Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Hidemi’s Rambling No.465

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When I left Europe and came back to Japan, I realized that my life would never be the same. Now I knew the world is so big and so many different people live in different ways. It seemed ridiculous to be obliged to live by an old custom or by what other people do which I didn’t want. I was told by my parents all my life to succeed the family and to live with them in their house by staying in my small town until I died. After the travel, it had become impossible for me to live in such a little world by following obsolete rules of our own. I also learned who my parents really were during the trip. Now that they disillusioned me, I couldn’t obey them any more because I didn’t want to become like them. Two days after my return from Europe, I started college that I had enrolled in to be an elite businesswoman. Although I’d been told since childhood that was what I was supposed to do, the whole thing there looked incredibly stupid to me and I just couldn’t take it. I made a decision to choose what I wanted to do, not what my parents told me to do. In a couple of months, I stopped attending college and started my music career. Later on, I quit school and left home. The trip to Europe led me to be a musician instead of to be a successor of my family. It literally changed my life. Many years have passed since the trip and I grew older. I think I found the reason why I wrote about my first overseas travel now. I sense I’m standing at the crossroads again as my new challenge is about to start. No matter how old we are, life is meaningless unless we stay alive. To be alive, we shouldn’t be content with what we have, and need to act and challenge. It depends on us whether we make possibilities for our own future infinite. After all, there’s no end for my awkward adventure. It still goes on and will go on…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.464

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We spent the day before departure for Japan visiting the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles. There were many familiar pictures at the Louvre that I’d seen in an art textbook. It was hard to believe that I was seeing the real ones. Among them, the Mona Lisa was particularly prominent. It was excessively protected by glass, rope and a few guards. I couldn’t see it close enough because of the rope and I had the sense that I wasn’t seeing it directly because of the glass. I also felt too nervous to look at it long enough because of the stern guards. The Mona Lisa produced tense atmosphere as if it told us to go away as soon as possible. The Palace of Versailles was breathtaking. I walked down the Hall of Mirrors. I’d never seen such an overwhelmingly gorgeous and beautiful room in my life. Before I set off on this trip, I had always wanted my first overseas travel destination to be America. When my father booked a package tour of Europe, I decided to go with the American way. I left in sweatshirts because I had dismissed the European elegant fashion as snobby. Now, I was paying the price for my wrong protest against my father at the Palace of Versailles. I was ashamed of walking around the Hall of Mirrors in a sweatshirt and a miniskirt. Imagining Marie Antoinette used to walk here in her gown, I felt sorry for her. The dinner of that day was a farewell party as it was the last dinner that the tour members had together. It was a formal course meal at a fancy restaurant. I just couldn’t go there in what I was wearing, and I didn’t pack anything dressy in my bag either. I hurried to a department store before leaving for the restaurant and bought a dress shirt and a lipstick, which were all I could afford for the formal dinner. From the moment I sat at the table, I couldn’t help feeling so sad. Other tour members had become good friends of mine and I had a crush on the tour attendant, but I would never see them again after tomorrow. Two days later, I would start college I didn’t want to attend because I was denied by all the universities I hoped to get in. I was completely swept away by a strong feeling that I didn’t want to return to Japan, that is to say, reality…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.463

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The next and last destination for our two-week trip was France. There were so many places to see. On the first day, we visited the Eiffel Tower, the Avenue des Champs-Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame de Paris and Montmartre. My mother wanted to have some coffee at a small cafe in Montmartre. I joined her and had a freshly baked crepe. It was undoubtedly the best crepe I’d ever had. We were sitting at the counter and the next to her was a French man. Although she didn’t speak any foreign language and he was a stranger, she started talking to the man in Japanese. He didn’t understand Japanese but they chatted merrily in some way. During the trip, I often saw her do this without hesitation and realized how much she liked talking to a foreign man. In the evening, we went to the Moulin Rouge. I’d heard that it was a historic theater and the revue was famous, but I found their revue was a leg show of half-naked women. My friend geeky king, a junior high student in the same tour group, was at the table next to us and he had a nosebleed soon after the revue started. He seemed unable to stop it and kept coming and going between his table and the bathroom during the whole revue. Then our tour group had dinner together at a Japanese restaurant. At first, I didn’t see any point in eating Japanese food after coming all the way to France. But as it turned out, that dinner was the first meal I ate up completely since I landed on Europe. My usual appetite hadn’t come back until this dinner, which meant I’d lost it for almost the entire trip. I preferred Western food all my life, and yet, when I had an opportunity to live on authentic Western food, it was Japanese food that restored my appetite. While I longed for Western culture and imitated Western ways of living, my stomach was stubbornly Japanese…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.462

