Read Story: SEASON 1 EPISODE 549
Choosing A House For Rent
After the Perry Expedition, the Edo Shogunate concluded the Kanagawa Treaty with the U.S and was forced to open the two trading ports of Shimoda and Hakodate. However, after the five years of Emperor Komei’s reign, the two sides signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce on the Puritan Ship. The ports of Kanagawa, Nagasaki, Niigata, and Hyogo were added to the treaty. At the same time, foreigners were allowed to stay for business in the Edo and Osaka areas.
Although Kyoto wasn’t on the list, it took only one day to get there from Osaka. Ten years had passed since the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, and after the Kinmon incident, Sonnõ jõi rethought their strategy. Since the emperor was the only one in charge now, he focused on bakumatsu. The barbarian was no longer mentioned anymore, and they started to cooperate with the West actively. Hence, Westerners could move around even more freely now.
As the most important river in the Kansai region, the Yodo River originated from Lake Biwa and connected the Kyoto Basin with the Osaka Plain. It was an important transportation channel for Kyoto during the Edo period. Many foreign merchants from Osaka had also come to Kyoto by traveling on this river.
Zhang Heng asked around about the nearest pier, and he arrived at the spot before sunset.
The place was no less lively than the city. The riverbank was lined with machiya, where tiles were neatly arranged on their roofs, and signboards and curtains swayed in the gentle breeze. The window’s first layer was a thin convex lattice followed by a mosquito net-a classic example of traditional Japanese architecture.
The building’s main structure was made of wood, its entrance narrow, but the walkway long. Under normal circumstances, the part facing the street would be used as a shop, and the back was used as lodging. The advantage of this layout saw all the shops clustered up, and they were close to each other.
There were boatmen unloading goods at the pier, and there were also ladies preparing to get on the boats. A shrine was not too far away from Zhang Heng, where dozens of devotees gathered outside for the daily blessings and protection. It wasn’t long before Zhang Heng found a Western businessman interested in hiring a translator.
The latter’s name was Gabriel, a Frenchman. He had come to Kyoto with a business group to discuss selling a batch of cotton yarn with a local businessman. It seemed he was dissatisfied with the cotton yarn business, and he had other plans in his mind. However, it was inappropriate for him to announce his plans to the business group-It meant he would not be able to use the assigned translator in the group. Just when he wondered where to find a Japanese that could understand French, Zhang Heng delivered himself to him. Gabriel was delighted. He quickly waved his hand, eventually agreeing to pay Zhang Heng a koban each day as his salary. Koban was a general currency used during the Edo period and was a gold coin of sorts.
A koban was equivalent to one tael of gold, and one tael of gold was equivalent to a small sentence of one or two gold-one or two gold was approximately 60 mace or four strings of coins. In this era, the daily income of a craftsman in Kyoto was about 70 coins. In other words, Zhang Heng’s current daily income had almost caught up with a craftsman’s two-month salary.
Zhang Heng knew one or two things about translation jobs of the era. He had consulted the people at the pier before he came here and discovered a huge demand for professional translators in Japan right now. However, those who could communicate with foreign businessmen were no longer lacking as they did before the Perry Expedition. In fact, even when the country was shut down during the bakumatsu, Satsuma, Choshu, and others had been secretly doing business with other countries.
The tanegashima (actually the matchlock gun) originated from Satsuma. When a Portuguese merchant ship was blown to Tanegashima Island south of Satsuma by a typhoon, they named this Japanese iron gun as Tanegashima. Now that the shogunate had opened for trade for over ten years, many Japanese had traveled to Europe to study, and a translation job wasn’t as valuable as it used to be.
Gabriel’s paid more than double the market price. And he did not even know Zhang Heng well. Zhang Heng also asked for an advance payment, and despite that, Gabriel didn’t hesitate to hire him. From there, he knew that this French businessman’s plan in Kyoto might not be as simple as he thought it was.
With Zhang Heng’s Lv.3 sword-fighting skills and the experience accumulated in the previous few quests, he was not too worried about the dangers he encountered. Moreover, it was sundown, and it might be too late to find the next employer. So, in the end, an agreement was reached between both sides.
After paying Zhang Heng a koban, Gabriel asked him to meet tomorrow morning at the tea house next to the pier. When Zhang Heng left the pier after talking to him, the sky had fallen into complete darkness. Thanks to a meal before the quest, he wasn’t very hungry, and as of now, his top priority would be to find a place to stay.
During the Edo period, the shogunate set up a Sankin-kõtai system to control various domains’ lords. These were required to go to Edo every once in a while to carry out government affairs for the shoguns. In fact, it was just an excuse to make them spend less time in their territory and prevent them from fooling around when they were there. If they disobeyed, they could be taken down the next time.
However, Tokugawa was kind enough to fix all the dojo along the way. Later, he even started to develop hatagoya, a somewhat similar concept to capsule hotels of later generations. Not only did they include two meals for every night you stayed, but many hatagoya had maids to take care of their customers. During the bakumatsu, more and more travelers poured into Japan, and the hatagoya started to deteriorate. Criminals began providing gambling equipment and prostitutes to their customers, and some hatagoya even forced their maids to become sex workers.
After that, Osaka’s businessmen banded up, discussing a plan to open chain hotels and unified the service standards, so travelers could stay at ease in the hotel with the guild’s sign hanging outside the door.
Whether it was a hatagoya or an ordinary inn, they were temporary solutions for Zhang Heng. Considering the time that he needed to stay in this quest, Zhang Heng still preferred to rent his a house. Seeing that there was still some time, instead of going to the hotel in a hurry, he found a middleman nearby and asked the latter to show him the houses around this area available for rent.
The middleman was a fourteen or fifteen-year-old boy who looked brilliant and was also born in this area. He was well informed and knew everything about every household. Zhang Heng first paid him 100 coins and promised to give him another 100 after that. Immediately, he became more energetic than before. He did not care if he had not eaten dinner. His priority was to take Zhang Heng to walk around the streets.
However, Zhang Heng was not interested in the several houses located in the prime spots. The two of them went further and further and had to light up their lanterns in the end. Zhang Heng had already planned to give up and wanted to do it again tomorrow. However, the last place triggered Zhang Heng’s interest.
Once they entered the house, they saw a small courtyard. At its center was a cherry blossom tree, and the smells it emitted were nothing short of phenomenal. There was a well under the tree as well, and the water was crystal clear. The layout of the small courtyard was square, simple, and beautiful. Once Zhang Heng pulled open the shoji door, he saw that the house was spacious and there was also a tea room. Other than that, the furniture was complete. In a modern-world context, Zhang Heng could just bring his luggage in and stay here for good.