Mother Earth

Volume 3: The Caldron of Hell

Chapter 6: Nao's Marriage

      After her health improved during the first seven days of the New Year in 1855 (Ansei 2), Nao went on to Ayabe to keep her promise to the spirit of her aunt, who wanted her to abandon the idea of marriage with Rinsuke. In Ayabe she had been promised in marriage to Toyosuke, an Ayabe man whom she had not yet met. As Nao went on her way, each step somehow became more painful. She even decided against looking over her shoulder, trying to step firmly forward though her feet tottered. The cold wintry blast of wind blowing against her ears, hurried her alone, even as if the mad shouting of her aunt, Yuri merged with the wind.

      The house of the Deguchi family had fallen into ruin as it had been closed up for over two months, becoming even more gloomy than before. Nao felt downhearted at the scene surrounding the house. She opened all the doors of the house even though it was very cold and she lit a sacred candle as an offering to her dead aunt Yuri's soul.

      The marriage of Toyosuke and Nao was celebrated at the house of the Deguchi family on February 3. At this wedding ceremony, Toyosuke who had been adopted by the Deguchi Family took the name of Masagoro, a name in use in every generation of the Deguchi family. He was twenty nine years old and Nao was twenty. The matchmaker was a carpenter named Toemon, and his wife, Tsune. Toemon, fifty one years old, was born in 1805 (Bunka 2).

      Toemon recited a pleasant Noh song called Takasago (a slong of congratulation), while his wife, Tsune sat stiffly beside him as though it were a funeral instead of a wedding. Toemon's eldest son, Tobei had a mature look about him, and was drinking with the adults. The families of Deguchi, Kihei, Gisuke, Sahei and their neighbors celebrated the wedding by eating and drinking together.

      The Shikata family, members of the bridegroom's family, seemed to be little impressed by the wedding, because Toyosuke was the fifth Shikata son.

      Nao was not in the mood to make friends with those present. She felt only a loneliness, in spite of having made up her mind that she would work her fingers to the bone for her husband. With tearful eyes, Nao bore the burden of this marriage for the sake of her grandmother and mother. She tried not to cry as she looked at her older brother, Seibei, who was so concerned about her, and her younger sister, Riyo who looked as lonely as she felt.

      The bridegroom, with his new name, Masagoro, sat next to her at the beginning of the wedding. Nao hadn't had the nerve to look at him even once. He sat at ease with his long legs crossed and gulped down sake as it was offered and poured for him, one cup after another, talking nonsense along with the rest of the party. The attendants were not interested in the bridegroom and bride, who were adopted into the Deguchi family of property from another village. One could easily see by the noise of the celebration that the wedding reception was not arranged well. The bridegroom stood up drunkenly during the middle of the reception and stepped forward to the center of the room. Nao glanced at him, seeing how stocky and tough he looked. Masagoro bowed to Nao and said, "I'd like to greet you." He began to speak loudly to everyone in the room. "I have taken the name of Masagoro Deguchi, and no longer am I Toyosuke Shikata. I want to know you better and want to greet each of you. Please, you can help me if you don't look so glum when I greet you. From now on I want to be treated as a son, or brother, as I meet you once or twice, even seven or eight times. Please continue to hold me in good favor."

      He said these things as though he was delivering a prologue and then added in an excited tone, "I first met Yuri when she was a widow, then she died later, but she was the one who encouraged me to join this family as an adopted son, though I really don't know much about her in any detail. However, now that I am married and part of the Deguchi family, I want to bring the fortune of this family to greater prosperity, working together with my wife."

      Most seemed not to pay any attention to what he had to say and never clapped their hands. But Masagoro continued calmly, "If I say so myself, I certainly don't have any inheritance to show you, because I'm the fifth son of a father, and I have many brothers and sisters. But I didn't come empty-handed. Hey, stand up for a bit." When Masagoro called out to the ones in the lower seating, three boys stood up lazily. "I was able to become a fag end of a master carpenter. Let me introduce to you my apprentices, Yasubei, Kichizo, and Santa, all good boys. They will live under the same roof with us, so please treat them with kindness. There is one more point I'd like to make, and that is that I'm in debt, owing one kan (money unit of the Edo Period. A kan equals 960 mon) and five hundred monme. But it won't be a problem because Yuri had saved a pretty penny over a long time. I have finished my speech, so please continue with the celebration. Eat and drink to your heart's content and make allowances for the coarseness of the food." The thick wing-like nostrils of Masagoro's nose flared proudly. Introducing his three apprentices, he glared at them as though they represented the full weight of his debts and dowry, or so the guests strangely felt. He licked his lips and said, "Well, only making a greeting is not very satisfying for you, I'm afraid, and I'd like to dance. Please beat the time by clapping your hands." The three apprentices clapped their hands and began singing together, leading the rest of the guests. He tucked up his kimono tightly and danced playfully. The watching guests suddenly cheered up and joined in the dance.

      Nao's grandmother, Take grumbled repeatedly to herself, "That is too much, too much, too much." She went on, and elder brother, Seibei made a glum face. Her younger sister, Riyo, was about ready to cry, and her mother, Soyo, flustered, studied Nao's face. Only the Kirimura family seemed somewhat in a shadow during the celebration. It almost broke Nao's heart, when she thought of how coarse and shameful it was, the way her bridegroom was acting. She couldn't help thinking the impossible, how different it would have been had her bridegroom been Rinsuke. The bridegroom, dancing and touching her chin, looked into her downcast eyes, saying, "Drinking five shaku (0.09 liter) makes a man drunk, drinking 1.8 liters makes one a yuranosuke, a dead drunk man." He looked into Nao's face again and screeched, "Oh, your skin is so white, so beautiful!" Some of the guests called out to Masagoro with loud vulgar voices, "Hey, you're both precious!"

      Masagoro continued dancing in a carefree way, not paying any attention to Nao. He was unaware that his loincloth had loosened and was about to fall. This was indeed a religious experience, an exultation in his life. Someone jumped up and began dancing with the bridegroom. Following this, everyone joined the dance as though they were absorbed in something overwhelmingly powerful, and a large circle of dancers grew in a moment. In all the excitement only Toemon's wife and son Tobei did not join in, as they went around the festive table picking up leftovers from the many dishes and putting them in boxes which the guests could take home. Masagoro, tired from all the dancing and from his drunkeness, was finally carried off to the back of the room where he sat with crossed legs on the futon in front of Nao, and he said, hardly able to pronounce his words, "I shouldn't keep anything from you. For a long time, I've been in love with a woman named O-Mito in Ishihara Village. She is no less beautiful than you. Her beauty is far different from yours. Oh, yes, you are neat and clean, but she is amorous. If you are a white blossoming plum tree, then O-Mito is a peony, that's how I'd say it. She was the daughter of a poor widow and was deeply in love with me. Unfortunately, after having my child she remained in a delirious fever and finally, along with the child, made the journey to the world beyond, at the end of the year. It's a pity that I should not be adopted into the Deguchi family, with my wife, O-Mito and child as I planned it, if O-Mito had lived." Suddenly Masagoro started sniveling and crying, seeming to call out in his mind to the memory of his love for O-Mito and he yawned greatly, trying to focus his cloudy eyes on Nao's face. He continued to say, "Oh, what am I saying? Oh well, her mother was only a widow and I was confused. I couldn't tell my parents about O-Mito, and the debt of one kan, five hundred mon. It was not a debt for an evil purpose, but for my work, after all. Such being the case, it's all right, okay, okay.

      At the moment he finished talking, he fell forward with his head in her lap and began to snore. Nao put out the light of the andon (a paper-covered lamp) and sat in the dark, trembling and cold. She hadn't known anything about Masagoro up to now. She hadn't wished to, either. At a glance, one might see she had become like a terrible shadow in the dim room. "Oh no, it can't aunt could never have done such a thing." The instant she denied her deepest suspicion, other doubts began to creep into her mind.