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The next day, we climbed Mont Blanc – not on foot but by the elevator. There was an outside observation deck from which we had a 360-degree view of the Alps. The door to the deck had a warning that said ‘It’s extremely cold beyond this door.’ I thought it was exaggerated to entertain visitors and casually opened the door. Instantly, I found that the warning was dead serious. It was late March and I chose the wrong clothes for this entire trip to begin with. I was out on Mont Blanc in a sweatshirt and a miniskirt and experienced a below freezing temperature for the first time in my life. I thought I would die there. The view was literally too breathtaking for me to leave right away, though. It was as if I was looking at whipped cream icing on a gigantic birthday cake all around me. Before we left Japan, my father had borrowed an 8-millimeter movie camera from my uncle, as a small video camera was yet to come. Enduring the murderous cold, he shot the view with it while I helped him by taking static photographs. When we were busily moving around the deck to get back to a normal temperature as soon as possible, I noticed that one of my friends in the same tour group was standing quietly on the edge of the deck with his aunt. He was a junior high student, otherwise a disco king, formerly a geeky king, who traveled with his aunt. He was usually upbeat, but there, he was looking out the view with a solemn expression. He had a big bouquet in his arms. As I was wondering what he was doing with a bouquet at Mont Blanc, he threw the bouquet over the deck to the mountains. He was crying. After having fun with him for over a week, now I realized he had a special purpose for this trip. I left there near freezing and feeling a little bit sad. My family talked each other that we would take time to enjoy the spectacular view on the 8-millimeter movie in a warm room after getting back to Japan. It only would become known back in Japan that my uncle’s 8-millimeter movie camera had been broken long before we borrowed it and all rolls of film we shot during the whole trip were entirely blank…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.461

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We got out of the eventful Italy and arrived in Switzerland. We had plentiful free time and my sister and I strolled along the street by Lake Leman. I found a Baskin-Robbins shop and suggested to my sister that we should get some ice cream. Of course we had Baskin-Robbins shops back in Japan, but there was something we could do only in foreign countries. Back then in Japan, it was bad manners to eat while walking. In my hometown, eating and walking was considered so indecent especially for women that it was a taboo. We weren’t allowed walking outside with anything in the mouth. Even chewing gum was out of the question. I had had Baskin-Robbins ice cream only when I sat inside the shop, and had always wanted to walk licking an ice-cream cone in public as in foreign movies. A golden opportunity arose there since it wasn’t Japan any more. I sprang at the chance and got a double-scoop cone. I licked it while walking along Lake Leman. Its size seemed bigger somehow, and it tasted freedom. At night, I went to a club with the attendant and my friends in the tour group as usual, without adult tour members this time. I danced cheek-to-cheek with the attendant on whom I had a crush. It was late when we returned to our hotel and everybody seemed to have gone to sleep. I was putting the key in the door of my room that was two doors down from the attendant’s. I noticed the beam of light on the dim hallway. It came from the attendant’s room, as he was standing at the doorway with the door open, watching something on the hallway. I looked around but there were only two of us. He was watching me. I wondered if something was wrong and walked to his room. I asked what was wrong. He said he was wondering whether we should go back in to our each room already. After we repeated the same lines for several times, I finally got it. I was a kid who had just finished high school and had been taught strictly not to have a physical relationship before marriage. I told him we should and walked back to my room. While closing the door, I glanced at his room. He was closing his door but still watching me. I shut the door. After all, I was a conservative person who wouldn’t defy traditional teachings entirely…

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