The Kabuki Dancer

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 6 (v.1) - Part One: The Miko - Chapter 5

Submitted: October 20, 2016

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Submitted: October 20, 2016

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The sound of a rooster woke me up early the next morning.  I rolled over and saw the indentation of Okuni’s body that had been left the previous night.  I groggily looked around and observed Okuni standing at the end of the futon, tying up her hair and adjusting the white and red priestess outfit of a miko.Her slender body was hidden beneath the gleaming white haori and sweeping red hakama. 

I rustled out of bed, kicking the blanket back.  Okuni turned and smiled her wide grin, teasing cheerfully, “Well, good morning, sleepy head.”  I reach up and felt my hair in tangles and knots, and a bit of drool rolled down my chin.  All in all, I was most likely not the most beautiful sight to behold in the morning.  I groaned and asked, “Why didn’t you wake me?” Okuni sat down beside my prone form on the bed.  “You had an emotional night last night.  I felt a few extra minutes of sleep might do you some good.” She patted my arm, saying, “Up and at em Umi-chan!”  I groaned and buried my head in the soft futon.

About a half hour later I was up and felt plucked, stuffed, and ready to possibly reconsider my adventure into the world of mikos and fairy tales.  Sine Okuni did not have an extra set of miko robes to loan me, I was garbed in the kimono she had taken out the night before with a brown and gold accented obi tied around my waist.My hair had been done up in the style of a bun, and I had been subject to some plucking of my eyebrows and chin before Okuni deemed me suitable enough to be seen with her.By this time I was not so enamored with her as I had been the previous night.

We joined her parents for a small morning meal of rice, broiled fish, and vegetables.  Nakamura-sama nodded approvingly when he saw me in my new outfit, and smile at Okuni.  “You did a very good job with her, Okuni-chan.  I can’t imagine the priestess at the temple would not take her in a second.”  Okuni folded her hands and bowed her head in his direction, and primly replied, “Thank you father.”  Nakamura-san sniffed and said, “Well, be sure to hold true to the story that her name is Umi-chan, and that she is a cousin. Any whiff of her eta background and not only the reputation of the shrine, but also of our family might be shattered.”  Okuni inclined and bowed her head again, saying, “Yes mother.”  I opened my mouth to respond to her mother’s rude comment, but Okuni took my hand, bowing as she placed her sandals on her feet.  “If you will excuse us, mother, father, we must be off to the shrine.”  She jabbed me in the back with her elbow, and I bowed too, murmuring congenial words of parting before we both exited.

Out in the street, I quickly glanced around to make sure that no one from my family had decided to stay the night.  Apparently, the threat of having to face Nakamura-sama was too much to bear, for none of them were around.  I turned to Okuni and asked, “Okuni-chan, I fear you may be doing too much for me.”  Okuni whipped her head around and said, “Why, because of what mother says? Please don’t pay too much attention to her.  I love her, as all children should, but she was even against me becoming a miko.”  My eyes widened in surprise.  “Really?” I inquired.

Okuni laughed and gathered my arm in hers as we walked down the dirt street.  It seemed everyone knew her, because she bowed in warm greeting to many who passed her way.  “Well, not many mothers who have one daughter and no other prospects for grandchildren does take some convincing.I am very grateful to my father and Priestess Jitsuko for standing up on my behalf,” she replied.“Priestess Jitsuko?” I asked as I was forced to bow in unison with her to an elderly man sitting by the side of the road. 

“Yes,” Okuni said.  “Priestess Jitsuko is the head of the Izumo Shrine.  She knows much about the ways of the common folk, coming from a background as a rice grower’s daughter.  She entered the temple when she was my age, and slowly rose up through the ranks to become the Priestess of Izumo Shrine.  I have dance lessons with her every day, actually.”  I pretended to be interested as we rounded a turn.  “Oh, is dance that important?” I asked. 

Okuni’s face lit up like the rays of Amateresu.  “Oh, Umi-chan, it is everything to me,” she sighed.“When I dance, I feel like I am one with the kami in the temple, and they are dancing with me.  Even though I can’t see them, I can feel them in the breeze and in the air around me.” As if to demonstrate, she let go of my arm and proceeded to dance in the middle of the street.  I watched as she did so, and was amazed with how good she was.  She danced on her tiny feet for a few moments, the bells of her outfit jingling with her movement.She paused in an exaggerated pose at the end, and the citizens walking by clapped for her performance, and a few women pressed some coins into her hand.  She thanked them and came back to me.  “More alms for the Shrine,” she stated, then linked arms with me as we continued our walk.

