Tokyo, Japan: 1876
Japan, the land of the gods, was once a beautiful place. The hills, lush in growth, revealing all the beauty known to the civilized world. City streets swept daily, and all forms of filth, disposed of. All the people knew their place in society. Peasants, courtesans, merchants, even the untouchables. The world was orderly, and it was all due to the presence of the Samurai. Sadly, that was a heartbeat ago. A divine wind from the east blew across the coastal shores and through the palace gates of Edo. But the wind did not originate from the gods. Instead, it had to been from an evil kami, for what else could have poisoned the mind of the emperor himself?
Since that moment, my world was completely turned around. I, Nagusan, born Samurai, served under a Daimyo from Osaka. I had a dutiful wife, with two sons who proudly looked up to me. All was wonderful, until the Gaijin found favor with the emperor.
The foreign devils promised to deliver him whatever he desired, and it would only cost him his honor. And with that, he betrayed his people. My wife and sons, seeing the injustice being forced upon the people, refused to put away their swords, and so they were murdered like peasants, as the emperor’s wished.
But death wasn’t in my karma. Now I’m Ronin, a bandit with no liege lord and unlike my family, the gods decided I must witness my country be slowly transformed from a land of beauty, covered with white lilies and cherry blossoms into a cesspool, filled with rotten fish, harmony to be replaced by chaos.
For months, I have wandered through the countryside and now I find myself walking through the streets of Edo, which the people of today call Tokyo. So much had changed, since I last visited. The streets were filled with foreigners, speaking every language known to man. The odor of unwashed bodies piercing through my nose, made me nauseous. The corruption I’ve witnessed, tempted me to flee, but in the end, I decided against it. I had one important stop to make.
In my previous life in Osaka, there was a woman, who I regularly visited. Marikichan was a courtesan of the first rank, and I was proud to be one of her favorites. During our time together, she repeatedly told me how she dreamed of having her own teahouse and during my time on the run, I learned her dream had become reality. That is why I came to Tokyo. It’s been several years, since we last met, but I couldn’t contain my excitement. The idea of being able to relive my past, was intoxicating. After being given directions by a few street vendors, I found myself standing in unfamiliar territory.
Peasants were churning about, and sound of women’s laughter echoed through the streets. I looked at disgust at an untouchable meat handler as he passed by and entered through the rear entrance of the tea house. Still, something else was off. The sign above the door had Marikichan’s name on it, but nothing about a tea house. Instead of tea house, it said Bar.
Curiosity struck me, for I had never heard of such a place. Entering inside, I was struck with horror. Normally, you would expect to enter a well-lit room adorned with simple tables and cushions to sit on. Ladies would serve tea at each table, following an age-old ritual. The floors would be covered with mats and lanterns properly placed to enhance the lighting of a stage where Geishas or courtesans would entertain the customers with song and dance.
I was unprepared for what awaited me. The room was crowded with people standing about, lost in the roar of their own voices. The heavy stench of smoke filled the air, nearly gagging me. There was no room for tables, and teacups were replaced by glasses topped off with whiskey. The Geisha were absent and in their place were girls from the streets, dancing in the nude.
Filled with disgust, I turned to leave when a gentle hand touched my shoulder. When I turn to see who it was, I was met with a familiar face. Marikichan, like this teahouse, may have looked unchanged on the outside, was completely different inside.
In a singsong voice, she asked, “Hey there, big guy, want to buy me a drink?”
Though I expected her to recognize me, I was relieved when she didn’t. The quiver in her hand and the stammer in her voice told me she was drunk. Not wanting to ruin any memory I had of her from the past, I decided to leave.
As I turned away, Marikichan yanked on my arm. “So, you think you’re too good for me? Hah! Look at you, dressed like a peasant. Probably don’t have two coins to rub together.” She pushed me away. “Go on. Get out of here. If I can’t make any money from the likes of you, then you have no business here.”
The courtesan I knew was gone, and in her place was a common street whore. Without hesitating, I stomped out and continued to walk until I reached the shoreline. As I watched the waves caress the shore, I felt the sea breeze caress my face. Squatting down and facing the sea, I began to meditate. My world had turned into kabuki theater. Everyone wore a mask, pretending to be what they aren’t. The emperor, Tokyo, the bar, Marikichan, and Japan itself. All wanted to show a good side to themselves, but under their masks, all were rotten to the core.
It was too shameful to accept and there was only one thing I could do. Reaching under my robe, I pulled out my knife, lifted it up in the air and thrusted it deep within my bowels. I pulled up, then to the right, then my entrails fell on the beach. I gasped, as excruciating pain went through my body, but I didn’t care. I was done with this world and will gladly wait to be reborn in the next one. Closing my eyes, I whispered, “It’s time to go home.”