      "When autn, Yuri, died, I had a fiance named Rinsuke and Masagoro was in love with O-Mito and had a child with her. Even if the ghost of aunt, Yuri, separated me from Rinsuke, her ghost would not have sent me to Ayabe to be adopted into the Deguchi family for nothing, because Masagoro had his own family. Even if she would move heaven and earth to adopt me into the Deguchi family, she also wished Rinsuke would stand in the way...and also there was O-Mito and the child."

      "The length of time that O-Mito suffered from puerperal fever was the same as the time I was laid up with illness: forty days. And O-Mito and her child, how terrible...what an end!" Nao felt her aunt, Yuri's presence, as her unwanted face began to emerge in the dark of the room and while kneeling she clung unconsciously to the sleeping Masagoro whose head was on her lap.

      After the wedding reception, lasting all day, the first day of marriage was over. Nao rose with the dawn the next day and began to dress. Her husband, who had been drinking till late in the night, got up quickly and threw on his simple peasant clothes. After he left, Nao sighed, saddened with everything. Her body and soul had been violently jostled in the stormy night. Nao was a sincere young woman. She was surprised at Masagoro's behavior, as she thought it over. This was the first time that she had met such a man.

      For the last few days, Nao has been bearing her suffering with the gestures of a doll. Left to herself, she seemed prostrate. She scolded herself for allowing herself to forget that she was married, and a wife. She cheered herself up by making breakfast. Plates were laid out for five, including Masagoro's three disciples. Just as the smell of miso soup began to float through the room, the three young men got up and the atmosphere became animated with their free young voices.

      Nao went to the back of the house to search for her husband. She saw a man throught the cold morning haze who was brandishing a hoe with powerful strokes. It was Masagoro. The snow-thawing black soil was hoed up in a long ridge.

      She was afraid to call out to him loudly. She suddenly felt the urge to join him in hoeing and was surprised by her impulse. She stammered to him, "Hey...breakfast is ready." Walking toward her with long strides, he said, "Okay, O-Mito...Yah, I made a mistake. What, what is your name again?" She turned her eyes away from him, ashamed. "I am Nao...." "Nao?" he said. "It is very difficult to say your name. Well, I'll call you O-Nao, no Ona. Yes, O-Na is better." "Yes," she responded, blushing scarlet.

      Nao was pleased to see the strong appetites of her husband, Masagoro, and his young apprentices. Feeling fortunate in this role of new wife, she happily cleared the table when many visitors came to the house. Masagoro's relatives, Kihei, Sisuke, and Sahei said to Masagoro in strict tones, "We have something important to talk to you about." After Masagoro's apprentices went out to work, Masagoro met with his three relatives. Understanding what they wanted, Masagoro led them to godown. Leaving them there, he went back to the house where he stretched his arms out wide and with a deep breath said to Nao, "It is a very good thing that dead men tell no tales. They recounted so many foolish stories to me, that they were promised a field by my late father, or that they had loaned him money, and imagine this, that they had deposited a set of three sake cups in the godown! Disgusted with all this, I told them to take whatever they wanted. They were as excited about this as a samurai soldier in his first battle. Just the fact that I inherited anything at all, and such a small fortune at best, bothers me. Ha, ha, ha...."

      While his relatives were still looking for things in the godown, Masagoro went out with a spring in his step, carrying a lunch prepared by Nao. Nao was remembering the first time she visited Ayabe Village in the previous autumn. She endeavored with all her strength to keep the inherited property of the Deguchi family safe for her aunt, Yuri and for Toyosuke as Masagoro was named before he was adopted, against the relatives who acted like wolves.

      She thought that Masagoro would give all this away because he was a person of few wants.

      He didn't realize that Nao was watching him after she saw him off, that she saw him kick a stone. He ran after the stone as it rolled off obliquely and kicked it again taking aim this time, kicking it straight ahead. Nao chuckled to herself, thinking that he had the heart of a boy in the body of a man.

      She was surprised that she noticed herself laughing for the first time since her illness.

      "Rinsuke had been adopted into the Oshima family in Hazumaki Ioriga Village (currently known as 756 Hazumaki, Fukuchiyama City), so I heard." Praying to the gods for Rinsuke's happiness, she also vowed to throw over any love for him that she might have and devote herself to her new husband.

      The next morning, when Nao went to the field behind the house to tell Masagoro that breakfast was ready, he was looking over the adjacent field that was overgrown with weeds. "Here, this is where it will be," he exclaimed to her.

      "I will have more and more apprentices from now on. It will be necessary to have more room, especially for our living quarters on the second floor, a tiled roof, and a godown. Ha, ha. A new house will surely give the villagers something to feast their eyes on!" Nao looked at him doubtfully. "You mean, you want to build here?" she questioned. Masagoro said, "Yes, for us, right here, the house of Masagoro Deguchi." She turned pale, knowing that the villagers had long rumored that this land overgrown with long grasses had been haunted by a vengeful spirit since ancient times. Masagoro lightly laughed away her fears and said, "I know that it will be difficult to recognize the rightful owner of the land, because the land has been owned by the village since time immemorial. In fact, it is the superstition and I will emphasize because in this way I can get the land very cheap." "Do you think you need to build a new house, when your late aunt has left you hers?" Masagoro responded, Well, I don't like the house. It's a good house and all, but it has its own ghosts and they've been living there a long time. Late aunt Yuri's soul was attacked and hacked to pieces by those ghosts. So, we'll leave the old house to the ghosts and will build a new house to start our life together." "How will we do it? It will cost a lot of money," Nao reminded him.

      Masagoro said with assurance, "No problem. I'll borrow the money from the matchmaker Toemon, since he said he would loan me money at any time." Masagoro threw out his chest. "It's only a small problem. I'll pay him back as quickly as possible, if I can get enough money for contracts to build one or two houses." Nao became anxious listening to Masagoro talking about how easy it would be to borrow money, feeling uneasy about trusting her husband. After all, there was talk that Toemon made far more money through loans, than from his principal occupation as a master carpenter. She had heard the rumor that there were a few villagers who now suffered from Toemon's strict ways of collecting debts. Her husband had to certainly understand these things. She swallowed her questions, holding them on the tip of her tongue. She was always admonished by her mother to resist the plans of her husband in matters such as these.

      Masagoro worked as a carpenter and also in the fields joyfully every day before breakfast. He had the reputation for working like a man and a half no matter what the job and he was a skillful and masterful carpenter. His apprentices bragged about their master being able to draw up plans while joking and humming. The lord of the Ayabe clan, the head of the Kuki family, often used the services of Masagoro. The powerful merchants and the samurai of high position frequently ordered him to build their grand mansions.

      In the Edo era, there were three kinds of model artisans, carpenters, plasterers and construction workers. Carpenters occupied the highest rank and enjoyed the highest status among these workers. The boss of the carpenters was a master builder called Toryo and had power over all the other carpenters. In order to become an established carpenter, young men fourteen or fifteen years old, usually began serving an apprenticeship in the house of a master carpenter, such as Toryo, cooking rice, tending to the children of the master, and carrying the lunches to the older apprentices, and similar chores. Eventually, they were allowed to use chisels to carve joinery holes in beams and posts, in preparation for building supports.

      They also learned the difficult skill required in plainig a board, how to sharpen the edge of a plane and to prepare a beam or post by planing its sides in even and long strokes. It took a long time to learn how to apply the ink drawings or designs to the construction of the building and the young person has to learn by studying and watching the way the older men did it. It took at least years, then, for a young apprentice to master the basics of carpentry, and he had to adde two or three more years of service to the master as gratitude for teaching him. Finally, when the apprentice was about thirty years old, he could call himself a master carpenter.

      The first apprentice who came to work with Masagoro was Yasubei from Okamura (now called Okamachi, Ayabe City). He was born in 1841 (Tenpo 12). He joined Masagoro when he was fifteen years old, fourteen years younger than Masagoro, and five years younger than Nao. The second apprentice, Kichizo, came from Oki Village (now called Oki, Ayabe City). Kichizo was also fifteen years old and they had a lot of natural talent. The third apprentice, Santa, was only thirteen years old and often on the verge of tears when pushed to work hard by his fellow apprentices Yasubei and Kichizo.

