Part 21, The Samurai & The Geisha
Hello Dear Reader,
My name Koniki Watanabe, cousin of Yordie san. I am only girl in family of four bothers. Yordie san came to live with my family during tragedy when she is 16 years. From then, she becomes my big sister to me. She always my sister of the heart.
Yordie san has asked me to tell story of what happened.
Story Begins on Day in May
Only two months ago, I start work at Ramenshop in Kansai. I am honored my cousin and her great husband Takamatsu sama select me for this job. This is first job for me. Takamatsu sama brings me from family home in Nishijima. Yordie san remembers I am good cook. I cook for many hungry brothers. /me smiles All of my family loves my rice cakes with red bean paste, but also I cook pork buns, soups, and many good foods.
In Winter, Yordie san spends many days teaching me about hospitality. She learned much as a geisha. She teaches me, good food is better when served with joy. And we laugh and make joy as I learn. It was easy for me to cook but my sister of the heart tells me of the graces. Sister tells me how to make everyone feel that they are most important. This is no laughing matter to Yordie san, she tells me often.
Then a day comes, Yordie san tells me, you are proprietor of Ramenshop now. She smiles at me, then says, you keep third of profits as your pay. I am so surprised. She says, you are young, but you are now a merchant of Kansai. This is great honor for me and my family.
My job is enjoyable job for me every day. I work hard and make more money than I ever see before. I have my own small apartment and nice clothes. On my birthday, Yordie san gives me a beautiful kimono. My life is a wonderful dream.
The Day of the Yakuza
It is normal day in Kansai, business is ok. On day before, Yordie san tells me of yakuza rumors. I know what yakuza is, but never imagine I would see one. Yordie tells me, administrator of the region makes sure all shops are protected. So, I have no fear of yakuza.
The Ramenshop had one customer who seemed to be sleeping in front of his tea. Yordie san was outside in the public area writing a story. Then big man comes into shop, slams his fist down and in loud voice, demands food. I do not know he is yakuza, just that he seems drunken. I give him delicious tray of finest meal of the day. He also demands sake. He takes his food and sake, then takes one of my rice cake too. He turns and walks outside. I tell him, “You should pay, sir.” Man laughs. Now I know, he is yakuza, he is a thief.
I see Yordie san stands but does not speak. I see she is scared. We are alone. The man in the back with his tea pretends to sleep. We are robbed. I know it is not a great theft but I am very scared. This yakuza frightens me very much. I do not know what will happen.
Then samurai come. Within minutes of yakuza yelling, four samurai have moved into the public area. Yakuza man is surrounded. But he just smiles and jokes. He says, “Oh, I forget to pay you, little girl.” Then he pays me but looks into me with angry eyes, whispering, “I see you again. You can count on my word.” He continues smiles and slowly leaves area, gobbling his food.
Victory Over Yakuza
That night Takamatsu sama learns of incident at Ramenshop. Yordie tells every detail. Takamatsu is very angry about yakuza. He says, tomorrow Ramenshop stays closed. Next day, more people in town learn of yakuza at Ramenshop. Same day, yakuza steals from Sake Bar. This time, samurai arrive late and yakuza is gone.
People become angry with administrator of our Hanamachi. He becomes argry with samurai and they return his angry. There is anger everywhere. Samurai increase patrols, but theft continues. Then one day, samurai corner two yakuza in a store. The two are thrown into prison. Now, everyone in town is happy and praise samurai.
Still, more rumors flood through town. Peasants come to town and tell of yakuza living in bamboo forest. Keibatsu patrol goes into forest and find yakuza hideout, but no yakuza. Yakuza cannot be found and everyone believes evil men are gone. Again, town is happy.
When it is last week, Yordie san tells me it is time to open Ramenshop. She tells me samurai protect the town and our shop. She tells me she stays with me. Then Yordie san brings katana into store. She hides it in back room with supplies. I tell her I cannot use katana, but she says, “Taka and I will protect you little sister.” Takamatsu sama tells us he will check the store each day.
