Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Hidemi’s Rambling No.524

In the middle of August every year, Japan has the Bon Festival. It’s believed that spirits of ancestors return to each family during the festival. If I had stayed in my hometown of Kyoto and gotten married there, I would have been the 63rd successor of the family. I suppose my ancestor had acquired land around where the house I grew up in stood, long before Kyoto once became the capital city of Japan 1200 years ago. The family has farmed and lived on the same spot generation after generation since then. To sustain the family succession, some of my ancestors may have given up what they wanted to do, some may have been forced into arranged marriages for the tie between families, some may have had troubles over their shares of an inheritance, and some may have been distressed for the pressures of succeeding the family. I imagine quite a few ancestors of mine had a terrible life. The family line is finally to come to an end by me, but I doubt my ancestors feel sad about it. The times have changed and the farming business in the urbanized Kyoto isn’t sustainable. Without farming, to preserve land isn’t meaningful. My mother used to say repeatedly to me that our ancestors would punish me bitterly if I left home and lived the way I wanted to live instead of succeeding the family. That hasn’t been the case so far. Since I left Kyoto, I’ve been better off. To me, it seems my mother whom my ancestors kept punishing relentlessly. A fortuneteller came to the door of my parents’ house once. She told my mother that all the spirits of our female ancestors, who suffered unhappy lives because they sacrificed themselves for the family succession, had possessed me. My mother interpreted it as the proof of her theory that they would punish me and lead me to an unhappy life. I don’t know if it was because of those spirits or my own will, I got to leave home, break the family succession and live my life. Now it depends on me whether I will have a happy life or not…

Leave a comment »

Hidemi’s Rambling No.523

When my great-great-grandfather passed away, the family sought any possible way to sustain a line of the family succession. He had four sons. His firstborn, who had been supposed to succeed the family, was perverted possibly because his father had drunk up the family fortune. He had tattoos all over his body and became a yakuza, a Japanese Mafia member. His father disowned him and kicked him out from the family. He drifted in from time to time though, and the family member asked him to leave with some money. My great-great-grandfather’s second son died young and his third son had been adopted to a samurai family. As his fourth son was too young, the family called back his third son as a successor from a samurai family. That’s my great-grandfather. By then, most of our ancestral land and all the servants were gone thanks to my great-great-grandfather’s lavish extravagance. My great-grandfather needed to work as a farmer by himself on a scarce piece of the remaining land instead of making tenant farmers work for him, which his ancestors had been doing for a long time. While he worked side by side with the ex-tenant farmers whom the family once employed, he got married and had a daughter and a son who is my grandfather. Since my great-grandfather wanted my grandfather to be a teacher, I suppose that he was poised to end the family’s farming business and its succession. But in reality, things went to the contrary. Because of his unaccustomed work and way of life, he got ill and passed away in his middle age. His son, that is my grandfather, gave up what he wanted for his life and began to work as a farmer to support the family. He did it well, gained back some land and passed it on to my father. Both the family business and its need for a successor sustained. Even my great-great-grandfather who dissipated his inheritance money, his first son who became a yakuza, or his third son who wanted to close down the family business couldn’t break succession. They all continued to live and raise a family on the same ancestral land, and their children did the same. Unexpectedly, it is I who finally moved out of the house and am very much likely to end the family as I am…

Leave a comment »

Hidemi’s Rambling No.522

The oldest episode of my ancestors that I heard from my grandfather is about my great-great-grandfather and I hereby write it down for the record. According to my grandfather, his grandfather was quite a prodigal. He didn’t work and just squandered the family money. Our family was a powerful landowner when he inherited the family fortune and became a master of the family. They had lived in the same house I grew up and all the land stretched as far as the eye could see from it was his land back then. He had a lot of tenant farmers that worked for him in his land. Many servants lived on the family premises and also quite a few relatives of the family lived in the house. My grandfather once showed me his old photographs in which our distant relatives were taken together. I asked if they were group photos of some important events, and he told me that they all lived together in this very house. Our house was over 100 years old and the remnants of my great-great-grandfather’s prime were here and there. The old kitchen remained on the earth floor with one big and six or seven small clay ovens. We didn’t use them any more but I always wondered how much cooking was needed for how many people when that ovens were used. Across the front yard from the house was a gate building in which had a small room. It was my first own room when I entered elementary school, but it used to be one of the quarters for the servants. Beside the gate, an old wooden container with carriage poles was parked on the wall. In old days, it was used as a fire extinguisher that people carried water in the container with the poles on their shoulders. Only a powerful family had it for the entire hamlet. Our old local name that had been used in place of our family’s last name was written on the side of the container, telling how big our family used to be. On a hot summer day, my great-great-grandfather made his servants take him to the river that runs through the busy district just to make them fan for him and cool himself down. All year round, he visited a place where geishas served him and had a party. He was a lavish spender and the family fortune dwindled away. In stead of working, he sold his ancestral land piece by piece for his extravagance. As his land had been passed to his tenant farmers and the number of his servants had shrunk fast, he kept partying. By the time he died, only the house and a few tiny pieces of nearby land had remained. No one knows why he lived that way, but he drank up the family fortune. I imagine he must have had painful parties and have drunk terrible sake every time…

Leave a comment »