      Nao felt as though the apprentices were like her brothers. She watched over them and worried about their future. She now found that her life was finally worth living and was far from the suffering that filled her recent past. She called them by their names using honorific titles which would place them beneath her. The apprentices loved to use her name just as though she were their sister.

      There were two kinds of craftsmen - those who work on the interior of a building, such as cabinet makers and paper hangers, and those who work on the exterior, such as carpenters and plasterers. Exterior carpenters couldn't work when the weather was bad, for example on rainy and windy days, although there was some work for a carpenter under the roof. Often then the exterior carpenter would be found at home when the weather prohibited working. On those days, Masagoro would share his experiences with his apprentices. Nao liked to listen to his stories feeling like she was able to touch the carpenter's soul.

      Masagoro told them, "If you want to become a good carpenter, you should learn to recognize the qualities of wood. If you are making geta (wooden sandals, for example, you should choose the beautiful grain far from the heart of the tree for the top, and the more water proof grain from the heart for the bottom of the geta. For the same reason you should choose the heart of the wood for shelf boards and lintels, to show the beauty of the wood grain, and you should use the reverse side of the grain for foundations and thresholds that are exposed to water and to weather. For these reasons famous carpenters are called true masters because they deeply understand how to use wood to the best advantage. In the first steps of training, the apprentice should learn the quality of the wood and the age of the wood as well as when the wood was cut, its shape and any diseases it might have had. The next step is to decide how to best use the wood, just as though you were choosing a master to apprentice your son to." "As an example," Masagoro said, "The medicinal herbs seldom last beyond a year, except for some special kinds, while wood is very different from herbs. Trees fifty years old and even 100 years old can still keep a high quality, but older trees would be weaker but would add to the beauty of its grain."

      Masagoro continued, "There are some houses where we can find lintels, thresholds or other horizontally-placed timbers which are in bad shape, warped and curved because the carpenter failed to choose a timber that would shrink little by little without changing its shape over the course of time. And you should be cautious when choosing some trees that stand at a great distance from a forest of gregarious trees because you will find that those lonely trees have been exposed to the elements such as rain and wind, and their growth rings will vary widely so that the timber will be dry; it will twist and warp and shouldn't be used for lintels. It is said one should pay attention to the parents before marrying their daughter. Look at the mountains and the forests to understand the kind of timber that is likely to come from such areas. It is not easy to choose the best timber unless you have much experience. How can you see the skills of a carpenter? Focus on the ways in which he uses timber. It is easy to tell the difference between a skillful carpenter and an amateur by the way he lays tatami, for example, take an eight-mat room. Take the tatami out and replace them in turn, by placing a sheet of paper against the threshold, and putting in the last tatami mat. If you can easily pull out the sheet of paper, the carpenter who built the house isn't very good."

      Masagoro was known as a master carpenter for his skill and dedication, but also for his passion for drama and for sumo. The old feudal Ayabe clan of the Tokugawa Shogunate did not allow dramatic performances in the township. Plays were held outside the town on the shore of the river at Iden near Ayabe. One day, Masagoro decided to visit the playhouse in Kimi Village and the next day he would go to the shore of the Ida River, and the following day to Fukuchiyama, going along with the actors and leaving his own work.

      The holder of a contract sent a messenger to Nao to ask where Masagoro was, making an urgent request for the building to begin. But Masagoro was not to be found. In fact whenever a group of Sumo wrestlers came to the village, he dropped his work, becoming completely absorbed in the excitement of the matches. It was the same when for example, Masagoro would join in singing and playing a samisen tune called Ukarebushi, or reciting the Ahodara - a parody of Buddhist scripture - as he accompanied the wrestlers for 2 or 3 ri (a ri equals 4.4 kilometers).

      Nao recognized all along that Masagoro was a playful man, listening to his spirited talk and his joking at the table with his apprentices. During the building of a grand house in the Mikata area (currently Mikata-cho, Ayabe City) on the other side of Wachi River. Masagoro worked without underclothes, exposing his private parts to the wind up on the roof, working away happily, oblivious to the gaze of younger workers, both male and female. Once while working on a house at Kan-machi (now Kan-machi, Ayabe City), he was asked for directions by a tourist. Working on the roof at the time, leaving his penis in view with his jacket tucked upin his sash, he said, "I don't know where that is. Why don't you ask my son here." Masagoro looked down at his penis, grabbing it and wagged it in the direction that the tourist should take. Often hearing stories like this about her husband, Nao blushed red to her ears with embarrassment.

      Masagoro, always speaking in a carefree manner, never failed to make his apprentices laugh. Nao, on the other hand, didn't approve of his antics, in keeping with her more sober temperament. Her face was set more stiffly and more seriously. She would suddenly leave her seat at the table as soon as her husband began to make her feel embarrassed. Her actions threw a wet blanket over the otherwise pleasant atmosphere of the household. Knowing how she felt, Masagoro never said anything, about their different temperaments. One of Masagoro's apprentices, Yasubei, asked him why he opened his mouth so wide against heaven, out of the house. He answered, "Living with O-Nao is like watching worms breed, making me feel like a dry mouth in the hot sun." Masagoro liked to have more sake than just with his meals three times a day. He couldn't do without at least one sho (about 1.8 liters) a day. Masagoro was the happy type who drank with joy in his heart, very different from his father Gorozaburo, who drank with anger. Masagoro, however, was careful, drinking only in moderation during business hours. If someone drank too much and became disorderly, he would leave a choshi (a sake pot) unfinished of two choshi on the table. On the way home, he might drop in a sake shop named Toranoya in Namimatsu and drink with the owner sitting over his sake and paying as he drank. He hated to drink at others' cost. In this aspect of life, he was clearly strange and different.

      After emptying his purse to the last penny, Masagoro would slowly make his way home happily droning a ballad. Before he had spent all of his money, he would remember he should take something home for Nao as an ordinary husband would. Often as he pushed open the door of his house with his foot, he called out, "Nao, come here right away." He would have something so large he couldn't hold on to it any longer, so he tossed it on the wooden floor of the entrance hall, bracing his unsteady legs. One time he had come home with twelve sets of clothes of the same design and another time he had carried in 1200 pieces of dried persimmon on skewers. Born in the Edo period, Masagoro seemed to think the number 12 was lucky for him. Nao turned her face from him, saying, "Such a lot of things, thanks." She hated to see him this way and hoped he didn't see the true expression on her face. It was painful for her to see him wasting away his life this way. Masagoro was careless about the food expenses of the three apprentices who had large appentites. Nao would often take things back to the store when Masagoro went overboard on purchases. Fortunately, he soon forgot the presents he had brought home.

      In this way six months passed, with Masagoro building a fine house which displayed his skills as a master carpenter. The building site was on a corner lot near the Jinya (the manor house), which was at the head of a slope one cho (about 110 meters) from the route passing from the south to the north. At the southern end residences of the samurais lined the road. The road to the north led to the castle town and the other roads passing from east to west led to the Yura River in the Namimatsu area going east and to Shinmachi and Tamachi going west.

      The new house was two stories with an adjoining the godown separated by a long passageway. The house was elaborately constructed, showing Masagoro's preference for using the vest best wood and it was well-made even in the inconspicuous parts not easily seen. Only the old established families of Ayabe at this time had tiles on their roofs. As Masagoro began laying tiles on the roof, he stood the neighbors to a drink. Nao felt this made the tiles much too expensive. In spite of his strange ways, the new marriage was very good, especially when they coupled on the new tatami mats with their fresh smell of newly-cut rush. There were no relatives around like the vultures who attempted to grab the estate of the Deguchi family as previously, so all was going well.