After a good fifteen minutes or so of walking, we arrived at the door of the Izumo Shrine.  I had only seen the Shrine from the outside in the past, and the large wooden walls kept normal passer bys from seeing inside.  As Okuni opened the wooden gate with gold embellishments, I truly felt like I was entering another world as we passed through.  We entered down a long walk way which led through three Tori gates standing tall in splendor and crossed two brooks before entering the main courtyard.  All around, miko apprentices were doing little chores and walking to and fro in pairs and trios.  I was cognizant that I was not wearing what the other girls were wearing, as a couple glanced at me and started to talk behind their hands to each other.

Okuni must have sensed my discomfort, because she took my hand and exclaimed, “Come!”  Allowing myself to be led, we approached the main building at the far end of the courtyard.  Stopping in front of a nearby alms box, Okuni stopped, purifying herself with the sacred waters, dropping the coins in the box, and prayed for a few moments.  I did so alongside her as well.Then we entered the main building from the front, Okuni and I both removing our shoes before entering, passing under the large shimenawa, the sacred straw ropes, that hung across the entrance. 

Inside, I found a group of apprentices practicing dance in the great hall.  Leading them in their movements was a woman of tall stature, clad in a simple dark blue kimono.  I could not see her clearly, but her movements were much clearer and concise then Okuni’s.A miko sat nearby and played a koto, her fingers moving smoothly over the strings while another miko played a flute nearby.  The music was so lovely that I felt the urge to move myself, and looked to my left to see Okuni swaying in time with the sweet music herself.  The song slowly came to an end as the apprentice miko all came to an end pose, some more gracefully then others.  The woman at the front ended it very well, not wavering at all, her eyes closed in concentration. 

As she opened her eyes, she saw Okuni and a wide smile graced her face.  She clapped her hands, stating, “That is all for today, my young apprentices.  Be sure to practice your dancing before our next practice!”  All the apprentice miko bowed and murmured polite salutations before turning to leave the hall.  A couple spied Okuni on their way out and tittered and chatted with her a few moments.  No one came to me, and I stood silently until another meek girl walked over to me. 

She looked me over, and gave a smile to me, dimples showing on her cheeks.  “Are you a friend of Okuni-chan’s?” she asked me politely.  I nodded and said a soft “Yes.”  “That is great!” she said, smiling even wider.  “Okuni-chan is one of the best dancers here, and her beauty puts most of us to shame.  But her beauty on the outside matches the beauty of her heart, as I am sure you know. Oh, where are my manners.”  She bowed to me, and said, “My name is Takamura Hanako, but all my friends call me Hana-chan.” I bowed back to her, seeing how a name such as Hanako could suit a cheery blossom of a girl. “I am Umi-chan, and I am Okuni-chan’s cousin from Aomori.” Hana’s face took on a mystic expression.  “Aomori,” she said softly.  “I’ve heard tell of it.  Is it true that the kami still roam the wilds and forests freely?”  I shrugged, saying, “I haven’t seen one myself I must say.  But I am sure they exist still.” “Oh,” Hana-chan said, sounding a bit disappointed. 

Okuni saved me by dashing to my side.  “Well, I see you’ve made a new friend already!” Okuni exclaimed, and I blushed.  “How are you, Hana-chan” she asked cheerfully.  Hana bowed, saying, “I am well senpai.”  Okuni laughed and said, “No need to senpai me Hana-chan.  Just call me Okuni-chan like everyone else!  Oh, Umi-chan, you will love to hear Hana-chan play the shamisen.  She has the most amazing and nimble fingers in the whole of Izumo.  If not the whole of Japan!” Hana blushed with the praise.  I reached out and took her hand, saying, “I look forward to hearing it sometime, Hana.” 

The older woman at the front was dismissing the two older miko who were playing the instruments, and motioned to Okuni and me.  Okuni bowed quickly to Hana and tugged my sleeve, saying, “Come quickly!”  I squeezed Hana’s hand and moved away, winking at her as we headed by.  I thought that if there was no other success today, at least I had made a new friend, and the thought made me smile brightly.

 


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