Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

The New Kyoto hr573

When I spent 40 minutes aboard the bullet train bound for Kyoto from Tokyo, an alarming notion popped into my head. “Did I miss Mt. Fuji?” It’s around this time that Mt. Fuji comes into view closely in the bullet train window. Somehow Mt. Fuji is a special mountain for Japanese people. It’s said that seeing the first sunrise of the year from the top of Mt. Fuji brings a happy new year. Many of them want to climb it once during their lifetime. They regard it as something holy and good luck. I myself try to see it every time I take a bullet train to Kyoto, and pray to it for a good trip. It was cloudy and rain looked imminent on that day of my latest trip to Kyoto. Whether the train already passed Mt. Fuji or it wasn’t visible because of thick clouds was uncertain. The outcome of the trip depended on Mt. Fuji. I felt that this trip might end terribly if I couldn’t see it, and I looked for it frantically. “There it is!” Above the dark clouds, its top section poked out clearly. “I see it! A nice trip is assured!” I was relieved and in high spirits. While I jinx it when I don’t see it, however, I’ve had horrible trips even when I saw a clear Mt. Fuji. Although I duly understand an outcome of a trip doesn’t have to do with whether I see it or not, there’s a reason why I’m nervous enough to pray to the mountain. A trip to Kyoto means homecoming and meeting my parents. Three out of every four visits, they give me a hard time. They insult me, deny me and complain everything about me. I sometimes feel my life is in danger when I’m with them because of their relentless attacks. Not to be strangled by them while I’m sleeping, I avoid spending the night at my parents’ home and stay at a hotel instead. I would rather not visit and see them, but I know it would make things worse. I couldn’t imagine how this particular trip would go especially as it was my first visit since my parents sold their house. They could no longer afford to keep their large house and its land inherited by our ancestors. Their financial crunch made them sell it where my family had lived for over 1000 years. They moved out to a small, old condominium outside Kyoto. Thinking about the situation they were now in, I couldn’t imagine their state of mind other than being nasty. The bullet train slid into Kyoto Station after two and a half hours. I stepped out on the platform for the first time as a complete tourist who didn’t have a house or a family there. To my surprise, Kyoto looked different. I couldn’t tell what and how, but it was decisively different from Kyoto I had known. It used to look grim and gloomy as if it was possessed by an evil spirit. But now it was filled with clean fresh air and looked bright. I would see all but mean people, but they also turned into nice people with smiles. I checked in a hotel and looked out the window. Rows of old gray houses were there. I used to think Kyoto was an ugly city with those somber houses, but I found myself looking at even them as a tasteful view. I’d never thought having the house I grew up in torn down and parting with my ancestor’s land would change the city itself altogether. Or maybe, it was me that changed…

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Price of Greed hr572

According to my parents, I was such a sullen infant who always put a long face. I had the habit of uttering “Butch!” as if to show dissatisfaction, and I received ‘Butch’ as my first nickname from my parents. When I started talking, I was a child who constantly grumbled. My mother’s impression was that I complained about anything whenever I opened my mouth. Indeed, when I recall my childhood memories, they are abundant in all kinds of complaints I made. My mother would ask me why I couldn’t have even the slightest feeling of gratitude. She told me how fortunate I was to be born into wealth since she always boasted our family’s fortune. I was never convinced because if we had been that wealthy, we would have lived a better life in which I didn’t need to complain so much. Mostly I complained about meals, but I did about other things as well. Among them was about clothes. I was ten years old when I began to get fat. I’m short now, but I was quite tall for a ten-year-old girl back then. My mother stopped shopping children’s apparel for me and put her used clothes on me instead because I was big. I went to school every day with her clothes on that were mainly brown and mean boys called me a cockroach. I insisted to my mother that colorful clothes for adults existed and pestered her to get them, which was rejected. I frequently criticized my parents’ way of working, too. They always tried to curry favor with my grandparents who lived in the same house and were so stingy. My family used to farm and my parents worked so hard on the fields from dawn to night. And they told me we were wealthy. It was obvious they worked crazily not to earn money but to impress my grandparents. I repeatedly explained to my parents that what they were doing was completely pointless and demanded to come home early, which was rejected too. I regularly appealed for a raise of my monthly allowance. I was so persistent in this particular request because it was scanty despite my mother’s claim of our wealth. I never stopped after I was rejected for a million times. By the time I was a teenager, when I started casually “Mom,” my mother would cut me right away saying, “About money, isn’t it? No!” She told me that she would have a nervous breakdown if she heard more of my ‘Mom’. Thus, I spent my childhood as an extremely unsatisfied child. I think I’m greedy by nature. But I believe that greed can make people progress. Resignation is considered as virtue in Japan and greed is loathed excessively. In my opinion, we need greed to make changes for better. There was a line in a US TV show, “Happiness is to be content with what you have.” I think wanting more can be happier with efforts and hope. I often feel sick and have a stomachache after having too much at an all-you-can-eat buffet. As the communal spa is free in my apartment, I take it too long every day, which sometimes puts me in bad shape and lays me up. But it’s more fun and livelier than doing things acceptably. Besides, I can’t stop it because this is who I am. Being greedy is one thing, but getting what I want is a different matter. While I find more and more things I want, they are usually out of my reach. I have to face disappointment all the time that I can’t possibly possess what I want. Even so, my greed is too strong to accept reality…

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