Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Self-made Turmoil hr604

I started off on a customary winter trip to take breath out of my town that is enclosed by the mountains and had been buried in snow. The itinerary of this winter trip was three days in the Tokyo metropolitan area by staying for two nights at the hotels near Narita Airport although I didn’t take the plane. The reason why I chose to stay near the airport that I wouldn’t use was simple; there are a lot of inexpensive hotels around the airport and a huge outlet mall is close. My favorite Tokyo Disney Resort isn’t far so that I can drop by before I take the bullet train home at Tokyo Station. I got up unusually early on the morning when I set off with my partner. We waited for the local bus at the curbside bus stop in front of our apartment. The snow covered the mountains, roads, houses that were all white, and even more was coming down from the white sky. The bus appeared from the white on schedule and took us to the train station. At the station, I was to receive the bullet train ticket on the ticket machine that I had booked in advance. The price gets reduced 35 percent if it’s booked online one month before. By inserting the credit card which number is registered on booking into the machine, the ticket comes out automatically. I have used the service for numerous times and been used to it. I inserted my card into the machine as usual, and the slot spit the card instantly instead of the ticket. It had never happened before. I put the card in again, but it came out again. The monitor showed an ominous message, “Not a valid card.” At that message, I remembered something horrible. My credit card would have expired before the trip. I had received the new one after I booked the ticket, and I had to replace my old card in my wallet with that new one. The dreadful fact here was that I had forgotten to do so. I clearly visualized my new card sitting in my room. I panicked. I threw myself on an unrealistic possibility that I had unconsciously put it into my wallet. I rummaged through my wallet for the card that couldn’t have been in there, babbling “No, no, no, it can’t be happening, no!” The bullet train that I had booked would depart in 20 minutes that wasn’t enough time to get back to my apartment by cab for the new card. I just madly repeated to rummage through my wallet over and over for the imaginary card. Sweat came down. I was panting for breath. My partner stood beside me and asked me what was going on. He looked scared not at what was just happening but at my panic mode. I kept yelling at him, “Card! Left my card! Caaaaaard!” I came up with the last solution. The only way to get my new card here was to use the force or psychokinesis or mind power or whatever it’s called that is supernatural. I pictured and concentrated on my new card in my room strongly enough to shiver, closing my eyes and believing that it emerged in my wallet when I opened my eyes. I looked through my wallet yet again, and of course, the card wasn’t there. I was on the verge of crying. I calculated roughly how much money I would lose by this mistake. The discounted deal for the ticket would be gone, the train also would be gone, the entire schedule of the trip would be disrupted. To sum up, this trip was determined to be ruined already. And seeing in my head figures of the rough total amount of money that would be wasted almost made me faint. My partner tried to get me come to my senses and I remotely heard his voice saying “Why don’t you consult with an operator at the ticket booth?” I staggered toward the booth and asked if there was any way to get the ticket. She told me that I could if I had the reservation number. I had forgotten about the existence of my smartphone until that point. I looked up the confirmation email with my trembling hand and found the reservation number. Beneath the number, I saw four digits. They were the last four digits of the credit card number that I used for this booking. It stunned me. They were not the four of my new card. Suddenly I remembered. When I booked, I purposely tried not to use the card because I acknowledged the expiration would come between then and the trip itself. So, I used another card that I rarely used. And I had that card with me in my wallet now! I jumped and said to the operator, “It’s here! It’s this card! This card!” The operator handed me the ticket. It looked like a dream ticket now. I felt that supernatural power worked in a different way, after all. The operator seemed puzzled and gave me a dubious look as I thanked her a million times with tears in my eyes. I hurried to the ticket gate, got the dream ticket scanned, caught the bullet train, and sat in the seat I had booked. It turned out that I made a big turmoil for nothing. I was ashamed myself whose simply poor memory caused this ridiculous, totally unnecessary fuss. It drained me completely by the time the trip actually began. As if to prove it, a headache also started along with a trip…

