Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Hidemi’s Rambling No.448

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My grandfather liked to go out very much. When I still lived with him in my hometown, he was dressed with a flashy red tie to go out one day. He showed off his new tie to my parents and me while saying, “You had better dress showily to look young as you get older!” We frowned on him but didn’t oppose him as usual. I just asked him where he was going with such a flamboyant tie, and he told me that he was seeing his girlfriend. It became customary for him to have coffee with her at a cafe inside an expensive hotel. To me it sounded a date, but my grandmother didn’t care at all. His girlfriend was an old widowed woman named Ms. Tamada. He talked about her so much that almost everything he was talking about had gotten to be something related to her. He began to have her over and I saw her in our house so often. She became a good friend of my grandmother too, who usually hated others. She and my grandparents would talk for hours about mainly one topic that was how honorable and virtuous my grandfather was. As a person who doubted it, I chuckled whenever I overheard them. She raved about my grandfather every time she saw me, which was so annoying. Since she exalted him immensely, my grandparents were absorbed in her visits while other members of my family – my parents, my sister and I – felt quite unpleasant. Four of us were taking a trip to Europe, our first ever overseas travel, to celebrate my graduation from high school. My grandparents were to stay at home and they invited Ms. Tamada to see us off on the day of our departure. When we were about to leave home, she made a fuss in rapture as if we had been headed for space. She took pictures of us leaving, continually congratulated us and ruined our starting part of the trip. We really didn’t know her, yet she acted like a close member of our family. We set off sullenly by being seen off by a stranger…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.447

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Every now and again an old man called Mr. Kishida came to our house when I still lived in my hometown. He would show up, give me some money, chat a little while with my grandparents, and leave. That had been a pattern of his visit ever since I could remember. If he visited while I was at school, he never forgot to leave some money for me. I wondered what Mr. Kishida was, who always gave me money for no apparent reason. I asked my grandfather and found out that he was my grandfather’s best friend at junior high school. When his family was moving to a far-off town, he wanted to stay because a renowned high school he had hoped to attend was in our town. My grandfather told my great grandfather about how smart Mr. Kishida was and he could go to that school if he stayed. My great grandfather took him in and took care of him in place of is family. My grandfather and Mr. Kishida had lived together like brothers until Mr. Kishida finished the renowned high school that he successfully got in. While Mr. Kishida moved out for the university, completed it and got a job in a town where his family lived, my great grandfather passed away and my grandfather became a farmer to succeed the family. Mr. Kishida had felt an obligation to my great grandfather all those years. As the only way to repay it, he paid a visit and gave me a little money. Even after I left home to be a musician, my father sometimes sent me some money or commemorative coins that Mr. Kishida had brought for me. I got some of the Japanese first five hundred-yen coins from him. In the early days that I lived in Tokyo as a musician, I had constantly had difficulty in making a living, and one day, I had become clean out of money. I ate out at a restaurant where I was going to pay with my credit card. At the cashier, I was simply told that they didn’t take a card. The waitress knew me as a frequent customer and she let me go home to get cash. The thing was, there was no money at home either. Then, Mr. Kishida’s five hundred-yen coins occurred to me. I turned the drawer inside out, found them, and returned to the restaurant where I handed shiny commemorative coins. Mr. Kishida repaid his obligation in an unexpected way…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.446

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During the trip to my hometown, I passed through the Osaka metropolitan area in western Japan by bus. I hadn’t been there for over twenty years and the area has deteriorated surprisingly. It may have seemed that way just because I moved into a quiet, rural town one and a half years ago, and got used to a pleasant view of rich nature and few people. Or, a decade-long stagnating economy has taken its toll hardest on western Japan. In either case, the area looked washed-out with shabby houses and buildings cramming. It wasn’t a city in Japan I know, and looked almost like a slum. Before arriving at Osaka, I took a train from the next city Kyoto where my hometown is located. The train ride was unbelievably awful. It was a full train extremely crowded, and we were crushed into it. I had forgotten what an urban jam was like because I had usually tried my best to avoid it even when I lived in the city. It was so uncomfortable to touch and be pressed against strangers for 25 minutes. The area and its people made me feel dirty altogether. Even their strong local dialect of western Japan began to sound cheap and offensive to me, although that’s exactly the way I myself speak everyday everywhere. I started to worry about how those who talk with me feel, now that I know how I sound. My dialect is too strong to be removed by these twenty years and I don’t think I can get rid of it. While I speak in the dialect of western Japan, I wonder why the metropolitan area is getting dingy and tasteless. It could be possible that it’s not, and simply that I have become a hayseed…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.445

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For the latest trip to my hometown, I took a plane. I used to fly frequently but that trip was my first flight in four years. The Tokyo International Airport that handles mainly Japanese domestic flights was an old, sterile airport when I last used it. But now, it’s a modern, gorgeous place with a lot of cool shops and restaurants. It looked more like a shopping mall than an airport. To my surprise, I didn’t even have to check in at the counter. An online travel agency gave me a reservation number when I booked the flight, and check-in was done only by typing the number on a machine. That also completed checking in for my return flight. Waiting in line at the counter has become a thing of the past there. The machine produced a receipt-like piece of paper on which a picture code was printed, and scanning it let me through the security gate and the boarding gate. I was amazed and bewildered at those futuristic systems. Once I got on board though, I saw a retrospective thing. The ceremonious service from Japanese flight attendants. They wore heavy makeup and a scarf in a decorative way, and were standing and walking as if they were models. They acted too girlie and sensual. That hasn’t changed since the time I got on a plane for the first time in my life. At that time, a flight attendant was called a stewardess and the only high-paying job for women. Stewardesses were regarded as the super-elite, and most girls’ dreams were to become one. The stewardess’s signature hat was an object of admiration. On my first ever flight, my mother asked a stewardess to borrow her hat and made me wear it to take a photograph. They have given up their hats but behave proudly as ever. Everything has changed except the position of women in Japanese society is so low that flight attendants are still the elite in Japan…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.444

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My parents never approve of my career as a musician and keep attacking me for it, but I visit them every second year or so as a nice gesture. When I return home, I do so without telling them beforehand. I’ve learned the tactics from too many miserable visits I made in the past, in which they had prepared numerous ways to criticize me for being a musician once they knew my homecoming. Not to give them time for a plan to attack me, I call them near their home pretending I’m accidentally visiting the area and have spare time to drop by although I’ve carefully planned the trip for months. I did that last week. It took me seven hours to get to my hometown, changing from a plane to a bus, and then to a train. I called my parents only to find out that they were out with my younger sister who now lives abroad and happened to return home. I couldn’t come home as my parents were occupied with my sister yet again. Since my partner was also going to visit his father’s home, I joined him instead. Not like my parents, his father is supportive for him and is always nice to me. But on this particular occasion, his father criticized our ways of living as musicians. He didn’t stop there and began to put down our new apartment and its location even if he had never been there. I didn’t understand what was going on. Do people pick up groundless slander when they get old? I left with disappointment for the hotel I had booked for the night. The hotel was situated next to a movie theme park. In the room, my most favorite movie, ‘Back to the Future’ was free to watch. I watched it again over and over during the stay and that cheered me up. Parents used to be young with full of hope. We could get along with them if we went back time…

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