Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Hidemi’s Rambling No.556

As the house where I grew up was being sold, I came home in Kyoto for the last time fearfully. My parents had been constantly sullen from anxiety about money and their future since I left home. Now that they gave up their house and our ancestor’s last land, I had wondered how gloomy they were. On the contrary, I was surprised that they were utterly in a good mood. They seemed at ease as if a great weight had been lifted from their shoulders. I hadn’t seen them like this for a long time. The main purpose of my visit was sorting out my stuff. To get some keepsakes and mementos of my childhood, I entered my room for the first time in decades. It had become my younger sister’s room, who now lived abroad. Some of my old stuff was kept in the mud-walled warehouse that had stood next to the house for several hundred years. This ancient two-story warehouse that my ancestors used generation after generation is also going to be torn down along with the house. The last time I got in there was probably with my late grandfather when I was a child. So this was the first time I got in as a grown-up, and also the last. I found my first stuffed animal downstairs there and was about to get out with it when my father told me to go upstairs with him. I climbed the steep wooden ladder to the second floor that was more like an attic. It had a small skylight on the plaster wall and tons of dust all around. On the wooden shelves along the wall were an antique balance and bronze weights that used to belong exclusively to a landowner during the Japanese feudal times. There were also numerous coated plates, bowls and trays with legs that my ancestors used for banquets. On the entire floor were Japanese traditional huge oblong treasure chests called ‘Nagamochi’ that size was about two coffins. They had sit there keeping my ancestors’ valuables all through the times of wars and my family’s decline. My father once saw many swords inside one of them and wanted to show them to me. I was keyed up about unveiling what my ancestors had inherited for so many generations. We opened dust-covered chests one by one, but every chest contained the same thing – futon. So many old musty futons appeared from chest after chest. They must have been expensive in the old days and my ancestors stored them for the house guests. Everything in the warehouse told how prosperous our family used to be and how low we have gotten now. It was funny though, that what our family had inherited and preserved to pass on to the next generation for years were mostly futons. I had quarreled with my parents over succeeding the family all these years and had been on bad terms with them for that because I had refused. Many ancestors of mine gave in to unwanted marriages or sacrificed their lives to succeed the family. We all suffered from the family succession and everything was for futon! I wanted to tell my ancestors that futons of good quality were widely available at incredibly low prices in the discount stores nowadays. Succeeding the family turned out to be preserving what became worthless today. That was ridiculous enough for me to make my anger pass into laughter. At the very back of the warehouse was one chest that hasn’t been opened for who knows how many years. It was practically impossible to open it as other big chests were stacked up over it. Nobody had an idea what was inside. I strongly hoped that wasn’t futon although it was quite likely…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.555

On the answering machine, there was a message from my father that said he needed to be called back immediately. I was chilled to the bone. I have never received a single phone call from him that’s not disturbing. When he calls me, he does it to vent his spleen about his daily life and about my career as a musician. What comes out from the receiver is his lengthy verbal abuse. Nevertheless, I mostly return his call because things get worse if I don’t. This time was no exception and I called him back fearfully with trembling hands. Instead of a spurt of anger, he told me to come home as soon as possible and stay for a few days. I asked him what happened and he didn’t answer that. As his request sounded urgent, I repeatedly asked for the reason. He just dodged and kept saying that he wanted me to come home right away. I hung up and felt alarmed. Something must have happened. Since he had never given me good news, that something was most certainly a bad thing. My parents’ home is located in Kyoto that is 500 miles away from where I live. It takes me over five hours to get there by bullet train. I don’t have so much free time to take that long trip without the reason. Besides, such an unusual request requires extra caution. I called my mother’s cell phone and asked her what was all about. She told me that they had decided to sell their house and move out. They were looking for a condominium to buy and moving in as soon as the house was sold. The house could be sold next month at the fastest, and they wanted me to sort out my stuff and spend time together under this house’s roof for the last time. The house was built when I was nine years old at the place where our old house was torn down because it was too old to live in. That old house was built about 100 years ago. My ancestors lived at exactly the same spot generation after generation for over 1000 years since my family used to be a landlord of the area. We are here for around 65 generations. My father succeeded the family from my grandfather, and I would have been the next successor if I hadn’t left home to be a musician. Because my father failed the family business and didn’t have the next successor for help, he had sold pieces of our ancestor’s land one by one. Now his money has finally dried up and he can’t afford to keep the last land where the house stands. When my grandfather passed away nine years ago, he complained to me again about financial help I wouldn’t lend. I promptly suggested he should sell the house and its land. He got furious at my suggestion. He shouted, “How could you say something like that? Do you really think it’s possible? All ancestors of ours lived here! I live to continue our lineage right here for my entire life! Selling the house means ending our family lineage! It’s impossible!!” He bawled me out like a crazy man while banging the floor repeatedly with a DVD that I had brought for him as a Father’s Day gift. But nine years later, the time inevitably came. Considering his mad fury about selling the house back then, it was easy for me to imagine that he planned to set fire on the house during the night I would stay and kill my mother and me along with himself. That seemed the true reason why he wanted me to come back. Those murder-suicide cases sometimes happen in Japan, especially among families with long history. But the first thing that I felt at the news was not fear but relief. As I had known my father wouldn’t sell the house, I had thought that I would end up reaping the harvest of his mistakes as his daughter even though I didn’t succeed the family. I would have to liquidate everything in the house to pay his debts and sell the house and the land by myself after I would argue with all my relatives in the family’s branches who would most certainly oppose strongly. That picture of my dismal future had been long hanging low in my mind. But now, completely out of the blue, my father was taking up everything and I was discharged! I took an enormous load off but didn’t forget to be cautious. As there was still a possibility to be killed by my father, I decided to make my last homecoming a day trip in order to avoid spending the night there…

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