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An Earthly Paradise hr596

When I lived in California, the apartment I rented had an outside Jacuzzi. I liked taking it at night, seeing the sky above. Under the palm trees, I watched an airplane’s small dot of light blinking and moving through the stars. It was the moment that I felt like a winner who obtained a life in paradise by getting out of not only Japan but also my family to which I had been a bound successor. Prices in the U.S. were extremely low compared to Japan back then because of the strong yen. It seemed to me that everything was on sale and I literally lived in a bargain country. Sadly, my life in paradise didn’t last long, though. The Japanese economy crashed and yen turned weak. Inflation had edged up in the States as well. Price hikes assaulted me in all directions. I became unable to pay the rent even if I had moved into a cheap motel. I was practically kicked out of the States and the plane brought bitterly-discouraged myself back to Japan where I returned to a life of reality in a teeny-tiny apartment. Time went by, and I had benefited from technological advances like the Internet and computers, and also from the fall of housing value in Japan. Those benefits let me live in a condominium that has a communal spa. I take a Jacuzzi there watching a beautiful view of the mountains with lingering snow out of big windows. One day, I felt so euphoric that I thought this wasn’t real. I thought I may have already died from that northern Japan’s severe earthquake or from the subsequent meltdown of the nuclear plant, and must be in heaven now. That reminded me of the sensation I had felt in a Jacuzzi in California. I had never expected that I would experience an equally enraptured life here in Japan when I parted with it there. If I traveled back in time with a time machine, I could talk to my other self who was in despair on the flight to Japan from the States. I would say to her, “Years from now, you will get another chance to live in paradise!” I would tell her that she wouldn’t give up music and would have completed two songs back in Japan that had quality she had been craved for and entirely satisfied with. How easier the flight would’ve been if I had heard those words there. I was too hopeless to imagine so much as a speck of the possibility. I always find myself foolish in hindsight whenever I look back later. There are tons of things I have to say to my past self beforehand. The question is, what would my future self tell me now if she looked at me taking the Jacuzzi here. Would she say, “Embrace the moment. It’s the pinnacle of your life”? Or would she say, “Prepare yourself. It’s just the beginning”? I desperately hope for the latter…

 

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Escape from the Snow World hr565

The mountain region in Japan where I live is covered with seven to ten feet of snow every winter. My town is in a close area with mountains in all directions. Those mountains turn into tall white walls in winter. Deep snow lies beneath, white walls stand around, and snowflakes constantly cover the sky above. It gives me a sense of being contained in a white box. As winter deepens, I begin to feel claustrophobia and suffocating. For that reason, I take a trip to the snow-free region and stay there for a few days every winter. I stayed at a hotel near Narita Airport and one near Tokyo Disneyland this winter because they became bargain prices by using my accumulated points of the hotel chain’s loyalty program that I had gained with a trip to Montreal. Since I was entitled to use a pool and a sauna for free at the hotel near the airport, I brought my new swimsuit that had been sleeping in the back of my drawer for more than ten years and looked out-dated even though it hadn’t been worn. Right after I checked in, I rushed into the pool. As I was swimming watching a plane flying over me through the round glass ceiling, I remembered how pleasant swimming was. I used to swim in the pool at the gym a couple of days a week until about ten years ago. I would care about my health and stamina so much, but I have gradually become a night owl and put on weight. I decided to take this opportunity to restart my health-conscious life. Next morning, while almost every part of my body was aching, I had breakfast at the buffet restaurant in the hotel. Most guests were from foreign countries because the hotel was close to the airport. I felt as if I was eating abroad and it cost a minimum to take an imaginary overseas trip. After I stuffed a whole day’s amount of food into my stomach by eating for two hours there, I left for an outlet mall near the hotel. I usually enjoy strolling around a mall and looking for a bargain price, but I returned to the hotel quite early this time in order to swim in the evening. Before I checked out next morning, I went back to the pool again. Then I moved to the hotel near Tokyo Disneyland and found that the pool there was free too. I ended up swimming four times during this four-day trip. Although I was supposed to be healthier when I came home, I started coughing next day and it didn’t stop. Whether this trip was effective or not was now questionable. Did I catch a cold at a warmer place where I bothered to travel to get away from my cold town? Besides, my region has had unusually little snow this winter and neither the ground nor the mountains are all white. I can’t tell what I took that trip for after all…

