Chronicles of The Hardships of Komachi in The Sengoku Era Chapter 4
Translator(s): Lox, Kenar Editor: Merp TLC: Lox
Year 1565, late April
Agriculture is a fight against the land. Shizuko remembered her grandfather saying such a thing before.
For the past three weeks since coming to the village, the main focus was maintaining the soil, which was hard labor.
However, because we steadily continued the field improvements, we were able to create a plot of land for the sweet corn, pumpkin, tomato, and sugar cane.
In addition, we stirred up the mountain of materials for the compost every week and the sweet potato seedlings we raised were planted in the field one after another.
Even in this situation, Shizuko who longed for a bath, and made a workgroup produce large amounts of plank-shaped wood. However, opportunities for success did not come themselves. Although this is a matter of course, Shizuko seemed to get frustrated.
While this was happening, she happened to stumble upon the cliff behind the previous village Mayor's home, and she noticed the cliffs were slightly wet. Curious, Shizuko investigated further and found that right above her height, about two meters high, there was a small hole in the cliff and from that hole, there was water leaking out.
At first, she believed it to be groundwater, but it was strangely warm to the touch. No way, she thought, so she took the time to accumulate the water; it was naturally hot water, in other words, a natural hot spring.
"Fu, fufu… It's a miracle. Thank you, God!"
She thought today was a lucky day, and hurriedly gathered the villagers and started working.
First, they leveled the ground to make a place to store the hot water. Then, to increase the amount of hot water flowing out of the hole, they readjusted the size of the holes in the cliff. Looking at the hot water gathering little by little, Shizuko was so overwhelmed she could not put it into words.
However, it could not be used as it is. There is no point to hot water if it was dirty, so she decided to install a filter to clean the hot water.
Even though it was called a filter, it was a very simple one with rocks, charcoal, sand, and gravel mixed together. Although it was simple, it had excellent results. The hot water that was as black as coal at first gradually started to become cleaner.
Leading the clean water through a wooden pipe they made, it got sent towards the house. It is not so much a house as it is a facility specifically designed to use the hot water, in essence, a bathhouse.
Incidentally, the former Mayor's house was an obstacle to establishing the bathhouse but, Shizuko demolished it without any problems. Afterwards, Shizuko relayed the information. At that time, the face of the previous Mayor about to cry would be unforgettable, Shizuko thought.
And so, finally, a simple bath was created. It was rushed construction work but, thanks to the villagers who were frightened by Shizuko's extremely determined expression, they worked harder than usual and completed it.
"Ahhhh-, this is the best~…."
Having the bath to herself, fully enjoying the hot water she hadn't enjoyed in a long time. Of course, male and female bathing areas are separated. However, the villagers who didn't know what a bath was and furthermore didn't understand how to use it, didn't even try to approach it.
"Yeah, baths are the source of life-"
Although she didn't have shampoo nor conditioner, just taking a bath in the first place was bliss for Shizuko.
(It seems we can improve general hygiene and this is also not bad either~. We need to somehow procure a substitute for soap too… but, indeed, it's a real blessing to find a hot spring.)
Shizuko floated around with a careless expression. She didn't know yet. That this hot spring will later become the cause for a ridiculous incident.
One month passed since she came to the village. The initial confusion and hesitation from that time flew away some time ago and now the villagers were all planting the sweet potato seedlings with familiar movements.
For the other crops; the tomato, pumpkin, sweet corn, and sugarcane seeds were already planted. Later they just needed to do the weeding, intertilling, and hilling at some point and then they could harvest sometime in the summer.
She thought that the compost making and planting the sweet potato seedlings would be the villagers' main job so she started working on other jobs.
The first thing that Shizuko was concerned about was the drinking water. Currently, river water was being used but, she thought that she wanted to use a well if possible.
However, digging up a well is hard labor and on top of that, we need to find a place where the water rises. The hot spring was a product of a miracle, but to find a similarly convenient well would be unlikely.
(Well, let's take our time to find it)
Everything that had to be done within the first month is pretty much finished so, it's better to rest your body for now. Having thought that, Shizuko had only been doing the more relaxing work these days. Making ridges to plant the sweet potato seedlings in, taking out weeds, and mixing the compost ingredients while adding extra rice bran and straw to the mixture.
In terms of the compost, it was a big deal that we were able to procure horse manure. Unlike cattle manure, horse manure is an excellent material for compost. However, unlike cattle which has some uses to a farmer, horses were hardly grazed during the Sengoku Period.