      Masagoro shouted to his apprentices, "Hey, all of you, go on ahead. I'll catch up with you later." The apprentices said, "Is it okay?" "I have some urgent business to attend to," Masagoro said over his shoulder and he turned quickly on to the road to Namimatsu. The three apprentices looked at each other. Masagoro's best apprentice Yasuhei groaned, "Huh? I really don't know what to think. I just don't understand gossip." The second apprentice Kichizo said, "It's very strange that he has gone on like this for three days now." The youngest one, Santa, with his pimpled smiling face, held out his little finger, meaning that Masagoro was playing around, and he said, "Yeh, well there's always that!" Yasubei poked Santa's head with his finger, saying, "Don't be so stupid! That's not true!" Walking along together, Yasubei suddenly stopped, "Hey, go on ahead. Let me think about this business of our master." Kichizo answered, somewhat mocking Yasubei, the senior apprentice, "Whatever you decide, be fair! You're our sworn older brother!" Santa added quietly, "I'm really worried about the master."

      The three of them started after Masagoro, quickening their pace, while the master who had turned right suddenly vanished from their sight. What had happened to him? Masagoro had meanwhile gone on at a fast pace. Children playing around the outskirts of the Namimatsu area discovered him and followed him excitedly, making a lot of noise. Deliberately Masagoro dropped his carpenter's tools, then twisted and tied his towel around his head, a sign of a performer. He stood in front of the gate called Ippongi-no-Isuke that was famous because of a quarrel between a parent and a child. As he prepared to perform, he looked around at the children, throwing out his chest. "Well, I myself am acting." He took out two wood planes and clapped them together and began reciting a story with an ease of delivery, his eyes half-closed, lost in ecstasy. "Ladies and gentlemen! The day before yesterday, yesterday and today, I have performed in this good place called Ippongi. Well today, what drama will I perform for you, let's see? Please, enjoy yourselves! My play is 'Pot and Kettle Throwing' with a cutting board, and the secrets of offensive and defenseive battle with wooden pestles, pots and kettles as weapon. The performances are of the father and son of the Isuke family. Whether it rains or it doesn't, the performance will continue in one ongoing act until it's over. Well, everybody, please invite the neighborhood. Tell everyone young and old to come to the play. First, let me begin by greeting all of you."

      Children ran everywhere, crying out to announce the play. All sorts of people came from the curious ones to those who left their meals when hearing of the coming performance. They seemed to gather around Masagoro all at once. Pushing their way through the crowd the three disgusted apprentices came toward Masagoro. Then the gate of the Isuke's house opened suddenly and out came Isuke with a large wooden pestle raised over his head, and his son with a broom in his hand, and both of them threw themselves upon Masagoro without mercy. Masagoro cried out as he was hit, "Oh, I'm about to lose my life here!" Masagoro ran from place to place trying to hold on to his carpenter's toolbox, which slapped against his hip, while at the same time trying to cover himself against the blows. A sight, with his clothes tucked up around his hips, legs and arms going every which way. But, losing his balance, he fell down hard. Isuke sat on top of him, pummeling away, and his son kept knocking his exposed hip with the broom. Masagoro's apprentices jumped in, joining the fracas, adding more fuel to the fire as the crowd took sides against them and their master. His apprentices pulled the combatants apart with some difficulty, and then ran off with their master on their shoulders. As in the drama that was supposed to be performed and wasn't, there was an elevated passageway somewhat like a theater aisle with a straight path through to a flower bed. Gasping, after finally being put down from the shoulders of his students, Masagoro was about to cry, "Oh, how reckless I am! My hip was hit so often and so hard, that it has become redder than a monkey's hip. This is really some hoki for me." Hoki is a Japanese pun on the words for "broom" and "great."

      Yasubei broke in on his moaning, saying, "Yeah the important thing is the red ketsu." Masagoro shouted at them, "Hush, you, why are you here? Why aren't you at work?" But Masagoro stopped shouting and began laughing. "It was all my mistake, that we got into this situation. It was my mistake to continue these plays for three days. The enemy was eagerly lying in wait for me. But it was interesting!" His apprentices burst out laughing with one voice.

      In the spring of the year 1856 (Ansei 3), a person from the neighborhood moved to the former house and land of Masagoro. Nao had asked Masagoro the reason for the recent survey of their property, and he had replied unaffectedly, "O-Na, excuse me, but I've already sold the house according to Toemon's advice. I'm going to repurchase it before too long, ha, ha, ha," he laughed.

      The matchmaker, Toemon stuck to the Deguchi family like a white ant to its nest. Nao guessed that Toemon, the loan shark, was aiming to get the estate by manipulating Masagoro. If it is true that Masagoro was dancing to Toemon's tune, then he would lose every last cent to the loans generously given to Masagoro at a high interest rate, and be broke in no time. For some time, Nao had recognized that her husband had a bad head for business. He repeatedly suffered losses with his building contracts because he was such a good-natured person. "Hey, O-Na," he said. "I just sustained another loss, but I'm going to sign a new contract to build another house." She replied, "Listen. Understand me, please get out of that contract." This conversation between them was nothing new, having occurred already several times before. But forgetting them quickly, Masagoro would sign another contract and suffer another loss. In addition to this, Toemon often loaned him money at a high interest rate and in order to cover his loan, Masagoro was forced to sell his property.

      On July 20 of the same year, Nao gave birth to their first child, a girl named Yone. At that time in the Ayabe area, a woman during childbirth lay on a small mattress made of thirty-three sheaves of straw tied together, instead of tatami. It was also a standard practice at that time for women, after childbirth, to rest for thirty three days, and after each day one sheaf of straw would be removed until the last one on the thirty third day. If the child was a boy, the parents would take him to the Shinto Shrine on the thirtieth day to pray to the gods for the child's safety, and if the child was a girl, she would be taken on the thirty third day.

      It is said that the thirty third year of a woman's life can be dangerous or one of calamity. The seasonal festival for women is held every spring on March 3. When a woman is with child, she is given about 2.4 meters of bleached white cotton, and about the same amount of cotton dyed red. These are combined into four boxes which are kept in the home of the woman's parents, and are used to celebrate their daughter's having given birth. The first eating of a baby is celebrated using the boxes as a present, on which the family crest is painted. People guessed that the celebration honoring Yone's birth would be held in the old style, as Nao's grandmother, Take was a very strict traditionalist. Masagoro was now a father, proudly walking around saying, "Please look at my child. Isn't she charming coming from such a fine breed of people." Nao was able absorbed in loving her first child.

      As November was now over half over, Nao went to visit her parents after her long absence, with her child Yone now four months old. She came back to the Deguchi house in Tsubouchi on the evening of the fourth day. She hurriedly entered the house through the kitchen door, thinking thatt she ought to prepare supper before her husband and his apprentices returned from work. She immediately sensed something was wrong. Anxiously, she went into the living room and there found Masagoro with a bed covering his head. AHe peeked out at her with goggled and bulging eyes in the middle of his unshaven face. The apprentices were sitting around him montionlessly. With a pale expression, Nao asked, "How do you feel? Are you ill?" Masagoro cried out, appealing to her, "Oh, O-Na, finally it appeared at last!" "What? What appeared?," she asked. He muttered, "The old woman, O-Yuri. It was her. I've never been so scared in my life."

      It happened the night before when Masagoro was feeling lonely, and finally drifted off to sleep. Sometime during the middle of the night, he heard the slow steady steps of someone coming up the stairs and his spine shivered. Just then he looked up and saw the ghost of Yuri standing over his bed. "Oh, oh. I've sold the ancestral home of the Deguchi family and our late aunt, Yuri appears to be angry with me." He apologized to her, saying "I'm sorry I sold your house. I promise to buy it back as soon as possible." But Yuri said with a pent-up, reproachful tone something he didn't expect, "I couldn't drink water or tea for the last three or four days, until...." Masagoro's teeth chattered with terror. He barely managed to say, "I promise to offer you water tomorrow. Please attain Buddhahood!" The moment he finished, he lost himself, pulling the futon over his head and in this way remained without saying a word until the following morning.

