Was she tired? Yes, she was. She was very tired, but she still dragged her body up. She was a woman and a wife; it was her duty to get everything ready for the day and as it was for all women of Vippon, duty was everything for Yukiko.
Yukiko rubbed her eyes and looked at the time of the small clock she shared with her sister. There was no alarm as that a clock like that would cost more but years of getting up at 5am in the morning has given Yukiko an internal body alarm that worked better than any clock.
Pulling her blanket away, Yukiko stood up and quickly went for her clothes. Her husband was a tradition man so his wives always slept naked even if it was in the dead of winter, even if it wasn’t her night to sleep with him. Yukiko put on her panties, underpants, and bra in a hurry. These were quickly followed by her winter kimono. Much thicker than her summer clothes, it was a necessary expense for the cold winter of Vippon but Yukiko couldn’t help but feel a little guilty at the money wasted for her comfort.
She then tied up her hair tightly in a bun before putting on her hoodveil. Most foreigners think the hoodveil was a garment that just wrap around the head, covering the face but leaving only her eyes visible. However the head covering was actually 2 pieces of three-foot fabric which were tied securely around the head. One of the cloth was tied on top of the head covering the hair and was tied to the second piece of cloth which cover the lower face as well as the neck area. Combine together, the 2 cloths totally covered the whole face outside the small area near the eyes.
Usually, Yukiko would put on the hoodveil first before her kimono but in winter, it was the other way around. Yukiko tied her kimono with a simple obi before leaving the women room. This was the room she and Kimo shared and as per the norm, the women room was right beside the kitchen. As she left the room for the kitchen, she noticed the television was still on. Curious, she went towards the living room and noticed her husband’s son, Kato, sleeping on the couch. Sighing silently, she shook the boy awake.
It would have been easier to just call out but as a woman, she did speak to men unless spoken to. Even if he was currently just a 13 year old boy and she knew him since he was a baby, Kato was a man. After a few seconds of shaking, Kato’s eyes opened. He looked around sleepily before quickly understanding the problem.
Yukiko was glad the boy was brave enough to be embarrassed but publicly she told Kato another thing. “I’m a woman Kato. You are going to be a man in a few months, you don’t say sorry to woman.”
The boy smiled sheepishly and nodded.
“It’s still early,” Yukiko told him. “Go back to your room, your mother will wake you when it’s time.”
Kato nodded and got up. Yukiko went to close the television. After doing so, she heard a gasp and turned to the sound. At the entrance of his room, Kato met his mother. Kimo had slept with their husband last night and like Yukiko had awoke to do her womanly duties. Unfortunately, she had not veiled before coming out of the room and now for the first time in years, Kato was looking at the face of his mother.
Kimo raised her hands to her face to cover it but it was a futile gesture. Kato quickly turned and walked to his room, leaving behind 2 shocked women in his wake. Then, after the shock was over, a look of pure rage appeared on her face of Kimo. Luckily for everyone, instead of confronting her son who should not be there, Kimo proceed to stomp to the kitchen.
Yukiko followed her sister to the kitchen and gave her a few seconds to compose herself. Her sole unwed daughter, Yukio, was just getting up and she knew immediately there was trouble. However she was a smart girl and knew enough to keep quiet. Yukiko was glad. At 15, Yukio had been sleeping in the kitchen for the past 2 years getting ready for her marriage which would be arranged by her husband in a couple of years time. Knowing when to be quiet was a good trait in a wife.
Yukiko went up to her sister and touched Kimo on the arm. Kimo took a deep breath before turning to her. Yukiko tried to keep her voice as pleasant as possible but the message still had to be given.
“Control yourself sister. In a few months, Kato will be a man and you cannot keep thinking of him as just your son. He is the heir to the Yukimura family name and will need help adjusting to his new position.”
Her sister had a look of surprise but she was a good second wife and quickly nodded. “I understand sister. It’s just…hard. I keep thinking of him as my little baby. He was such a cute baby and now…well, he’s all grown up.”
“He was a cute baby,” Yukiko assured his sister. “Now, he will be a good man. It’s as much our duty as his mothers to guide him to manhood as our husband.”
“I…understand.” Kimo finally said. “I will do what’s needed.”
Yukiko hugged her sister. In a way, she understood her sister’s pain. She had 3 daughters and the two oldest had married. It’s always hard to see children leave the nest. Kimo took another deep breath and Yukiko knew she was good to go.
After years together, the two of them had teamwork on their side and breakfast was quickly prepared. Very few words was given to Yukio. In Vippon, you traditionally learn by watching and her two mothers were masters at preparing breakfast. With breakfast ready, the three women took the food out to dining table and went for their daily morning routine.
They brushed their teeth and did their business in the toilet before taking that morning shower. To save money, the three women went into the shower together. The water was cold, warm water was only for the men, and the three women washed each other to quicken their shower. They were careful not to get their hair wet and the non-washing of their hair made the shower time even quicker. Even then, they were all shivering when they came out.
After putting on their kimonos, Yukiko looked at the time and saw that it was almost 6. All three women then proceed to put on their hoodveils. Yukiko looked at the time again and saw they still had some time. She took a quick look out of the window and the city in white. She always thought the city covered in snow a soothing scene. Then, she signaled to the other women.
The 3 women went and stood in a row in the living room. The flat the Yukimura family were staying in had 2 bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a storage room. Yukiko’s husband had insisted on the women having a room of their own so the storage room had been converted. Both Yukiko and Kimo had quietly suggested that they just be allowed to sleep in the kitchen with Yukio.
He refused to allow it.