That's why when Shizuko arrived in the village, she asked the person in charge of the horses to save the horse manure for her. Unexpectedly, her request was easily accepted and once a week, every week, it was delivered to the village.
(We'll use the compost during the winter and… when it's time to grow the crops next year I suppose.)
We'll do soil maintenance when the ground gets softer in the winter and a week before we plant the crop seeds and seedlings; that's twice. We'll plan on using the compost with that timing, is what Shizuko planned.
"Mayor~, we've finished planting the seedlings~"
"Oh, yes. Good work~"
While she was in the middle of her thoughts, the villagers who were doing soil maintenance and planting the seedlings returned. When looking up at the sky, the sun's positioning made it clear that it was still before noon. It can be said that their proficiency resulted in an improvement of their work efficiency.
"Planting for about eight percent of the field has been completed. At this rate, everything will be finished by next week."
"Oh my, there are a larger amount of seedlings here than expected."
"Oh, is that so. But that's still amazing. About a week ago, we harvested them as pretty much seedlings but, today, there are already buds popping up here and there.
"(That's because it would even grow on a soil where volcanic ash piled up.) It can't be helped. We didn't plan for this but let's expand the size of the fields. It never hurts to have a larger harvest."
"Understood. Then we'll start digging up the field in that area."
With a cheerful smile, the villages carried their tools in one hand while heading to the field. As expected, when you see results on the fields (although it's only just a few buds), you feel pretty good.
"Fuu… I guess I'll fulfill today's quota and then take a bath."
After wiping the sweat off of her forehead, Shizuko resumed her work.
（There was a time when I thought "I finished my work today too, so I'm gonna fully enjoy my hot bath!"）
Shizuko tried to escape from reality and yet, she was disappointed that her wish didn't come true. However, Shizuko's senses reluctantly brought her back to reality by the intimidating figure in front of her.
"What's wrong? Weren't you going to surprise me?"
There is a man around 30 with a broad grin plastered on his face. He was Oda Nobunaga, who was the one acting as Shizuko's guardian.
"I'm very sorry for getting carried away too much. Please have a mercy-!"
Shizuko went to kneel on the ground perfectly and kept begging for his mercy while shivering. Although Nobunaga could hardly hear it due to her taking too fast.
"It's not like I'm angry or anything. I just wanted to see the results that you said with your big mouth."
(That means you are angry, right!?) "I-I'm really sorry"
It was just a slip of the tongue. But because the work was going better than expected, I relaxed a bit too much.
While looking at the fields from higher ground I thought, "If we continue at this rate and expand our fields out, our poor food situation will be completely reversed and Oda-sama would have to reconsider my village, right?! What if we all of a sudden become an important region or something?" and accidentally blurted it out.
Usually, it would've just been a harmless mumbling to oneself but, regrettably, Nobunaga himself caught wind of the speech.Shizuko thought to herself that she really needed to confirm her surroundings before speaking to herself.
"…Well, that's fine. So, where is this so-called hot spring?"
"Ha? Hot spring?"
Shizuko couldn't reply in an affirmative when a topic about the hot spring was brought suddenly.
"What… From the report of it, I heard that you found and dug a hot spring…?"
"Umm, yes. Certainly, I found a hot spring but…?"
Shizuko who gradually have a bad feeling guessed Nobunaga's next words. She thought 'Honestly, give me a break.'
"I also wanted to know what this so-called hot spring was like you see. And that is why you need to guide me to a hot spring."
But the reality was cruel.
It is said that people such as Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin in the Sengoku Era kept their eye on the efficacy of hot springs. However, if you asked whether or not Oda Nobunaga were the same as them, the correct answer would be "I'm not sure". And wanting to experience a hot spring is the same thing as saying you've never seen a hot spring before. In other words, Oda Nobunaga has no knowledge of a hot spring. That's why he is having Shizuko guide him. That means that-
(At this rate, this will be a mixed bathing, right-!)
It means that we will take a bath together.
In the first place, Nobunaga came to the village was because of Shizuko's report of finding a hot spring to Mori Yoshinari. Mori Yoshinari who didn't know what a hot spring was, without writing any extra personal views, sent a report as is.
If it was normal, it would be ended up in doubt, but the person called Nobunaga was awfully brimming with curiosity. Rather than doubting it, it can be called that he wants to experience it by himself.
"What are you doing? Hurry up!"
"R- Right away-!!"
Shizuko, who was frightened by Nobunaga's raised voice, prepared herself and guided Nobunaga to the bathing area. They were originally near the bathing area so there was no need to walk that much. They arrived at their destination in only five minutes.