      Yasubei said, with a wry smile, "Considering everything, I'm still surprised. During the early morning someone suddenly crept into my futon with me. I thought it was that steepy fellow, Santa, but it was my master. Since that time, he continued to get into the futon and has ordered us to keep an eye on him." Timidly, Masagoro said, "Hey, O-Na. I've never had as fearful an experience as I had the other night. I think that Kihei's malignant disease caused the pent-up feelings in your aunt, O-Yuri to appear."

      After Yuri died, the head of the family, Gisuke Deguchi, and the head of the branch of the family, Sahei Deguchi, died of the same disease, and still the misfortunes of the family continued. Even the Hyobei family, the ones who had seized Yuri's heirlooms two years after Yuri's death in March 1856 (Ansei 3), had many troubles. The Hyobei's oldest son died, and his wife also died in July of the same year. As though that were not enough, a fire broke out in the Kihei house that same spring, so serious that it burned one area of the town. Because of the fire, Kihei and his wife became the target of the villagers' begrudging remarks. At this point in time both Kihei and his wife became ill. They were taken with severe cases of the grippe, due to prolonged hunger. Although they wanted to eat, they couldn't and only grew weaker, and finally were reduced to skin and bone. They became mere skeletons with swollen stomachs, like the hungry ghosts in storybooks. Nao often paid a sympathetic visit to them, when she could, but found herself at a loss for words, looking at their pitiful bodies.

      One day, Nao said, "Aunt, Yuri has not entered Nirvana."

      Nao asked the apprentices, lifting up her heart courageously, then shuddering with horror, "And, have you made an offering of something to the spirit of the late aunt, Yuri?" They answered, "Yes, we all did together. You can feel easier about her soul now." Nao thanked them and said, "I'm going now to make an offering to her." She went to the back room and laughed when she saw the offering before the family Buddhist altar, a chipped cupful of water and a tubful of rice.

      Nao gave birth to three more children between 1857 (Ansei 4) and 1860 (the first year of Man-en), but each child only lived a short time, the first for two hundred days, the second one hundred days, and the third, for only two days. Nao was in deep grief.

      In December 1858, the stately mansion of the Ayabe clan was destroyed by fire. The flames burned scarlet in the southern sky. Sparks shot up in the air and seemed to be falling on the roof of the Deguchi house. The stately mansion had been newly built in February, so the Ayabe clan was severely shocked by the fire.

      "It would take a lot of money to rebuild such a mansion." Nao thought as she carried a bundle of rice on her back and trembled with anxiety. Even the great Lord Luki, the leader of his clan, with all his tender mercy, must build a new building from time to time, and levy the cost on the people, who must work themselves into a greasy sweat. "Why does this have to happen this way?" Nao couldn't understand the way society was organized.

      The great riot of all the sixty-three villages broke out in the Fukuchiyama in August, 1860 (the first year of Man-en). The news reached Ayabe Village immediately. Whenever people met each other, it was the topic most on their lips. Nao was worried about her parent's house in Fukuchiyama, so she left Masagoro to investigate their situation (they were of the Kirimura family) and she found that they were safe. It was at this time that Nao came to the age of an adult.

      The Fukuchiyama clan had been carrying out a major reorganization of the clan's policy. Nao felt deeply sympathetic with the political sentiments that the people were often oppressed by the lords of the clan. In 1850 (Kaei 3), when Nao served Izumiya shop as an employee, the public office of the Shojikikaisho (the honest place) and the Fudaza (the bank of the clan) were taken over by the Fukuchiyama clan. About this time also, a principal retainer of the feudal lord, Giemon Ichikawa, sent around to his relatives a strict official notice called the "Ichikawa-goshushi" (Ichikawa's policy). The principal retainer of the Ichikawa clan was a samurai of low position named Ashigaru (relaxed feet) who was given twenty five straw sacks of rice a year. He was chosen for this important role by Soemon Harai, the superintendent officer, and he ultimately became the most responsible official for the financial reform of the clan.

      The official notice comprised twelve article, including:

  1. The government of the clan prohibits the trade of all products, including all grains.
  2. Farmers will deposit all profits from side jobs in the offices of the clan.
  3. The government of the clan may often force the people of the clan to donate money. If this is not done, the government orders the people to labor for them for 1,000 days.
  4. The people of the clan should sell off all unnecessary household effects and clothing and deposit the sums with the Fudaza (the bank of the clan) as a reserve fund. The government forces this charge on the people as a donation to the clan.
  5. Farmers should offer only their best quality rice to the government of the clan, and are only allowed to eat the quality of rice that falls below the middle rank of quality. Farmers should insure the consistency of the rice grains before offering their rice to the clan authority.
      This notice was called oafish and ridiculous beyond the fact that it was an ill-advised official notice. Shojiki-kaisho (the honest place) sounds wonderful, but it's only another way for the rich, privileged merchants to squeeze more money from the people. The clan forbade all trade between the people, forcing them to give up their goods for little profit, while the products and grains had very high prices at the commodity exchange managed by the clan. Included were hundreds of goods, all the grains, dry goods, fishery products, wood, candles, waste paper, and so on. Breaking any of the regulations cost the people too much in penalties.

      The origin of the peasants' rebellion began with the official notice issued in that same year. The notice limited the amount of rice due per person per day during harvest time to one shaku (0.018 liter) per person, and any left over rice was to be deposited with the governing officials of the clan for three years. The government official record keeper calculated that a total of 20,000 inhabitants occupied the clan's land holdings and figured that a total of four koku (or about 720 liters) equalled 10 straw sacks of rice per day during the harvest, and a total of 3,600 rice sacks per year. The peasants were to eat barley, foxtail grass millet, and pickled vegetables on regular days, while rice was allowed on O-Bon (the Buddhist All Soul's Day) and on New Year's Day. The peasants were treated with cruelty under this tyrannical form of governance and they finally took action, rising up in rebellion, no longer able to endure the severity of treatment by their rulers.

      After a few days of the peasants' rebellion in Fukuchiyama, Nao's younger sister Riyo visited her. Nao was coming and arranging her daughter Yone's hair, at the edge of the veranda in the bright sun of an early autumn day. She was surprised to see her sister and shouted excitedly, "Oh, Riyo. How are mother and grandmother?" Riyo replied, "They're both fine." "I heard that a great event occurred in Fukuchiyama," Nao said. Riyo answered, "Yes, a very large rebellion, which vanished as quickly as a passing storm." Riyo picked Yone up in her arms and nestled her cheek against hers. Yone was five years old and a little shy. She lowered her eyes in Riyo's arms. "My, you're really growing fast, and you are so pretty." Riyo gave Yone some cheap candy while talking to her warmly, and Yone responded with enthusiasm. Watching Riyo as she talked to her daughter, Nao was struck by how beautiful and how much of a woman Riyo was becoming. She was twenty years old and unmarried. She had been asked, but she felt too unhealthy to accept.

      "I gave birth to Yone at twenty-one," Nao recalled. Nao felt a light twinge in her breast remembering herself when she was twenty-one. Offering cookies to her sister, Nao asked her, "Why have you come? Is there any other reason?" "No," Riyo answered, "I only came for a visit, that's all. I'm here because I was eager to tell you about what it was like to see the storm of the revolt sweep through Fukuchiyama." "So...I suppose now the peasants will be blamed for everything, just like they always have been since ancient times," Nao answered. "In the old days, the new leaders had their heads cut off and exposed at the prison gate," Riyo responded, "Not this time. No leaders were accused of any crime." "That's good. I'm happy about that," Nao said. Riyo then said, "I want to explain to you how the peasants set out to save the village, and not to submit or give in to those who controlled the government. As it was, the peasants were exploited about as much as they could take, sweating as hard as oil pressed from rapeseed. It was terrible!"

