"It is the truth. In fact, my father once bargained for one. I must have been about six at the time. We were walking from Abura-machi toward Tōri-chō when a vendor approached from the opposite direction. 'Girls for sale! Girls for sale!' he sang out in a loud voice. Just as we reached the 2-chōme corner, where the Isegen drapery stands, we met up with the man. Isegen has a block-long storefront and five warehouses. It's the foremost drapery in all of Shizuoka. Next time you're there, you must stop and see it. It's little changed from back in the day. A grand establishment. The head clerk was Jinbei. He was always there at the front desk, and always with a sullen look, as though he'd just lost his mother. Next to Jinbei sat Hatsu-san, a younger companion in his mid twenties. Hatsu-san was pale in complexion. One imagined him a disciple of Unshō Risshi who, in accordance with the 37 Practices of Bodhisattva, ate nothing but soba broth for 21 days at a time. Next to Hatsu-san was Chōdon, hunched over his abacus with a sorrowful air, as though he'd just been burned out of house and home. Along with Chōdon ..." "What's the topic here, the drapery or the selling of girls?" "Ah, yes. It's the selling of girls, isn't it? I've got some Isegen stories you wouldn't believe, but we'll have to save those for another day. Back to the girls." "You can save all your stories for another day." "Certainly not. We're comparing the character of girls today, in this twentieth century, to the character of those of the early Meiji years. To that end, what I'm relating is highly relevant and can't be easily dispensed with -- so anyway, my father and I are in front of Isegen, and the vendor addresses my father. 'I've several unsold girls, and I'm ready to deal. How 'bout one?' So saying, he lowers his shoulder pole and dabs the sweat from his brow. On his pole are two baskets, one forward and one aft. In each basket is a small girl of two or so. My father tells the vendor he might be interested if the price is right. He asks if there are any others, and the vendor replies that, regrettably, they're all sold out and he's down to these last two. 'Either one is fine, but do take one.' With that, he holds one out to my father, cradling it in both hands like a pumpkin. My father gives it a couple of raps on the head and expresses his satisfaction with the sound. The bargaining begins, and the vendor yields on price. 'I might take one,' my father tells him, 'but how do I know which one's good?' 'I've had my eye on the one in front,' the vendor replies, 'so that one I can vouch for. I don't have eyes in the back of my head, so the one behind may well be no good. I can't vouch for her, so I'll let her go for less.' I still remember this exchange. It occurred to me at the time, in my child's mind, that one can't be too careful when it comes to girls. -- Today, however, in this 38th year of Meiji, we don't suffer the absurdity of girl vendors. Nor do we hear talk that a girl out of sight, slung back over one's shoulder, is a dubious thing. One can credit Westernization, as I see it, with elevating the character of today's girls over those of yore. Wouldn't you say, Kangetsu?"