In Hingashi's seclusion until recent years, it housed many villages in its provinces that most foreigners would not be able to even name. One such village was Ishimura in Asanai Province, a small but thriving settlement. It was home to many miners of the foothills of Takao-san, a mountain south of Koshu Island. When the sun set on the eastern country, many workers of Ishimura would gather at the Hotaka Onsen, where male and female geisha alike performed. However, as the mining business bloomed with the opening of Hingashi to the outside world, Ishimura was gradually bleeding residents that weren't invested in the extraction of iron ore or the natural hot springs. Save for visiting tycoons and other loyal patrons, the onsen itself was struggling to stay afloat as many prospective geisha left for the nyokoba - a vocational school for geisha - of the nearby city of Nagoya, but stayed. A hard-working few remained to maintain their town's heritage for the fine arts. It was those passing few that inspired the son of a playwright; Ienaka-no-Nobuyuki. The delicate way the geisha carried themselves, the intricacies of their fashion; Nobuyuki wanted to be an embodiment of the arts. He wanted it all.
Nobuyuki's family were among the ones that eventually made their way to Nagoya from Ishimura. Two years later, at the age of ten, Nobuyuki was registered to attend the nyokoba where he would learn the arts. He practiced the shamisen until his fingers bled and played the yokobue until he was out of breath. Out of all the arts he studied, music was his particular passion. In his late teens, when he finished his education, he was adopted by Nagoya's Ichimitsu Okiya, a house exclusively for male geisha. He was intent on becoming a fully-fledged geisha at Nagoya, spending the rest of his life at the location near the town of his birth. However, everything changed when an outbreak of Red Throat swept across the city, brought to the area from travellers from Ishimura. Masayuki, Nobuyuki's father, was among those effected. Eventually, the disease had claimed him.
With the loss of his greatest supporter in life and the danger of receiving the same fate, Nobuyuki had to part ways with Ichimitsu Okiya. Over a span of a few moons, under great scrutiny of porters to ensure that he was not a carrier of the disease, he made his way to Shishu. With the opening of Kugane's ports, he made his way for the willow district, seeking to continue his pursuit of the arts. Though he had to overcome a great amount of xenophobia for the ijin, he shares respect for those that harbor an appreciation for Hingashi's traditions. It is his only hope that the coming ijin can understand the value of a geisha's dedicated lifestyle.
Nobuyuki was raised under the traditional Hingan belief that an individual should dedicate themselves to their profession to at least a level of expertise. Nobuyuki is less impressed by adventurers than he is by artisans or warriors who seek to master their specific craft. His hard-working demeanor doesn't allow for pessimism, though he may come off as unsympathetic at times. Some may perceive him as snobbish, but the exterior is worth the portrayal to shield a softer, caring interior.
Nobuyuki's strict attitude is not a sign of aloofness. With friends as 'Nobuyuki' and with patrons as 'Ichihiko', he is the perfect image of a welcoming host. He makes for a cordial conversationalist, making connections with his companions through story and even gossip, if the other individuals bring up the latter. Albeit, he draws a fine line at outright displays of affection, whether verbal or physical. He laughs off flirting attempts, far more focused on his dream of becoming a senior geisha than squirreling it away with a relationship. Whether or not he finds himself spoiled with secrets is uncertain, but definitely not with a patron.
Although he seems more reserved on a personal level, Nobuyuki greets all his clients with a warm smile and a cant of his head. Even around strangers, he maintains a placid nature. He has an emphasis on saving face for himself and those around him - an important concept in Hingashi, called 'mentsu'. Thus, negative opinions are not expressed unless it keeps order.
Notes & Trivia
- Kawagishi-no-Chikako, Nobuyuki's mother, is a confectioner who opted to stay in Nagoya since the Red Throat outbreak. Currently, since it subsided, she is alive and well.
- Noboyuki's favorite foods include unagi donburi, tofu, yomogi daifuku, tsukemono, and anything spicy.
- Nobuyuki's least favorite foods include cheese, natto, beef, plums, and goma-ae (especially with chrysanthemum greens, called shungiku no gomae-ae).
- Nobuyuki's favorite plays are largely of the kabuki genre. They include Sukeroku and Narukami. They are among Hingashi's Kabuki Jūhachiban (Eighteen Best Kabuki Plays).