Pachinko

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 12 (v.1) - Takayama, Jiro

Submitted: May 05, 2019

Reads: 30

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Submitted: May 05, 2019

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I woke up by the excruciating pain in my back. I was lying on my stomach on a tatami mat, wearing nothing but a traditional fundoshi. It took me a while to adjust to my surroundings. All around me were thin pieces of bamboo scattered around the floor. On my left were low cabinets filled with books of irezumi and small statues of Buddha. On my right there was an old man sitting on his knees next to me, holding a sharp bamboo stick in his hands, called a nomi.

A nomi was a thin piece of bamboo, to which needles were attached. Up to twenty needles could be assembled on the nomi and everything was fixed with silk string to keep it all together. 

Daijoubu desu ka?” said the old man, still holding the nomi in his hands.

Genki desu,” I told him, as if it all came natural to me.

It was as if Japanese suddenly was my native language, I could read everything that was writing on the cover of his books. It didn’t take long before the old man started poking the nomi back into my skin. I woke up in the middle of a tebori session, not really the first impression I had in mind though. 

 

About twenty minutes in, I was making a fist with the palms of my hand, biting the lower part of my lip. I would grab a hold of anything that was lying close, just to forget the agonizing pain of those needles penetrating every inch of my back. Small drops of sweat were coming out of every pore that didn’t have any ink in it yet. The old man knew I was having a rough time today. I wasn’t exactly hiding away the fact that I was in pain. But there was nothing he nor I could do about it. It was a rite of passage I needed to get through. That’s what he said right before he started poking me again. If it didn’t hurt, anyone would go through it and it would prove nothing to the oyabun. It would lose all meaning. 

After our sessions was done, I had a long look in the mirror. I was curious on how I looked, was I going to look exactly the same as I did in the real world? Or would I have typical Japanese features to blend in? 

The first thing I noticed was my fully tattooed upper body, a full bodysuit. On the right side of my chest was a Buddha surrounded by lotus flowers, symbolizing my strong religious believe in the peaceful, spiritual way of life, while the lotus symbolized life in general and the struggle to make it in life. My right arm had a koi fish swimming upstream, meaning I was battling a hard time. These are one of the most common tattoos in Japan, symbolizing courage and determination. The Peony flower at the bottom of my arm stood for risk-taking and a daring attitude, just like the samurai. 

My left chest was covered by a giant snake, standing for wisdom, knowledge, life and rejuvenation (due to the shedding of their skin). My left arm had a Foo Dog, which believed have to have powerful mythic protective powers, so it’s meaning was to guard and protect me. The lower part of my arm had a Chrysanthemum flower, representing longevity and perfection. In between there were maple leaves filling up space, symbolizing love, peace and harmony. 

Based on all these tattoos I could make a sketch on how my character was like: a smart man who loved life in general, but had a hard time making it to where he was now. He was a deep religious man, trying to climb up in the world, all while protecting the ones he cared about. Everything he did had to be perfect!

While I admiring the rest of my looks, including my thick black hair that could come straight out of a manga comic, I noticed I was missing a part of my little finger. Before I could even look at it more closely, the old man returned with a large mirror to show off the work he did on my back. His work dug deep into my skin, revealing a samurai fighting a tiger. The tiger stood for courage and power. They were wild and powerful, not meant to be held in cages. I felt a strong connection with a samurai, at least my character did. He was considered a warrior, fearless, strong, disciplined to the extreme and even ready to give his life for the Japanese culture, or for his family at any time. It meant I was willing to fight for my believes. By now no flesh below the neck was untouched, except for a space between my chest, all the way down the center of my body.

 

Admiring the piece of art he did on my body, I thanked him while I was looking for my clothes. There was a three-piece suit lying next the pile of books, neatly folded, almost looking perfectly. I grabbed my shirt, a double-cuffed white one from Dolce & Gabbana. As I put on my jacket, I noticed the name DIOR sewn into the lining of my suit. 

At least he got good taste, I thought to myself.

My shirt cuff was visible for about one inch, revealing my custom made cufflinks with the initials JT on it. I still didn’t know my name, so this was the first clue I had to finding out my identity. The only thing I knew for sure was that I had to be Yakuza. Given the fact I was missing a part of my finger and I was fully covered in Irezumi. I left the two top buttons of my shirt open, revealing a small part of my chest tattoo. 

The moment I put on my suit and took another long look in the mirror, most of my tattoos weren’t visible anymore. I looked like a decent guy, a regular company man who wouldn’t raise any suspicion to himself, someone who had nothing more to hide for the outside world. The suit was black, sharp-looking and well-fitted. Exactly the sort of thing that a man of his calibre would wear. Most of the people would wear blue, but I refused to look like everyone else. My aim was to stand out from the crowd. I knew my suits had to look good for a man of my posture and occupation, so these were the finest suits you could buy this side of town. They were tailor made, flawless. I tried searching for a wallet in my pockets, tapping each and every one of them until I felt the silhouette of a wallet in my right breast pocket. Reaching down I felt the slight touch of leather, definitely a wallet. As I opened it a photograph tumbled down, landing face up on the ground. I found myself looking directly into the face of a young woman, but I had no idea who she was or what that photograph was doing inside my wallet. I picked it up and put it back in my wallet.

I’ll figure this out later, I thought to myself.

In the other breast pocket was a silver flask with a small calibre bullet stuck in it. The smell of whiskey filled my nostrils when I opened the cap. There is always a time and place for a sip of whiskey, glad my avatar thought the same.

For now I was trying to find out who I was, so I kept going through the wallet looking for some kind of ID. It didn’t take long before I found it, hidden in one of the back pockets. The face on the ID looked exactly as the image I saw in the mirror earlier. The name on it said: Takayama, Jiro.

 

I thanked the old man and made my way outside. I really had no idea what to expect. After all I was still getting used to my new body, even though most of its actions came naturally to me, as if this body and I have always been the same person all along. The taxi door opened automatically on the left side of the car. As soon as the door opened I knew I wasn’t in Tokyo anymore, at least not the same Tokyo as were I was before. 

Big, futuristic apartment blocks rose majestically into the sky. Flying cars were hovering over the skyscrapers, while a light drizzle of rain prevented me from looking upwards. Before I could even think about what I was going to do next, my avatar signaled a taxi on the ground, as if it needed to be somewhere. I wasn’t even fully settled in before he drove off, while he didn’t even know where I was going yet. I gave him an address just outside of town. 

Tanabe, that was the driver’s name, had his eyes fixated on the road ahead of him. His left hand rested on the shifter, even though he was driving an automatic. Suddenly he accelerated, passing one of the few slow drivers that were in his lane, then slips back into his familiar position, ahead of everyone else. Meanwhile the whipers went from left to right and back again. 

I was staring outside when I noticed my own reflection in the car window. This was the first time I really became aware of a scar on my right cheek. Whatever caused it didn’t cut deep, because the scar was barely visible. 

After an hour the skyscrapers changed into Minka, more traditional houses, the only houses that were left from Japan’s ancient traditions. Eventually the neon turned completely to wood and made way for a more breathable environment, the forest.


© Copyright 2020 Nick Van loy. All rights reserved.

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