"Wow… what a small area"
"(Compared to what?) Umm, the left side is for men and the right side for women if we looking from the front. The reason why the hot spring is separated by gender is the manner when entering-"
"Such manner or custom is trivial. Show it to me quickly"
"(Nonono! Please wait a moment!?) Even if you say that, going together with the likes of me, your retainers won't allow it…"
There was no such a vulgar feeling coming from Nobunaga himself about the mixed bath. Because he didn't know about what is a hot spring in the first place. Even if he was to start talking about a mixed bathing, he has the authority to let it slide. There was less and less choice because of Shizuko was under Nobunaga's protection.
"Don't mind it. Even if you try to kill me, I'm not so soft as to fall behind women and children."
"(That's right~) Th-then please come inside"
Shizuko opened the door of the bathroom while thinking 'Someday, he will be killed by his own men'.
The items prepared by Shizuko were a bathing chair, a one-handed pail, a wooden hot-water basin, a substitute for soap - a powder made from the fruit of the washnut, a bamboo basket to put your kimono in, and a yukata to wear in the bath.
Actually, washnut is a natural surfactant which contains a large amount of saponin. If you dry the fruit and make it into a powder, it can be fully used as a substitute for a soap. Also, saponin is poisonous for a living being, therefore, birds and insects aren't eating it.
For that reason, a complete natural cultivation without using any pesticide and fertilizer can be done, furthermore, there's no need to harvest them quickly. In Japan's climate, excluding especially cold places such as Niigata, they often grow in wet mountainous regions with lots of sunshine.
(I'm glad I remembered, environmental friendly knowledge)
In a nature-type magazine, Shizuko was remembering reading about how if you dried and ground up the washnut into a powder, it would become a natural soap.
However, there were only a few washnuts that Shizuko could get her hands on, and had to put up with the tiny amount from this harvest.
Because the original harvest time period is from November, even if it's a small amount, it's great to get any in your hands around this time in the beginning of spring.
(Well, I have no choice but to put up with it. We'll harvest a lot this year-!?)
As Shizuko was getting herself fired up, she went into the men's side accompanied by Nobunaga.
But she completely forgot something. In the first place, in the Sengoku era, there is no type of bath that covers your entire body with water.
The normal bath style is one that is like a steaming bath, in essence, a sauna type of style. But this can only be done if you are a high ranking officer, in other words, someone of national ranking like Oda Nobunaga.
By chance, we were able to find a natural hot spring but normally, it is an extremely luxurious facility that would need a lot of firewood prepared beforehand that takes a lot of time and effort.
Therefore, she made a bathtub, the type where it was filled with hot water "Onsen"(Hot spring). Though even if she says that, Nobunaga wouldn't know about it.
However, even that was still good. The reason why is because the bathing situation for farmers and lower class officers were even more miserable.
Preparing a sauna was a dream within a dream and "outdoor bathing" was a common bathing situation. The type of bath where you'd fill a tub up with hot water hasn't spread in the Edo period yet. However, in this Edo, how many days is it normal to not take a bath in the rural areas?
It is said that Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin had bathing areas that were referred to as hidden hot springs but, that was also only reserved for quite a limited amount of people, aides, and special guests.
In other words, this sort of facility, where Shizuko is using water that is heated by an unknown heat source (because they can't survey it) and built a facility with a large public bath that anyone can use, is completely impossible to imagine in this time period.
At the center of a room where there was a little bit of steam accumulated, there was a bathtub large enough to easily fit five people. Nobunaga stared down and let out a breath of admiration.
- Intertilling is when you cultivate between the rows of a crop. You do this to prevent weeds from popping up. It also aerates the soil which stimulates crop root growth while conserving soil moisture and providing insulation from the sun.
- Hilling, also known as earthing up or ridging. It's when you put some soil up around the base of the plant (usually for potatoes) to promote growth along the stem as well as protect the potatoes from being exposed to light (they produce the toxin solanine and become inedible when exposed to light).
- Also known as the Indian Soapberry or in Japanese it's called mukuroji. Can also be called a soapnut. Wiki link.
- Saponins are a class of chemical compounds, one of many secondary metabolites found in natural sources, with saponins found in particular abundance in various plant species. More specifically, they are amphipathic glycosides grouped, in terms of phenomenology, by the soap-like foaming they produce when shaken in aqueous solutions, and, in terms of structure, by their composition of one or more hydrophilic glycoside moieties combined with a lipophilic triterpene derivative.