Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

A Korean Friend hr580

The neighborhood I grew up in wasn’t so good and low-income families were everywhere. While a small hamlet that my house stood consisted of well-off families of farmers, it was surrounded by poor areas where many Korean-Japanese lived. The income difference produced chronic tension. Naturally, the tension was conveyed to school and the students were divided. When I was in sixth grade, more than half my classmates were Korean-Japanese. There was an undeniable rift between Korean-Japanese students and Japanese students including me and we didn’t mingle well. It was funny because Korean-Japanese kids were born in Japan, converted their names to the Japanese ones, spoke Japanese and looked exactly the same as Japanese, except that they were mostly shabby and sour. As a custom at school in Japan, the sixth grade takes an overnight trip. Our destination was Toba in Mie prefecture, a two-and-a-half-hour ride on an express train from Kyoto. The train had four-people booth seats and each of the students was assigned to the reserved seat according to the school roll. In my booth, I had my closest friend next to me, but sitting in the seats opposite to us were two Korean-Japanese classmates. Those two girls lived in a particularly poor area of all other Korean-Japanese areas, and I had never even passed it by or gotten close to it although it was within my neighborhood. Since I had barely talked with them at school, I felt nervous and thought the trip was already ruined by this seating. But as soon as the train departed Kyoto, what I had expected was reversed. One of the two girls sitting face to face with me began to talk about her intention of becoming an idol singer. Her name was Yukiko Kimura and she declared a plan to enter and win an audition of the idol-searching show on TV when she became fourteen. Because I also wanted to be a singer, I was drawn to her talk and we were lost in chattering. Yukiko Kimura was the youngest of seven girls in her family. Her parents had so many girls in the house that they often neglected her and called her by her other sister’s name by mistake. She said if she won the audition, she would debut by her real name to have everyone remember her name. We talked on and on and had a lot in common. We mocked our homeroom teacher and laughed heartily. Contrary to my initial expectation, we got along so well and had such a good time together on the train. When the trip was over and the school days were back, our friendship was also back to where it was. We returned to each group we belonged to and barely spoke. However, every time I reacted against our teacher and went on strike, or received punishment for that and had to stand in the hallway for a long time, Yukiko Kimura was the first one who joined me and was beside me. Years have passed and I still haven’t heard of an idol named Yukiko Kimura. But I do remember her name to this day…

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Phone-Phobia hr579

When I was a teenager, a smartphone era was still years away to come. I came from a large family that had one phone in the house, which meant a scramble for a phone call. It was usually a three-way battle: between my grandfather, my mother and me. My grandfather used to be the chairman of a local senior citizen club and make and receive lots of calls. Once his phone time began, it lasted forever. He would pull a chair from the dining table, set it in front of the phone, sit in, spread some kind of papers and start dialing. The stand where the phone sat turned into his makeshift office desk while my parents, my sister and I were eating dinner right beside it. The background music of our dinnertime was usually his telephone conversation that sounded totally unimportant and ridiculous. The minute my grandfather finished his phone time, the phone rang that would be from my grandmother on my mother’s side. She would call my mother almost every day to report her day. It would always consist in complaining about her son-in-low. After my mother finished listening to her endless nagging, it would be finally my turn. I used to chat with my friends over the phone for hours as a habit of a teenager. Although I did that so often, I have a confession to make. I hated it. I was really loath to talk over the telephone, to be honest. But as everyone knows, the phone call is a must among teenagers. If I had confessed I didn’t like the phone and asked my friends not to call me, I would have been instantly branded as a nerd. To be popular, I kept it secret and talked with my friends by acting happy but weeping inside. I forced myself to be funny and a class clown at school although my true self didn’t want to. At least when I was at home, I wanted to return to be myself who liked to be silent and alone. But the phone call would intrude into my home and destroy my peace. I cultivated my dislike for the phone during my teenage years like this. After I graduated and left home, my condition got much worse. The phone attack from my parents began when I started living alone in a small apartment in Tokyo as a musician. Since they opposed strongly about my career choice, they denied me, insulted me and cursed me over the phone. The ring became the most distasteful sound in the world to me. I couldn’t take it any more one day and turned off the ring. I stopped answering phone calls altogether by setting the answering machine. Then playing messages on it gradually got painful and even seeing the message lamp blinking made me sick. My dislike for the telephone had evolved into phobia by then. Besides the nasty phone calls from my parents, I sometimes got prank calls. More and more, the telephone looked an entrance to hell. To this day, I jump to the phone ring and talk into the receiver feeling ultimately tense with my hands sweating and my throat drying. Every time I see someone talking casually over the cell phone on the aisle of a supermarket, I think I’m seeing someone from other planet. The other day, I was shopping online at Amazon. When I was paying with my credit card, an error message appeared on the screen that said, “The payment was failed. Please contact your credit company”. I called the company while I was twitched with fear, my fingers were trembling and even my eyesight became blur and white. It turned out that my card had been suspended because the balance in my bank account was short. My distaste for the telephone has grown deeper…

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