      Riyo's eyewitness account was more realistic and terrifying than any story spread through the neighborhood or any rumors that Nao had heard. It happened at dawn on August 21, when the alarm bells rang out near and far. First, her mother had sprung out of bed, exclaiming, "Is there a fire?" Before long, a few horsemen galloped past on the road in front of the house. Her family didn't know what was happening, but could hear the indistinct mutter of voices. The air outside was filled with apprehension. The battle cries rose suddenly through the depth of the morning mist. Grandmother, Take shouted, "It's the peasants rebelling!" She ordered mother, Soyo to boil rice quickly and began making arrangements to remove some things of value to safety as the first priority. She was mostly concerned about fire. Riyo stared at the insects in the insect cage, pressing her forehead against the small glass window and shivering with fear.

      Thousands of peasants from all sixty-three villages converged and rushed into the castle town. Attacking from the east and the west at the Tanbaguchi Gate, the forces of Yakuno, Kanaya, and Toyotomi Village broke through, and at the Kyoguchi Gate the peasants of Nango Village forced their entry into the castle grounds. In Riyo's view, many peasants were on a rampage, hairy-faced men dressed in peasant wear, from young boys to those bent with age, squaring their shoulders and raising their eyes to flags tied around bundles of straw mats. Each one had a weapon of some sort, a rake, a hoe, a fire hook, or a club, though some only beat on pans or iron pots. As a group, though they were tired, they acted together with an explosive power filled with unearthly strangeness.

      At the very first thrust, the Fudaza and the offices of the Shojiki-kaisho were destroyed. Next came the mansion of the principal retainer, Giemon Ichikawa, whose bitter decrees had caused the rebellion. There was no resistance against the farmers because all the clansmen sought shelter in the castle with their families. By now thousands of peasants occupied the castle town and had destroyed over one hundred shops of the merchants who had profited from the new government's trade policies. The mansions of the officials who administered these policies in a cold-hearted and knavish fashion were destroyed. Fortunately, there was little damage to the craftsmen living in Kamikonya-cho. The peasants' rebellion raged for three days.

      At last the government of the clan resigned themselves to conciliation. The government acknowledged the castle's defeat by the united forces of the peasants. The government admitted that the articles of their trade policy decree should be abolished without revision, as the peasants requested. The supervising officer, Soemon Hara, performed hara-kiri (suicide by cutting the belly with a sword), taking full responsibility for the reorganization of the trade policy, and the principal retainer, Giemon Ichikawa, was put out of the clan. Moreover, no criminal charges were filed against the peasants. The castle was surrendered unconditionally.

      Riyo said with a triumphant voice, "The peasants won the battle. This is the first time in the history of the Tanba area. It's very rare." She drank the remainder of the now cold tea from her cup in one gulp. Yone slid down Nao's knee and silently crawled on hands and knees over to Riyo, who smiled and picked her up in her arms.

      The lord of the Ayabe clan, Takakuni Kuki, flooded back into Nao's mind. He was a big burly man who often rode his horse during inspection tours around the villages, even in the rain, preferring to ride his horse rather than ride in a kago (a covered palanquin). Watching him on occasion, Nao thought he cut a fine figure on horseback, and she came to respect him deeply. She also seriously thought that the good fortune or the misfortune of the people were often decided by whether their leader was good or bad.

      However, Nao couldn't understand why her younger sister felt such deep sympathy for the peasants' revolt, even though Riyo told her story with feverish and passionate eyes and with flashes of freely expressed emotion. In the days when Nao still lived with her parents, the Kirimuras, Riyo was only a shy little girl, often sick. What had changed her attitude toward life? Nao asked, "What do mother and grandmother think about the peasants' rebellion?" "Well, grandmother is always against any uprisings aimed at the lord," Riyo answered. "She always says that rebellions gather together bad people. And mother said that the peasants were suffering from poverty and the samurais attached to the castle also live with some difficulties...." Nao interjected, "But you, O-Riyo, seem to side with the peasants with a passion." Riyo gazed at her older sister without blinking and said, "You can't understand the situation that the peasants find themselves in, in Fukuchiyama, because you live here in Ayabe. It's a pity that they are unable to live normal lives, even though they try as hard as possible, because the government of the Fukuchiyama clan had organized society to take all the profits from the peasants, leaving them almost nothing. This is the reason that they rebelled against the government eliminating this horrid system and together, they want to rebuild a new and better society. If, like grandmother, everyone opposed the revolt against the lord of the castle, then we'd never have the chance to make a better society, where everyone can live in comfort. Even if it means getting our heads cut off, or being crucified, let's set ourselves to saving the poor people! That's what they say." "What you are saying," Nao pointed out her, "Does not sound like your own words. You seem to be repeating another person's story like a parrot. Who taught you such ideas?" Riyo shook her eyelashes lightly and soon her face flushed a pale red.

      Nao raised her voice a little as she looked at her sister. "Do you know somebody who was a part of the rebellion? You're in love, aren't you?" Riyo remained silent. Nao continued, "You are now of marrying age. Why don't you let me introduce you to a good man?" Riyo answered half under her breath, "I'm not going to marry anyone. I don't want to marry." Standing at the window, her slim shoulders began to shake and her black apple eyes filled with dazzling tears.

      There was a lumber yard alongside the Yura River, a place where workers gather for jobs. The place is called Ippon-gi because a grand Japanese cedar stands before Kumano-shingusha where there are several drinking spots. Masagoro usually visited a drinking place called Toranoya (the tiger's house) that sold sake and various cooked dishes. There were two maid servants newly-arrived from the country and a hostess who was smart and tactful. The sake at this house was carefully selected so only the best was served, and the cooking was known for its quality and good taste. Masagoro enjoyed drinking and telling his foolish stories that helped to wash away the stiffness, aches and pains in his shoulders caused by a hard day's work. Nao, so reserved in speech, was unable to enjoy the atmosphere of Toranoya. After finishing his work for the day, as his fancy dictated, Masagoro often found his way to Toranoya.

      Masagoro met his friend Toemon coming back from work at the corner of Namimatsu Town. Toemon seemed to look tired and overworked, after all, he had been a carpenter for most of his life, and now he was over fifty. Masagoro watched him walking along slowly, dragging his feet and shrugging his shoulders now and then; he looked altogether an insignificant man. Masagoro called out to him, proposing they have a drink together, "Hey, what do you say, come on, have a drink with me at Toranoya?" Toemon stopped, thinking about this for a moment, and made a sour face. As though puzzled, he said, "Yah, sure, thanks for the invitation," with some hesitation. "I don't have any reason to refuse you, well then...." he added. Masagoro said, "There's no problem. I have enough money for both of us." Toemon responded lightly, "It's natural, after all, no one enjoys drinking alone. I'll be back right away. I just want to change my clothes to new, clean ones." He hurried off with a new srpingy step.

      One of the young waitresses met Masagoro as he entered the room, passing through a short curtain. She shouted his name with a big smile. There were some customers who knew him already seated in the shop. He chose three tatamis space (about 3.3 m2) next to the unfloored part of the room. The landlady, O-Kiku, brought a choshi (a sake pot) of sake and said, "Yah, who's here tonight with you?" Masagoro replied, "I invited Toemon to drink with me. He should be here soon." She answered, "If you should borrow money from Toemon-san, please be careful. He lends money only at high interest rates, that make the borrower want to hang himself, as he suffers so much trying to pay back the money, so I've heard." Masagoro said, "That's nonsense, it really is!" But she was concerned about Masagoro. "So, it's said that his wife is even more of a miser than he is. She's so addled, she hoards vegetables and fruit from her own land, storing them in her storehouse, and she's so stingy she piles them in a cart and throws them away in the fields at midnight, I heard." Masagoro said, "It's possible, I guess. Well, you know there's another interesting rumor, that you and I are in love!" "Oh, yah, but I escaped you!" O-Kiku said jokingly. "Well, I know," Masagoro said, "Someone told this to O-na, but she didn't say a word about it to me." "Yah, you take it so lightly as though it doesn't mean anything," O-Kiku said. "I like to quarrel with my wife occasionally about my love affairs, it's true!" "Oh, how easy going you are. I would take it very seriously if I made love to someone like you, Masagoro-han."