The 3 women knelt and waited for the men to wake. They did not have to wait long. The alarm from their clocks rang exactly at 6am and the women bowed their heads to the ground. When the men stepped out of their rooms, the first thing they would see would be the kneeling and bowed women.
Yukiko had always wondered how the faces of the men looked like when they saw the women like this, but with her eyes to the ground she would never find out. When she heard the footsteps of the men heading to the bathroom near the kitchen, Yukiko stood. Together with Yukio, she stepped into her husband’s room. Kimo headed into her son’s room.
Making the bed was a simple chore in Vippon. Yukiko just had to clean the futon a little, untied it, folded it up and then stored it in the cabinet. Mother and daughter were soon on their way out of the room. Yukiko walked to the dining table with Yukio dutifully following a step behind. They stood near the table and waited for Kimo. Yukiko’s sister soon came out of Kato’s room and she stood between mother and daughter. Yukiko’s husband and Kato arrived at the dining table and took their seats at the table. All 3 women knelt on the floor. Although they did not bowed their heads to the ground, all 3 women kept their eyes respectfully downwards.
The men began their breakfast. A few moments later, Kimo stood up and walked to her husband’s room. At her movement, Yukiko saw her husband raised an eyebrow but she knew what her sister was doing. Kimo was soon back at the table. She knelt in front of Yukiko and Yukio and with both hands, offered a belt to their husband.
Yukiko kept her silence as Kimo explained to their husband what mistake she made and why she needed a beating. The evil glare their husband gave Kato gave Yukiko no doubt who he thought was at fault. However…
“Kato, take the belt and give your mother 10 strikes.”
Kato looked like he was just asked to kill someone. “What…me? You want me to…”
Yukiko’s husband nodded. “The woman showed you her uncovered face. The dishonour is yours so her punishment is yours as well.” Yukiko’s husband look at his son sternly. “Do your duty son.”
Kato sat there dumbly. Seconds passed and Yukiko’s husband went back to his breakfast. Faced with his father’s order, Kato stood up shakily. He stepped around the dining and went to his mother. His face showed his agony but he took the belt from the hands of his mother. Although Yukiko’s husband was a traditional man, he much prefer the belt as the house discipline tool instead of the standard bamboo cane or wooden paddle. Almost all of the women’s punishment were by the belt and Kato had learned what he should do after seeing his father doing it so many times.
He stepped behind Kimo immediately after taking the belt and Kimo bowed her head to the ground. Kato raised the belt above his head and swung. The belt hit his mother across the back. Kimo’s body reacted but she kept her dignity by neither crying out nor moving away. Part of a woman’s duty in Vippon was to accept such punishments and Yukiko knew there was no way her sister would dishonour herself. Kato raised the belt again and again swung it down.
Yukiko made a point to watch the punishment. Kato was a man now, and she knew she needed to remember this scene. Remember that if she disobey him in the future, she would be in Kimo’s place. She needed to see and remember the power the young man has over her from now on. He was no longer a baby. He was no longer a boy. He is now a man and she, a woman, must obey.
After 10 strikes, Kato stopped. He dropped the belt in front of his mother. Kimo rose her head and took the belt with both hands. She stood up and gave a deep bow to her son. Kato went back to his seat at the table and looking at his face, Yukiko knew he would never fall asleep watching television ever again.
Kimo walked back to their husband’s room to return the belt. Kimo soon returned and took her place between Yukiko and Yukio. All 3 women returned their eyes respectfully downwards. When the men finished their breakfast and got up, all 3 women bowed their heads to the ground. As the footsteps got further away, the women stood up and cleared the table. They then went back to the living room and knelt at the door of their flat.
The men stepped out of their rooms dressed for their day. Yukiko’s husband was a taxi-driver and in Vippon this meant he was dressed in a finely-pressed suit with a tie and black pants. His son was still in school and was dressed in his school uniform of a white long-sleeved shirt with a black jacket over it. In the summer, the jacket would be put aside but now it’s winter and the jacket was part of the uniform. Kato’s black pants completed the look.
As the two walked towards the door, the 3 women bowed their heads to the ground. The men sat on two stools either side of the door and Yukiko crawled to her husband. With proper respect, she kept her head low as she put on her husband’s black leather shoes. She then crawled back to her position in line. On her left, she felt Kimo crawling back in line after putting on the shoes for her son.
“Raise your head.” The 3 women did as ordered and Yukiko’s husband continued. “You all did well today. I want all of you to do the same for the rest of the day. Goodbye.”
“Goodbye Sir.” The 3 women intoned as Yukiko saw her husband put on his white gloves. The men left.
The moment the door closes again, Yukiko’s left arm went to her sister and hugged her close. Yukiko knew her husband had said the words of doing well especially for her.
“How did feel Kimo?”
“Painful,” her sister said. “But at the same time, proud. I felt so proud. My boy all grown up.”
Kimo’s face finally broke and she began sobbing. Yukiko gave her sister a shoulder to cry on. When the sobs subsided, Yukiko pulled down her faceveil showing her face to her sister. She gently pushed Kimo apart from her and pulled her veil down as well. Yukiko then gave her sister a wet kiss on the lips. When they parted, Yukiko’s words were for her daughter.
“Yukio, please start the cleaning without us. Yours mothers will be busy for the next few hours.”
Yukio giggled her acknowledgement and Yukiko pulled her sister up to her feet. Hand in hand, she led Kimo to their room. As the first wife, it was usually Kimo who serviced her but today would be different. For doing her duty so well, Yukiko knew her sister deserved a reward and Yukiko fully intend to give her one.
This too was part of a woman’s duty in Vippon.