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.
Sanjo Hanamachi was the pride of Kugane, if not for its dark alleyways hiding the cages the flowers were trapped behind. Girls were often sold to the houses and bound by debts for the rest of their lives. Nobuyuki found that this was no different for ijin-run flower houses, for those that slept or bought their way into positions of power in Kugane's mizu-shobai. With the creeping threat of heavy debts, Buraku discrimination, and lacking healthcare, Nobuyuki was forced to move to the West. It was a decision he would come to never regret.
Nobuyuki became acquainated with an onsen much like Hotaka Onsen in Ishimura, though it was a considerably larger and much less cramped establishment; Uranami Onsen. Unsurprisingly, it was founded by a group of Eorzeans, though the proprietress was adopted into Hingan culture; as such, she could barely be recognized as ijin herself. He settled down to as a geisha performing at the ochaya, with such blooming success that his okiya assigned him a little sister; Kikyo Hagane, known by her geimei as Ichiemi.
Business blossomed and profit flourished as Nobuyuki was surrounded by friends for once in what felt like a long and lonely life. Yet, the weight of depression still beared down on him relentlessly. In an attempt to withdraw from the pain, Nobuyuki retreated in the spring to his grandparents' old home after he was diagnosed with an eating disorder. There, he was consoled by his remaining grandmother. Only then had he discovered that his grandfather was, in fact, not murdered as a mere Buraku, but murdered as a rival; killed in the Miyamae-gumi's war against the somnus trade with other yakuza organizations. He decided against confronting his grandmother, but figured she'd knew that he held the knowledge anyway. Thus, he made his return to Eorzea to face the fact that the onsen he worked at was merely a front for a much younger yakuza family, the Arashi-gumi.
After being inducted into the family by a reluctant Oyabun, Nobuyuki began to feel the pressure of living double lives, his career at risk. Feeling he's already lost enough in the past year - his father included - he eventually made a heavy decision. His ultimate decision was to retire as a geisha. However, he looked up to this future. He could befriend his old bodyguard, Emmaline Ibori, and become a teacher of hayashi music. While he acquired his qualifications from the Imafuji School of of the Arts, he was once again on the darker side of the mizu-shobai. He was on the hunt for the shadows of the Moon-Devil that haunted the Arashi-gumi.
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. The image of a welcoming host, he is known by his family name to clients and his personal name to friends. 'Ichihiko' was his old geimei that he cast off along with the contract to Ichimitsu Okiya he had finished. After his hiki-iwai, he remains reclusive, keeping shelter to the fact his grandfather was yakuza, as is he. However, he remains cordial as a hayashi music teacher, hoping to keep his pupils upright in challenges.
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).
- Nobuyuki's father, Ienaka-no-Masayuki, studied nagauta at the Imafuji School of the Arts in Nagoya. He used his teachings to compose pieces for his plays, which are largely known among buskers and Ishimura natives. His plays from his prime include The Aesthetics of Ephemeral Autumn and The Mask of Fusakichi.