      Toemon suddenly appeared while both of them were chatting. Masagoro stood up and invited him over. He was very surprised to see Toemon's wife and son following him with a couldn't-care-less attitude. As Toemon and his family sat down in the cramped place with ease, Masagoro had to squeeze in where he could, Toemon looked at his wife and son, saying generously, "As I got back home, supper was not yet prepared, so I invited them along. I'd like them to be treated also on this occasion." Then he said to his family, "So, enjoy your meal here without any reservations. It's all right, it's all on Masagoro." With a solemn expression on his face, Toemon's son said, "Well, well, thank you. I really enjoy eating and drinking a lot. First, I'd like four or five pots of sake, and then I want to stuff my stomach with so much that I can go without food for some time." Toemon's wife, Tsune didn't say a word. Sullenly, she craned her neck to read the menu posted on the wall. Masagoro and O-Kiku looked at each other and laughed unintentionally. O-Kiku said, "I'll be sure to prepare bear gall (a medicinal preparation for the stomach and bowels), so please, eat a lot!" The moment she said this, she ran into t he kitchen, barely able to keep from laughing out loud. O-Kiku brought a fresh sake pot, along with one dish after another. Everyone held their sake up to toast each other.

      Just then, the second apprentice, Kichizo, burst into the room with a threatening look on his face. He cried out, "Master, get away from here as fast as you can. There's no more time to drink and relax. Come on hurry up...hurry up...." Kichizo was stammering and stood there in bare feet. Masagoro said with a blank expression of shock. "Don't joke now. Why should I run away? Did I do something wrong?"

      Kichizo's story went something like this. After work he went to visit a carpenter friend without any definite purpose in mind. The doors and windows of his friend's house were closed tight. So, thinking this was strange, Kichizo decided to enter the house from the garden side, as he knew the house very well. Indistinct voices could be heard, which seemed to be coming from the living room. He took a seat at the edge of the veranda outside the living room, and listened at first unintentionally to the discussion going on. The content of the talk really surprised him. They were talking about killing Masagoro. The attack, it seemed, was to take place very soon. Masagoro, who was listening to all this, sobered up slowly and he turned deathlly pale. He cried out, "How cold and calculating it is. I'd like to be indulged with a long life." O-Kiku violently grabbed hold of Kichizo, whose lips were trembling, and said, "How can they be so cowardly, planning such an attack! What is the reason that they will choose to kill him here?" Kichizo answered in a trembling voice, "I didn't stay to hear the reason, but as soon as I heard that Masagoro was in danger, I ran here as fast as I could."

      Meanwhile Toemon poured his sake from a tokkuri (a bottle) into a chawan (a tea bowl), while they were speaking, and after wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he said, "I see now, it could happen." O-Kiku responded with a harsh tongue, "And I still want to know how Toryo (Master Carpenter) incurred their anger, going so far as to want to kill him." Toemon turned to Masagoro, saying, "Well, it is a big problem, isn't it? You have always lost money every time you signed a contract to build a house. I think in your business, it is a moral obligation when you contract to build a house that you make a profit. I guess that you always sustain losses on your contracts because your expenses and the cost of the construction is more than the original contract price, or so I understand." Masagoro replied, "No, that's not quite true. I always try to make a profit. Now, when beginning to build, I like to use better building materials, and then this means a lot more work to complete the project...."

      Toemon said to him, "That's just it. Your spirit as a master artist gives the other carpenters fits, and yourself much trouble. Everyone wants you to build their houses because you'll work with little or no profit. You undetstand it now, don't you? Now all the other Toryo (Master Carpenters) have no contracts in the Ayabe area. As profitable contracts converge on you, it is natural that they tell you to go to hell, at least that's what I think." "After listening to you, I also think you are right. But, they need to say even as much as you have," Masagoro said, crouched over the table with his head under his hands. Kichizo was vexed with his master and envied him more and more because he did better and better work. A carpenter named Hachirobei in Honmiya Village prayed to the tutelary deity Myoken-san to kill Masagoro last year, because he envied the genial Masagoro so much. On the seventh day, Hachirobei finished his prayers and decided he needed a large sum of money. He broke into a wealthy person's home, was found out and arrested. Kichizo could not forbear expressing his concern, seeing that Masagoro was utterly depressed by hearing the news concerening Hachirobei. Toemon rubbed his face, flushed with sake, saying with a hesitant tone, "To tell the truth, I was invited by them to discuss the situation. I had promised to go with them, but along the way, I met you and I felt bad about that promise. On second thought, I gave up that idea, to profit as much as I could from you along with my family, eating and drinking as much as we wanted. But it is true that I have much trouble as long as you exist as a fellow craftsman, because almost all of the work only brings a small profit and there are very few contracts left for additions to existing buildings or remodeling."

      Toemon slid over to Masagoro, clinching his point, "Suppose, for example, that I had not lent you money with interest. I would have strangled you to death." Masagoro cried out, "Oh, O-Kiku, help me! Do something!" He clung to O-Kiku with his large body and they rolled over on the tatami together. He said simply, "It's not profitable to kill Masa-han, and no one knows it better than I." Hastily, Toemon began to gulp his rice down, not wanting it to get cold. His wife and son went on eating and drinking, oblivious to anything else. O-Kiku suddenly shouted, "Well, please ask the master Shikata to help you. He's the leader of the Toryos, and he's very familiar with Lord Kuki. I think he will see what can be done for you," she said, as color returned to Masagoro's face. "I let things go too far," Masagoro said. "Why am I so absent-minded. I know the master Tosuke will give me a helping hand. Hey, Kichizo, come with me." Just before both men were ready to leave, having tucked up their clothes, O-Kiku took a tokkuri of sake from Toemon's son Tobei, who had been drinking continuously, and she poured two cups and handed them to Masagoro and Kichizo. O-Kiku said with gusto, "Hey, drink it down in one gulp. It will give you a lift!"

      This whole affair was settled through the leadership of Tosuke Shikata and others. All that was required of Masagoro was that he give a party of food and drink to his fellow craftsmen. This is an episode which shows that Masagoro was indeed a very skillful carpenter.

      The lord of the Ayabe clan, Takakuni Kuki, had retired and his oldest son became the tenth lord. The finances of the clan were exhausted. The original farmers who contributed to the clan's finances were also in an exhausted condition and the government of the clan couldn't raise the taxes any higher. Also, frequent famine and fires had brought such damage as to drain their finances. Moreover, the Ayabe clan was not large and found itself groaning under the heavy burden of work ordered by the Tokugawa Shogunate. The Capable Takakuni retired, because it was the only way to escape from the official demands of the Shogunate.

      It was in this same autumn that Nao's sister, Riyo fell sick. Nao had asked Masagoro to visit her to see how she was and of he went casually to her house in Fukuchiyama. Just as he arrived at the Kirimura family's house, Riyo fell into a dangerous condition. Being delirious with fever, Riyo often repeated herself, "Before the end, I wish to see her...." Masagoro understood. "Oh, okay, I'll return immediately, bringing her by palanquin." He went back home the same way he had come. In the middle of Ishihara Village, between Ayabe and Fukuchiyama where there are many cotton fields full of white fluffy balls, he heard the echo of a drum announcing the performance of a play. "Toko tonton, toko tonton," the sound rippled across the golden fields of rice swaying in the autumn air. This sound was very enticing, but he felt it would be hard to dance to it, so he was going to hurry away before being noticed. But someone cried out loudly, "Hey, Toryo! Where are you headed for? Why don't you watch the play of the star Kikunojo, your favorite actor?" The man was Gen, Masagoro's friend, who came to announce the drama program to the villagers. Masagoro replied, "No, I'm very busy today. If I had nothing to do it would not be my nature to pass up a chance to see a drama...that's for sure. But, I have an obligation, so I'll come only for a short time, okay, then I really must leave at once."