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The Flight to Japan hr562

After I checked out the hotel in Laval, I was waiting for the Uber in front of it. Snow of the day before brought a bitter chill that made me shiver while I enjoyed a breathtaking view of a clear sky in the early morning. I was going to the airport where I would take a flight to Japan via Toronto. No matter how often I travel overseas, I feel extremely nervous on the morning of a flight every time, fearing that I might miss the flight. I was lucky, as it happened to be Sunday this time. If it had been a weekday, I would be crushed by an additional worry of a traffic jam. While I usually plan anything carefully, luck is an invincible helper in the end. The Uber driver was a man from the Middle East, who knew a few Japanese words since his son learned judo. It was his third day to work as an Uber driver. Because both my partner and I had wished for something like Uber for a long time and we have been impressed with its convenient service since we began to use it, my partner said to the driver that he had a bright future in his new job. He thanked my partner with deep gratitude and pure joy in his words. At the airport in Montreal, my partner suddenly claimed that he was very hungry. I told him to wait until we got to Toronto as we had gotten the ticket to use the lounge there. He wouldn’t listen and we ended up paying $25 for the overcharged airport sandwiches. And the airline company I frequently use, and have troubles with, did it again. Although I made a reservation and chose the seats well over four months ago, they had handed the seats to other passengers. If they boast about the advance seat selection, they need to learn how to hold it. During the seventy-five-minutes’ crammed flight to Toronto, my partner and I had to sit separately, and I got water when I asked for apple juice for some reason. Other than those small incidents, the flight to Japan took off without any troubles, fortunately. Thirteen hours later the plane would land and my trip to Canada would come to an end. I was surprised that there was no Japanese family with noisy children this time that I usually encounter on the plane. Instead, quite a few Canadian tourists were on board. Their trip to Japan had just begun and they looked so happy and excited. I couldn’t understand why they had chosen Japan for the destination of their trip and how they could be happy about it like that. I was sitting behind them feeling so depressed to go back to Japan which houses and buildings are tasteless, which historical spots are gloomy and dark, which cities are jammed with too many people, and which families with kids behave obnoxious. I wanted them to tell me even one charm they found about Japan where I would be stuck again from now. I suppose every one wants to get out of their daily lives, but of all the beautiful places in the world, why Japan? In there, I will spend every day waiting for the day to get out and escape to Montreal and Laval again, figuring out how to do it…

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Back to Montreal hr558

A trip to California I took in May changed my mindset. When I found bargain fares online, I quickly decided to go to Montreal for the first time in seven years by using my emergency savings. I felt it was ridiculous to keep money in a bank although we are mortal and we don’t know when our time is up. I once lived in Montreal for about a year in total. I wanted to stay there, but I had to leave and come back to Japan as my money ran out. Since then, I have always hoped to live there again or at least to visit there as a tourist. What I like about Montreal are its beauty, a relaxing atmosphere and people there who seem to live to enjoy life rather than achieve success. I’m not sure if it’s because of their ways of life or the French-spoken region of Canada, but they are fashionable with excellent taste. For that combination of the city and the people, just walking down the street is fascinating enough. I took on a 12-hour flight to Toronto during which I happened to find ‘Tomorrowland’ among the in-flight movies, saw it twice and cried yet again. I went through immigration where an immigration officer gave me lengthy, irrelevant, even harassing questions including about my pin I was wearing on my jacket. It was a pin from ‘Tomorrowland’ and she almost made me begin to explain the whole movie story. The airport system in Toronto was somewhat odd. I was just in transit en route to Montreal, but I needed to pick up my luggage, carry to the distant counter and check it in all over again. Although I had already been through the security checkpoint before I got on board in Japan and had never left the airport, I had to do it again. I ended up gobbling a whole bottle of water in front of the security gate, which was exactly what I did on the last trip to California. After the security checkpoint, I saw an information screen for departure to make sure the gate number for my flight to Montreal. The flight was missing. There was no information about my flight, no cancelled, no delayed, no nothing. Among the long list of departing flights, my flight itself didn’t exist. I was close to panic. And I realized we don’t have anybody around for something like this nowadays. There is no information counter, airport workers don’t know about flights, and airline personnel at the gates don’t know other flights’ status. I had no one to ask. The only place I came up with as where the airline personnel with flight information were working was an executive lounge. I went up there and asked about my flight. She glanced at her computer display and said, ‘It’s on time.’ My flight did exist, but for some weird reason, the airport screen showed information only for selected flights. I had scurried around the terminal for this absurd system. I finally arrived at Montreal after a one-and-a-half-hour flight. A cab ran on the freeway at 75 miles per hour through the night and downtown Montreal appeared in 20 minutes. It was the same freeway on which a cab carried me in the dark before dawn seven years ago when I was leaving for Japan. I remember I wished upon the moon that I could return here someday, as I had no way to find the money to come back. The moon satisfied my wish, I supposed. I checked in a hotel and looked out of the window. Beneath the window was Sherbrooke Street where many people were still passing by. Above the town lights of the city, I saw the cross on the Mont-Royal that was lighted up and floated in the dark sky. It was a view that I felt like I was strayed into a dreamland. I thought my bold decision to spend money for this trip was right. It would be a big loss not to come to such a beautiful place like this when it exists. I literally fell down to bed to sleep since I was completely exhausted from the 24-hour trip from home to here and the turmoil at Toronto Airport. Next morning, I woke up early because of jet lag. The first thing I decided to do in Montreal wasn’t to get a rest in the hotel room or to take a walk in the city. It was going to casino to win back all the money I had spent there in the past…

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