the commoner's way as Fujimoto-Nobuyuki,
the stock of his priesthood was likely to betray itself.