Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Some Remain, Others Disappear hr582

Once a year in autumn, a road race of classic cars is held in Japan. The race starts in Tokyo, runs through five prefectures in four days and finishes back in Tokyo. It stops for the night at a certain checkpoint during the long journey and one of the checkpoints is a hotel in a small town where I live. On its way there, it passes through the desolate main street of my town. I look forward to this event and go out to see it every year. More than one hundred beautiful classic cars like Fiat, Bugatti and Alfa Romeo, some of which are about ninety years old, run past right in front of my eyes one after another on a narrow street almost within my reach. I can also get to spot a few Japanese former Formula One drivers and celebrities who participate in as proud owners of the cars. The promoter hands out small flags for this event to spectators along the street. They wave the flags to the cars and the drivers wave back. This year, I left my apartment a little early for the race to stroll around the main section of my town where I hardly visit. When I shop or eat, I usually travel to the city far from my town that is too small and forlorn to hang out. I walked around the center of the town for the first time in a year and found it more desolate. A small grocery store I have shopped for several times had been out of business. A bookstore in front of the train station was closed along with a restaurant across it. There was no sign of any new tenant at those locations. More and more stores are gone, as a small population of my town is getting even smaller every year. I sat on a bench at the best spot to see the race along the main street that also had more shuttered shops than before. I was waiting for the cars to come while looking through a race brochure with a flag in my hand, both of which I’d gotten at the town’s empty tourist information office. As it was about the time the cars were scheduled to pass, I was prepared with my smartphone camera. But not a single car appeared. I waited more and there were still no cars. And I noticed there were no spectators either. I made sure the date and the time in the brochure again, and they were correct. Since an unpredictable incident can happen in the race and a delay sometimes occurs, I waited patiently. No cars and no people showed up. It was getting dark and cold. I went back to the info office and asked about the race. The clerk said, “Hasn’t it come yet? It should be here, I think.” Because she sounded she knew nothing about the race, I assured that her info was false, which meant, the race shouldn’t be here. I must have gotten the right time, but the wrong place. I left the main street and hurried toward the checkpoint where the cars would eventually arrive. On the way, I started smelling a strong odor of exhaust that came from nothing but classic cars in these days. The race must have been near. I hurried on, and finally saw a classic car turning the intersection with an explosive engine noise at the bottom of a steep slope toward the checkpoint. The race did come to my town but used a different route. It had dropped down the main street as its route this year and the info office didn’t know that. With only few spectators even along the main street every year, the new route was outside the town center and there were literally no spectators. I managed to see the last one-third cars in the dark while I missed the most part of the race, especially fast cars. Like this, my town is gradually declining with fewer people, fewer shops and less information. I will watch the whole race next year near the checkpoint not along the main street. Unless the race excludes my town from the route altogether, that is…

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Huge Absence hr581

I went to the Tulip concert the other day. Tulip is my lifelong favorite band and the reason why I became a musician. They are making a national tour commemorating their 45th anniversary. Since I was a teenager, I’ve been to several concerts every time they were on tour. They used to tour every six months, which made the number of my attendance soar. Most part of my monthly allowance was spent on the ticket. Among the five members, I was an avid fan of the lead guitarist of the band, Toshiyuki Abe. I was always enchanted tremendously by the sensuous sound from his red guitar in my youth. After I grew up and the band broke up, they reunite every five years to make an anniversary tour. I had been to several venues each time by spending costly transportation fees and staying at a hotel when the venue was too far to be in time for the last train back home. That had been my usual pattern concerning Tulip until their 40th anniversary tour was wrapped up. Although I had waited anxiously for their 45th, the wait ended abruptly two years ago even before the tour started. Mr. Abe, who I believe is the best guitarist in the world, suddenly passed away. Tulip’s 45th anniversary tour turned out to be a memorial to him, which I’d never, ever pictured happening. I wasn’t going to go to their concert this time. I didn’t want to see the band without him who had been my idol for such a long time. It would be too sad. Whenever something related to Mr. Abe popped into my mind in my daily life, my eyes easily swim with tears automatically. I couldn’t imagine how sad it would be that I actually saw Mr. Abe missing in the band and realized again he was gone. On the one hand, I thought I’d better not go, but on the other hand I was curious how the band would play without him. They announced Tulip would become a four-man band without having a new guitarist. Who would play the guitar part then? Would they change the arrangement and have the keyboard cover the part? Or, would one of the members switch to a lead guitarist? Or, would a robot stand with a guitar? I had thought of possible alternatives every day and couldn’t stop thinking about it eventually. To solve mounting questions, I decided to face the sadness and go to the concert. After I got the ticket, though, I still felt hesitant to go. I couldn’t believe I was holding a ticket of Tulip in which Mr. Abe didn’t exist. I had asked to myself what I was doing for three months. But about ten days before the concert, I began to feel excited and my heart leapt up. I was headed for the concert hall on that day with odd rapture. The minute the concert started, all my questions were answered in an unexpected yet totally reasonable way. In the back of Tulip, there were three supporting players. A supporting guitarist was understandable, but there were a drummer and a keyboardist that made up the band of twin-drums and twin-keyboards. The sound was different accordingly and for some reason, wasn’t good as it used to be. They also lost edge on vocals with no reason. The loss of Mr. Abe has had effect on the band much greater than I thought. It reduced the quality of Tulip. It didn’t sound or look like Tulip. I was disappointed and felt so sad. I witnessed the band suffered a massive vacuum. Mr. Abe’s trademark red guitar that I’d watched and listened since I was a teenager was placed on the stage and made me cry instead of exult this time. His song was played while his pictures were shown and I bitterly missed him. As the concert went on, I realized how hard the members was trying to fill in the big hole that they knew couldn’t possibly be filled in. With their desperate attempts, they tried to carry on at all costs. Their strong intention to sustain the loss and to survive as Tulip was conveyed from the stage. I was deeply moved by their effort to continue. Before I knew, I was jumping and sang myself hoarse along to their songs with other audience as I had always done at their concert. Looking back, I became a singer-song writer to be like Tulip. Now I will do anything I can to keep on until I die like Tulip is doing. Just one thing I will not follow them is to accept that the quality of my music gets poor. I wouldn’t, I hope…

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