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10 Ishikawa's Rationing



Akihiko had toured around the village in the morning, informing the village folk on his tin megaphone about the stricter food rationing the Imperial Government recently mandated to all citizens. This tighter government portion control had one of the elderly village folk grumbling his woes before Rei Ishikawa at his shop.

"Bah! We eat to 1793 calories a day already! Now we're told to eat less!" Grumbled an elderly man. "It's our children who suffer the most!"

He stood before Rei who was a tall and slightly muscly presence behind his sweet display counter, which creatively displayed a sparse variety of colourful dango, daifuku and wagashi.

A lot of people came to know Rei as the friendly giant with a sweet tooth, since he was 6-foot-2 and broad in his chest and shoulders. His squarish face, rugged stubble and thick brows completed his manliness.

"Suzuki-san. This is a time of war and Japan has more people that it can carry. Food needs to be rationed. Think of all our good soldiers fighting the enemy for us. We must face these times with honour and a strong community." Rei gave a manly reminder to the wiry old man whilst handing him an extra piece of dango on-the-house.

"Aye, that is true." Suzuki-san changed his tune when his stomach was sated with sweet dango. "I'll be going now."

Rei politely waved off his elderly customer who hobbled out blissfully through the blue linen noren that was his shop door. He heaved a sigh when he was sure the old man was gone.

"Rei-san! You shouldn't spoil people with freebies! They become expectant and take advantage of your good nature!"

Rei groaned at the heavy scolding he received from his wife at his back. It's not like he didn't have an ulterior motive for his generosity. The people were his business, so he had to treat them well. The old man Suzuki had brought a number of sweets from them the day before, so he was providing a bonus to a loyal customer.

"Asako-chan. It's customer service. We need to maintain a business." His deep voice answered with a conviction that didn't sway his wife.
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Asako was a complete physical contrast to Rei in her modest, stylish, blue kimono. She was petite in build (almost as slender as a teenage girl), modest in her mannerisms and dainty in her looks with smooth pale skin for a woman her age. Her hair was always done up in a traditional bun. Her modesty stopped with her looks. The village people viewed Asako as the Sweet Man's Sharp Tooth Wife for her occasional cutting words and bluntness.


"You need to ask for payment next time! We're not a charity business!" She further scolded with a haughty scoff, firm on her stance that maintaining business didn't mean giving away precious freebies.

She dropped her scolding with a weary sigh, feeling exhausted by their repeated arguments and joined him at their shop-display counter. Her eyes wandered over the little amounts of sweets they had to offer.

Because of the Imperial government's food rationing mandate, they had to recalculate the lack of ingredients in their recipes. Fortunately, they were able to self-sustain most of their shortfall from their own farm produce. Rice was a major player with their sweets. The government's strict rationing had made it difficult for them to fulfil on large orders. All their high paying contracts from Nagano towns and villages ended without renewal, so they were forced to rely on the piddly local patronage. They had converted the small store to a tea shop/night bar with a handful of cafe tables and chairs to make up for shortfalls. Half the time the people used their shop as a meeting point for gossip, and rarely bought sweets. It was bleak outlook for their business.

Shuffling noises of the noren being pushed aside snapped Asako out of her depressive thoughts. She lit up at the sight of her two childhood friends stepping inside.

"Asako-chan!" Honda-obasan coyly greeted her friend.

Asako warmly greeted the two woman who sat at the cafe table where most of the daylight shone through the shoji panels. She instantly prepared tea and wagashi on-the-house for them, oblivious of Rei's groaning about her 'hypocritical reset button' being pressed.

"So, what's on your mind?" Asako's voice drifted across to the two women seated at the table.

She sat in one of the seats to join them, leaving any incoming business to Rei.

"Well..." Honda-obasan started.

Asako listened animatedly as the woman gossiped feverishly about the young mother and her child living with Hinata between mouthfuls of sweets and tea.

"I saw her when she was walking with our Mayor. Such a pretty young thing." Honda-obasan said. " I wonder why our Mayor left her in that boy's care?"

The talk made Asako ponder the fact with a frown. Why did their mayor leave them to that boys' care? Surely, he was aware of Daichi Chikafuji's nephew being of that type. She wasn't the sort of person to superficially pass judgement on a man, and Hinata was a polite and well bred boy. Yet to leave a family to that boy's care was poor form. It was just as well the child was a girl.

"It would be like having two women run the house." Honda-obasan chuckled. "I'm honestly surprised Ito-shichou-sama didn't invite the woman to his own home. She's very much his type."

Asako frowned, not liking the direction this gossip was headed. Despite being young, Ito-shichou-sama was managing the village efficiently.

"What does Akira-chan think about this? He frequents that boy's place a lot." Asako tested for her friend's reaction and smirked at the woman's sudden silence.

Their conversation was fortunately disrupted by Watanabe-sensei and five children entering the shop. She was glad that someone had at least given them a decent bath, recognising the displaced kids who had travelled for days in a truck from Osaka. The muddled expression behind their eyes were worrisome, especially the harshness she saw in the two preteen boys standing protectively close to the little ones. She hoped they weren't going to be a troublesome influence to the local kids.

"Good morning ladies, Ishikawa-san." Watanabe-sensei's mouth was stretched with a generous smile.

He began to introduce the five kids who hovered closely to his side. Asako turned her nose up at the two scrawny preteen boys who had light brown eyes and reddish-brown hair. She had heard of mix-race (nisei) children being sent to Japan from other countries. It made her mad that her government were letting in these ill bred brats whilst good families were barely able to eat a decent meal. These children were the not the type of people her son fought the war for.

She huffed at the boys and cast her eyes over of the three littler one's hanging onto the boys' shirts. They looked normal and probably around the ages of three to five years.

"Here you go." Rei-san said to the children as he gently handed each child a piece of dango with a friendly smile and gentle pat to each head.

"Dōmo arigatōgozaimashita." One of the preteen boy's bowed respectfully to Rei with modest thanks.

Watanabe-sensei thanked them for their time and ushered the children out of the shop to visit another area on their tour.

"What is this world coming to that we allow foreign children into our homes?" Honda-obasan voiced Asako's thought.

"Hmph. We already have a food shortage as it is, now there's going to be more people starving." Asako said bitterly as she watched the noren's swaying slow to a rest.

The three woman let the experience go with a sigh and turned they conversation to lighter topics. Rei continued to work the shop on his own in the background.