      It was a bad decision that he stayed to watch the play, even if only to take a peek. Once he entered the cottage built on the bank of a river, where the play was being performed, he became absorbed in watching one act after another, and soon he lost himself completely to the drama. He even went along with the company to the next village, forgetting all about Riyo's dangerous condition and Nao's concern for her. He seemed to have become feeble-minded.

      Masagoro was a slave to the theatre. He was reported to have gone along with a strolling drama group for twenty days or more, never thinking about returning home. His only interest was in listening to the happy sounds of the samisen, the tunes that the actors sang going from door to door and beating wooden clappers that echoed the sound, "De-ro-ren, de-ro-ren...." Needless to say, there were some houses left half-completed.

      Finally, Masagoro started back to Ayabe to take Nao to the Kirimura house where Nao's grandmother and mother were waiting. The eldest brother, Seibei, sat at the bedside of Riyo, trying to stoke up the embers of Riyo's life which seemed ready to vanish.

      Day had dawned. It was good that Nao finally arrived in Fukuchiyama before dark in the previous day. When the bell had rung out to announce Ake-Mutsu (6 a.m.), Nao couldn't wait any longer for Masagoro's arrival, since she had already sent an express messenger to Ayabe. The messenger returned with the news of Riyo's critical condition. Nao hurridly strapped her daughter Yone, six years old, to her back and left to Fukuchiyama. She seemed to feel, even to hear the oppressive breathing and weak attempts at crying out of her sister Riyo, and felt grief clutch at her heart. Nao prayed to Buddha and the gods to keep her sister alive. She ran, as though rolling, through the town of Kamikonya. The moment she clattered the sliding door of her parents' home open, her mother clug to Nao crying uncontrollably. Nao noticed immediately that she already had missed speaking to Riyo. She went into Riyo's room, grabbed her now-cold hands and threw herself down crying and holding her sister. She heard that Riyo had often mentioned her name when she was delirious with fever. She longed to know what Riyo wanted to say to her from the depths of her soul. The secret would be kept, as her late sister's face was a translucent white and so clear, without any expression of pain. It was her mother, Soyo who told Nao of Riyo's last moments and with tears in her voice said, "She was my fortune in life." Riyo had smiled just before she died. Her smile was faintly remaining on her lips.

      Nao recollected Riyo's attitude when she visited her the last time in Ayabe. She thought that Riyo was secretly in love with someone. But she refused to allow herself to be loved, having a strong premonition of death. Riyo's deep love for someone remained the last untold story, so Nao thought. Nao was worried about her husband as well as grieved over her sister's death. After all, Masagoro would often not come home for several days and without so much as a word of explanation. But his attitude was increasingly strange during Riyo's last illness, just before her death. He could have been tricked and been made the sport of a bad fox spirit from the mountains of Osadano (now Osadano-cho, Fukuchiyama City), couldn't he?

      During Riyo's funeral, Masagoro with a face stubbled with beard visited the Kirimura family and made his most humble apologies to them. His late arrival was due to his having followed the strolling players from town to town, forgetting about Riyo altogether. Grandmother, Take and Nao's older brother Seibei joined forces in their anger at Masagoro's behavior. Seibei said to him, "Even if a prist begs me, I won't let Nao go back with you to Ayabe!" Nao apologized to them along with Masagoro, and with her mother's help, she smoothed over the troubled situation, although with some difficulty, and finally everyone calmed down.

      Riyo died on September 24, 1861 (Bunkyu 1), at twenty one years old. In this same year Nao's brother took Tetsu for his bride and managed an urushi (Japanese lacquer) shop in a rented house in Oka-no-dan Village, and they lived with his grandmother and mother.

      Nao had her second child, a girl, on June 9, 1862 (Bunkyu 2). Seeing his child for the first time, Masagoro said to Nao in good humor, "I think I will name her, O-Mito." Nao was surprised to hear him call her by this name. O-Mito, she said to herself rather absent-mindedly. This was t he name of her husband's former lover, wasn't it? She understood that he hadn't forgotten her, the woman named O-Mito who died along with her child soon after the childbirth. Masagoro ignored his wife's delicate feelings, even though she was still recuperating from the delivery. He said rather carelessly, "It's not in my mind to forget the deceased O-Mito, anyway, that's the way I feel about it. O-Mito must certainly be happy in the other world hearing our baby's name." Nao nodded to her husband, as he smiled and picked up the baby. But she felt a deep chill in her mind as she quickly brushed away an image of Rinsuke which flooded her memory.

      This year, 1863, certainly had its excitement, for example, the incident outside the Sakurada Gate of the Edo castle, the situation at the Hotel Teradaya, the murder of a foreigner called "the Namamugi Affair," following the Satsuma clan's revolt against England. But the Ayabe clan came back to normal according to the political conditions of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Although only a part of the Fukuchiyama clan, a group of samurai was influenced by the Royalist forces and the supporters of the Shogunate. Masagoro enjoyed the ups and downs of the political landscape, as though he were watching sumo matches.

      The following year, 1864 (Ganji 1), the "Affair of the Hotel Ikedaya," the battle called the "Affair of Hamaguri Gomon (Hamaguri Gate)" took place. The rumors of these bloody incidents spread more and more. Nao had her first son, Takezo, on December 2, at the end of this year.

      In the autumn of 1865 (Keio 1), Nao's mother, Soyo died and shortly after grandmother Take, died also. Nao was thirty years old at that time. When the news of Nao's mother's death reached them, Masagoro strapped O-Mito, then four years old, on his back, and Nao took the hands of Yone, the ten-year-old, and they hurried off to Fukuchiyama. On the way, they were caught in a heavy downpour in the village of Ishihara where they took shelter from the rain. Before marriage, Masagoro had served his apprenticeship in this village. Remembering his past, a thousand emotions crowded his mind.

      Nao muttered to herself, as she watched with an abstract gaze the heavy downpower and listened to the sound of the wind. "I feel strange in this place. Why...? Here, O-Mito died.... Oh, yes...she was a beautiful woman." She continued in a harsh tone, "That's right, even when my sister O-Riyo fell into a dangerous condition, you went to see a drama, forgetting everything, and never telling me a word about O-Riyo's condition." "Oh, don't tell me anymore," he shouted. She added, "Even now the rain holds us back from getting to my mother's deathbed." Nao was rarely so outspoken. Raindrops trickled down her white face. Masagoro's mouth drooped at the corners as he looked to deliver his wife from her grief. He said, "Even if we hadn't brought the children with us, we would still be caught in the rainstorm.... I know how deeply you love your mother, and how you are feeling so much grief...." Nao replied, "No, it's not that...I seem to be acting foolish, considering nothing. I feel empty, without any emotion at all."

      The life of Nao's mother, Soyo was filled with trials. She had been a good wife to her husband Gorozaburo, an irritable man and a drinker, and she had to deal with the demands of her mother-in-law as well. She had taken on her troubles willingly throughout her life, without showing an angry face to her children. Even Take, a wayward and egotistic woman, was influenced by the example of Nao's mother, Soyo, and came to recognize later the truth of what Soyo had said, "Oh, yes, yes, that's very good." This is the mother's belief, 'If one lives earnestly, the whole family will live in tranquility.'

      Nao's life was influenced in many ways by her mother's thinking and example. She served her husband Masagoro faithfully, continuing to live her life without complaint; while her husband cared little about the home, she fought hard to maintain a declining house. The earnest lives of both Nao and her mother, chained to their home, exemplified the women's plight since the feudal age. The funeral of Nao's mother was a solemn and dignified service, compared with the deserted one of her father. Several temple priests attended it and solemnly recited the Buddhist sutras for the dead. Nao wept as she spoke to her mother in her mind, "Mother, look at your ceremony. See your son, how devoted he is at this solemn ceremony." Nao's grandmother, Take's grief caused her to lose her appetite as she sorely missed her daughter. Take became weaker every day and died ten days after her daughter's funeral. Nao drowned in tears. Nao's mother died on August 20, and her grandmother died on September 1.

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