Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Hidemi’s Rambling No.430

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Spending early childhood regularly at Emi’s house greatly influenced my taste and perspective on life. A longing for westernized ways and a wish to enjoy life were rooted firmly inside of me. In addition to the house and the family, even the guests hanging at Emi’s house were somewhat western. Emi and her two brothers were around twenty years old and their friends often flocked in the house when they were at home. Those people were the kind I’d seen only on TV. The boys were wearing flashy shirts and the girls with curly hair were in low waist shorts with a navel exposed. They would play cards on a huge table in the living room and let me play with them by immensely advantageous rules. On the table were expensive snacks and chocolates I’d never seen before. Beside the table, one of them would play a guitar and some would sing along to it. Every single aspect lacked reality I knew. To me, it was inside an American TV show. Meanwhile, Emi would take me to a municipal office repeatedly to bring lunch for a young local government official. She would tell him she had to come because I pestered her, which I never did. On our way back, she was always in a good mood and would treat me to lunch at a nice restaurant. A couple of years later, she got married with him. My little sister became old enough to follow me to Emi’s house and I lost my refuge from her. I found a smaller pair of kid-sized slippers next to my special pair at the entrance one day. They had bought a pair for my sister too, and I was no longer an only VIP there. That cooled my passion for Emi’s house fast. I stopped visiting soon. Within fifteen years afterward, Emi’s oldest brother moved out, her grandparents and her mother passed away and my dream house was torn down. Her father built a cafe on the site for her other brother but it was closed and also torn down before long. On the site of my dream house is now a cluster of small houses in which strangers live. My fantasy days and place are completely all gone…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.429

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From the age of four to seven, I spent most of my time and energy to visit Emi’s house. To add to my strict grandparents, my baby sister was born and I had one more thing to escape from. It wasn’t just for the splendor of Emi’s house. Unlike at my house, I received VIP treatment at Emi’s house. Since I’d been there so often, Emi’s family bought a pair of kid-sized slippers for my exclusive use, which was quite rare on the market back then. Every time I entered the house, my special slippers waited in the hall. Because Emi’s grandparents who were go-betweens for my parents’ marriage retreated into their room, Emi’s parents were seldom at home, and Emi and her two brothers were out for school and work, I played mostly alone there. My favorite ways to spend time there were going up and down the wide stairs repeatedly, wandering around the entire house, and walking in the lawn yard round and round along the house that made their collie in the kennel bark at me every lap. When Emi or her parents were at home, the attractions multiplied. Emi’s mother would take out a piece of expensive cake from their gigantic refrigerator and served me on their big dining table. Emi would take me into her own room and let me listen to her music box that had a waterwheel on top, rotating with the music. Emi’s father would take me to their vast rooftop garden and make the top cover open and close automatically with the switch. I was never bored with the view from there, which looked over my hometown and beyond. Usually, my grandmother or my mother would come to pick me up, but they were sometimes too busy to do so until evening. In that case, Emi’s father would let me take a bath in their gorgeous bathroom. The beautiful bathtub with decorative tiles would be filled with hot emerald color water as they used bath salts. And when my grandmother or my mother showed up, my Disneyland would close for the day. She would apologize to them for my visit and tell me not to go there any more on our way home each time. The luxury I enjoyed at Emi’s house had seized me and I would go there next day anyway…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.428

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I have a concrete definition of a dream house. In my hometown, there used to be a house where an old couple who acted as a go-between for my parents’ marriage lived with their son, the son’s wife and their grand children. They had three grand children and the youngest was a teenage girl named Emi. I called their house ‘Emi’s house’, which was, and still is, the embodiment of my dream house. Since I was raised by my strict grandparents and was always nervous around them at home, I often sneaked out my house and spent time at Emi’s house when I was little. People in Emi’s family were all grown-ups to me and I usually played alone in their house. Although the house was only one block away from mine, it was a whole different world to the one I lived in. It had a novel exterior to begin with. It was a three-story house made of reinforced concrete, while most houses in the neighborhood were one-story wooden houses at that time. Its back yard was the lawn, which was also rare. They kept two dogs, a collie and a Maltese terrier. All in all, it was westernized and I felt as if I was in a movie. Inside, there was a big hallway with a wide staircase. A huge silver refrigerator, which was the kind seen only in a restaurant, sat in the kitchen. In a spacious bathroom, there was a long low bathtub decorated with beautiful tiles, which end curled back to be used as a pillow. Upstairs were the family member’s private rooms, which my family didn’t have in my home. Above them was a vast rooftop garden which top cover opened and closed automatically by a switch. Everything I saw in Emi’s house fascinated me so much that it was fairyland to me. Whenever I see a beautiful house, I can’t stop comparing it to Emi’s house even now. Sadly, the house was torn down years ago and my dream house was gone. I miss Emi’s house much more than my own house where I grew up…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.427

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Japan is a country of ambiguity. There are gray areas everywhere. Take a mobile coupon sent to a cell phone for instance. On a coupon screen, it says ‘Valid for all stores in the mall’. But right next to it, there’s a name of a specific store, along with a description ‘Show this screen to this store’. I can’t tell whether the coupon is acceptable for all stores or only for the specific store. Ambiguity is also seen in people. Japanese people don’t articulate yes or no. Especially they don’t like to say no. I brought the mobile coupon to a cafe in the mall, which wasn’t the specific store mentioned on it. I asked the salesperson if it was acceptable here or not. She carefully read the screen of my cell phone and said, “Well, let’s see…” three times. All I needed was yes or no, but she started describing the specific store shown on the coupon. I asked my simple question “Can I use this here?” again. She answered with her “Well, let’s see…” twice, and then began to explain the characteristics and the specialties of the named store. To help with her answer, I said, “So, I can’t use this here though it also says ‘Valid for all stores’.” Instead of a simple no, she began to tell me the named store’s location in the mall. I tried my “Can I use this here?” again. She read the coupon screen out loud again and just repeated “Well, let’s see…” several times. Then she started, “If the specific store on the screen were the name of our cafe, you could use this.” Now, we were getting somewhere. I said, “So, this isn’t acceptable here,” feeling sure to hear a no from her at last. Yet, she repeated “Well, let’s see…” and began to describe the named store again. I got back where I started just for a no. I don’t understand why saying no is so difficult. I always say yes or no clearly because I hate ambiguity. It must seem strange to them. Maybe that explains why I don’t have a friend here…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.426

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The town I live in is enclosed by mountains and looks like being left behind the times. But two weeks ago, two modern cafes opened in the train station next to my nearest station. Since there was no Starbucks around the town, I was so happy to finally get a place to have coffee and relax in a good atmosphere. I went to try those cafes quite excitedly. One of them had its interior walls all painted white with white furniture, and had a variety of sweets. While I enjoyed a cream puff there, a woman holding a baby came in. She was taking pleasure in making her baby crow. They took away my comfort and the good atmosphere altogether at once. I left there and looked in the other new cafe. It seemed conscious of Starbucks with chic, brown interior design and had quality easy chairs. Regrettably, those who were in the chairs were women with babies and dozing men with small children. I gave up getting in and came home under the flaming sun. People with kids and babies are always my archenemies. They emerge wherever I go and knock the good atmosphere galley-west. I don’t understand a climate of tolerance toward noisy family’s misbehavior in Japan. Anything annoying is forgiven as long as they have kids or babies along. I had been waiting for years now, for a ‘No Babies, No Kids’ sign on the front of a cafe or a restaurant. It should be so, really, as I’m fed up with being a victim of a spoiled atmosphere by them…

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