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The time of her life..

When I was four years old, my father was running a pawn shop in the red-light district of a small city. There were a dozen prostitution houses on the street.

One of them was GENKIN-Rou. Genkin means cash. Genkin Rou had strict cash only policy. No credit, no check.

The owner of Ginkin Rou was an old woman named Madam Yamada. She lost her husband in the war and started this business.

Genkin Rou featured five young courtesans. They were called the Five Sisters, Actually they were not sisters. They were all 19 years old. The Five Sisters made it a rule to go to the public bath early in the afternoon to polish their skin for their night business.

I often helped my father’s business. My only role was to shout when a customer came.

One summer day I was sitting in the reception counter when a young woman came in. The long black hair was shiny and silky. She was wearing a pinkish yukata and a pair of red lacquered geta. She came up and placed her smooth, milky-white forearms on the counter. She had cheeks like freshly-picked peaches. She leaned forward to me and said, “Hello, young boy. Is your father in?” The sweet smell of lavender hit my nostril. She was beautiful.

My eyes were locked on her ripe red lips, and I could not move a moment.

Then finally I shouted, "DAD! You have a visitor!"

“I am Otama from Genkin Rou,” she introduced herself. “My customer needs some money for this.” She produced a ROLEX watch from her bag.

“Oh, this is a fortune,” my father said, “I can lend him 10,000 yen for this.”

Otama received the money and went back.

Since then, Otama often came in to get money for her customers. It was as though all her customers suddenly wanted more money.

Each time she came, she had short conversations with me and my father. She learned my mother was often sick and my father was having trouble taking me to the public bath since he had to work until midnight.

One afternoon, Otama came into the shop carrying her bathing kit.

“Hello, shop master, why don’t I take Yasuo to the bath house with me?”

“Oh, Otama-san. that is very kind of you.”

Otama took my hand and went out. There were four other members of the Five Sisters. Otama announced, “Girls, I am Yasuo’s mom today. Don’t touch him without my permission."

“It’s not fair!” “I want to cuddle him too!” Other girls complained.

Making a big fuss, the team walked to the bath house.

The women’s section of the public bath was empty, except for an old woman.

She gave a startled look to this little boy surrounded by five naked servants.

The five girls and I had a lot of fun in the big bathtub…washing each other, splashing, singing dancing…

Two weeks past. Otama did not come to the pawn shop. I began felling anxious. Something is happening.

I went to Genkin Rou. Usually the place was very noisy: chattering women, yelling men, rattling of sake bottles, sound of shamisen, and so on. But today the house was perfectly quiet. I opened the heavy door and peeked in. I saw Madam Yamada sitting on the tatami with the long pipe. She saw me and beckoned. When I went up to her, she smiled weakly and said, “Yasuo-chan. It’s all over.” She puffed out the smoke into the air.

"What happened?" I asked. “Last year, the big shots in the government decided places like this must disappear.” “Now the deadline has come. “

“Where is Otama?” I asked. “She is gone to Tokyo”

"She left without telling you because it was too hard to say good-bye.

She was saying the time she spent with you was the time of her life."

That was the time of my life, too.



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