A Bright Sunny Day
Spring rains fall. Trees and flowers blossom. The cherry trees create their delicate dance. You feel joy in the air. People come to Ramenshop for tea and rice cakes. There are not so many people as before yakuza. But we serve many customers.
Then middle of week comes and we see a bright, sunny day.
I am very happy. I make special rice cakes with new red beans. Yordie san is in back of store taking inventory of supplies. She sings enchanting tune she learn as maiko. But customers seemed to disappear around noon. This is odd but not so odd.
Then there he was, another drunken man with the angry eyes. He is not the man I feared, but I feel he must be yakuza.
My heart sinks deep inside me. I try to speak but cannot. Yordie sings and the man grins at me. Finally I say softly, “You must not come here, sir.” Yordie san hears nothing; I spoke too softly. Then the man come closer to the counter. He grabs a pork bun, takes a bite out of it and throws it back in the box.
This man is big. His skin is darkened from the Sun. His hair is black and oily, but graying. I think his eyes are pure black because as he stares into me all I see is blackness. The man is dressed in robes. The robes conceal, but I see grip of his katana poking out.
Man says, “Fill a bowl with food. I want roasted duck and buns. I want mochi and matcha.” I begin to pull back from counter. Then he reaches across and grabs my kimono by collar. Man says, “and SAKE… NOW.”
The man’s shout causes Yordie to stop at once. I struggle to pull back from this man, pretending to agree to get his food and sake, “Of course, sir, I get your sake.”
But as I pull back the big man pulls me with one hand and gropes me with the other. He is drunken but he is strong and shakes me. He laughs and reaches inside my kimono, then tears it open. I begin screaming and fighting against his powerful hands.
Yordie Draws Her Blade
It is hard for me to remember all the facts. I only know this. As I struggle with the man, Yordie san dashed from the back room, around behind me, around the counter. I see her take a fighting stance and with lightening, she pulls her katana and yells at the man, “STOP or I will strike you down.”
The man immediately releases me and pulls back. He is shocked in his eyes.
Yordie san holds her position, but she is caught in a small corner of the store. She had no room to retreat if the man comes forward. I continue to scream but I’m caught behind the counter. I know that Takamatsu will come soon but we need help now. Yordie stands alone against the angry, drunken man.
Suddenly, there is calm. The man clears his head. The fear leaves his face. Then he begins laughing at my sister in her kimono. He says, “You foolish girl. Do you think you can harm me? I take you down with a single strike from my blade!”
Yordie says nothing. She holds her attacking position. And looks into this man’s eyes with ferocity unlike I had ever seen.
Then time stopped all around me. In a flash, the man’s sword screeched as it flew out from his robes. And it’s blade comes striking down toward Yordie san’s head. Then so fast I cannot see, Yordie san catches his blade with her katana, and in same move turns her blade into the man with a strike into his shoulder.
Many things could have happened that I could not see. All I know is the man’s face is in shock and skin turns white. He is confused and flees, leaving a trail of blood.
Then Yordie san falls to the ground. I didn’t see the man’s blade stike her but she lay on the floor motionless.
I see blood. I say to myself, it is the man’s blood. But it is her blood and I see her wound. I grab clean towel and press hard against her wound. I tear open the cut made in her kimono and see the gash in her shoulder. And I see sword’s blade slice into her shoulder bone. I press harder to stop bleeding but there is much blood. Yordie becomes pale and more faint.
Yordie san tells me, “Koniki, little sister, promise to tell this story.” Then she fades into unconsciousness.
Time passes forever and I keep screaming. Takamatsu comes first. He is stunned but places his hands on her wound. Yordie wakes and looks into his eyes for a moment, then she goes out again. Then samurai come. Then towns people come. I press against the wound as Taka rips down a door panel and places Yordie’s body on it.
Takamatsu and the samurai carry Yordie san away.
I am left sitting on the floor where her body laid. I keep thinking, there is so much blood. This is all I know. I do not know where my sister has been taken. I do not know her fate.
by Koniki, sister of the heart to Yordie san
(click on “Story I” tab for full story)