Haikei, Toshiro, mi bienamado marido:
After a mild winter, the cherry blossoms show their glorious petals like delicate pink clouds against the green trees on the hillside. This season reminds me of the winter day when the Hashimoto took you away from our side; Instead of petals falling, snowflakes fell.
Despite being so close, we can only visit you when our “masters” see fit. I hope they value your work enough to get back together soon. Our daughter liked your gift, although I hope that the blades you forge for the Hashimoto are not so sharp, but quite the opposite: that your work conforms to their meanness.
The Yamagami Leaf Forge is locked tight, and since we last saw you in the fall, we’ve moved upstairs. It helps us to feel close in many ways; in others, your absence is more deeply felt. In this place we lack the musical hammering of the tamahagane red hot, the song of steel. We also miss your voice when you sang to the sword while covering it with the yakibatsuchiAs well as the crackle of the fire as the blade sank into the forge and the hiss as it cooled in the water. Sometimes I think I hear you, but it always turns out to be the wind.
I do not intend to ramble because, just as spring comes after winter, I write you this letter of relief: a warm breeze laden with petals. Perhaps it will give us both some peace, even as I wield my steel to prevent the peace we have here from completely fading.
However, there are many things that have not changed in the eight years since your last trip home. You will be glad to know that Ichiko refuses to change the Gozan Ramen family recipe and that the black garlic oil is just as delicious as ever. Today there were a lot of people, as many have come to enjoy the cherry blossoms. Yui’s dog, Mochi, is grown up now, but he’s still arousing sympathy at the post at the pottery school. Most of our favorite places are maintained by tourists who come to delight in ancient and picturesque towns like ours. They eat ice cream at the “cat café” and spend money at the arcades or the new mall you haven’t seen yet. Afterwards, satisfied with the souvenirs they have purchased, these daytime visitors return to the station before dark, when the lanterns light up alive. It is then that the Hashimoto knock on the doors of closed shops to claim their “share” of what they have earned from the labor of others, and invest it in themselves at the Tora no Sumika bar, “The Tiger’s Den.”
Shimada Castle remains in its prime location and watches over our city like a loyal stone temple awaiting a benevolent deity. Since we both forged and wielded swords, we know that even though the castle was made of sturdy stone, the Shimada weren’t gods: they were people and criminals. However, they understood that honor and loyalty form the strongest bond between ruler and subject.
Lately, the Shimadas have occupied my mind in my spare time. They asked a lot from their fans, but they were able to inspire us to do our part. In return, they led us with integrity and treated us with respect. As you well know, my mother and grandmother had the honor of taking care of the fox sanctuary, away from the bustle of the town. However, when it became apparent that my soul yearned for the sword and my mastery of the kenjutsu, the Shimada chose me out of all of them to be their sword master. They were aware that Kanezaka was not only the height of their power: it was their home … and ours.
Now, where the Shimada gave, the Hashimoto snatch. After all, when you have many homes you don’t really have any, and the Hashimoto clan has influence in almost every city in this nation. We are nothing out of the ordinary to them; Someday they will absorb us completely and move on, leaving us empty and poor. Even now, some twelve years later, I see the aftermath they have left in our city.
Although the old town of Kanezaka does not seem to have changed, I fear that it has suffered the consequences of the cruel yoke of the Hashimoto. Now the views of our welcoming mountain are clouded by the pomp and arrogance of skyscrapers and neon; there is nothing left of the pleasant warmth of the wood, the wind and the stone of yesteryear.
Like Kanezaka herself, I am torn between the ancient ways of the mountain and the Shimada and the harsh and painful new vision of the city and the Hashimoto. We both know that the Hashimoto have you in their “care” not only for your abilities, but also to control me and to ensure that I do not waver from the obligation to keep the peace in the city and among these people I respect so much. I will obey our masters, because any other action would put you and our friends in danger.
I was hoping the Hashimotos would relax as time went on. Let them realize that we are honest people who do not need to be oppressed.
Not even the most faithful dog would take such a beating without biting, and the people of Kanezaka have great hearts. They are crushing us. The demands on the population are increasing, as are the bad faces of the people. Late payments suffer harsher penalties. Also, now someone has given the Hashimoto more reason to rage.
In recent months, the Hashimoto’s contraband shipments have disappeared. Its men have been brutally beaten or robbed when returning from their patrols. Most striking of all, messages have appeared painted in bright and conspicuous colors, although they are quickly removed.
Responsible daredevils have no regard in seeking Inside or provocations towards the Hashimoto, and these acts have the reception that one would expect. These vigilantes believe that they are forcefully rebelling against the wave of violence. Instead, they strike fast and hide in the blink of an eye as the good folks of Kanezaka suffer the consequences. That is why my job, which is to keep our people and friends under control, is more delicate and important every day. There are times when I hardly give credit to the world I live in: you are forced to forge works of art for unworthy pigs; I, who trained Sojiro Shimada’s offspring, am forced to turn my swordmaster steel against my own. Meanwhile, the children of this city grow up under the brutal and thoughtless precepts of the Hashimoto as the only guide to differentiate good from evil …, and our daughter is among them. Now this city is dangerous.
Today I will walk through Kanezaka not only to imagine you by my side or to greet our neighbors, I am going to bring an offering to the Tetsuzan shrine of my ancestors: a bowl decorated with yuyaku bright turquoise from the pottery school that contains some dashi by Ichiko. Our neighbor has added a rice ball. Kenta has contributed a mochi, a red bean rice cake, which is our daughter’s favorite. To all this I have added a generous jet of sake. I confess that I couldn’t help pouring myself a small cup.
I will ask the spirit of the fox for strength to continue this fight, and also for wisdom for me and for all of us. Then after sunset I will take the sword you gave me so long ago in our yuino and I will patrol the streets of this place that I love so much and that makes me so sad. I will find these self-proclaimed “guardians”; if they do not give up their efforts, they could be the spark of an unfortunate and deadly fire that will consume us all.
I hope we stay the same as our swords: strong and sharp. Obey the Hashimoto, because I have to do it too, and let them see respect from the outside, even though deep down in your heart you can’t really give it to them.
I am going to end with the note of relief that I promised you and I will tell you the same thing that you would tell me if you were here: «the kitsune it is capable of changing your luck with the movement of one of its tails ». May he shake nine o’clock in unison to send us the much-needed good fortune.