Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Vegetables, Yogurt, and Pizza hr632

My childhood diet was very healthy. That may be the reason why I was such a skinny kid, contrary to how I am today.
I was born in a farmer’s family in Kyoto, an old city in Japan. My family used to be almost self-sufficient. We mainly ate the leftover vegetables of eggplant and spinach that weren’t fit to be sold at the market because of flaws. We also planted rice and other vegetables such as onions, potatoes, carrots, radishes, burdocks and green peppers, not for sale but exclusively for our daily meals. We kept barnyard fowls that provided fresh eggs every morning. Our breakfasts and lunches were almost always row egg mixed with rice and soy sauce, pickled vegetables and too-weak miso soup.
A natural life may sound beautiful and relaxing, but it’s not in reality. Our fowls would holler screaming crows at dawn every day which would induce the clamorous barking of dogs in the neighborhood. Sometimes, one of our fowls that I named and fed every day like my pets was missing, and we had chicken on the table at dinner that evening. It took time for me to realize I was eating my pet fowl while I was worried about its whereabouts. Sometimes, I did witness my grandfather choked and plucked our fowl.
Since we didn’t have to buy vegetables, we had large servings at meals. Unfortunately, all vegetable meals of ours tasted horrible because we had to pay for seasonings or cooking oil and we were stingy enough to refrain them. Everything on our table was flavorless and bland. It never stimulated my appetite and I stayed skinny. As time passed, shops had been appearing in the rural area around our house. Also, my grandfather began to loosen his tight reign of the household and my mother had been able to have some discretion to go shopping and spend money. Our self-sufficiency was rapidly falling. Foods from outside tasted awesome. My appetite finally came out of its long hibernation. I was hooked by ham and mayonnaise in particular, and became chubby in no time.

sliced red strawberry fruit

Photo by Vlad Cheu021ban on Pexels.com

Of all the terribly-tasted foods that my grandfather had long eaten, he picked yogurt as the worst. When he saw my sister eat it everyday, he asked for one out of curiosity. He said he had never had such an awful food in his life. After I left home for my music career and started living by myself in Tokyo, he often asked my father to take him to my apartment that was far from Kyoto. He wanted to see what was like to live alone there. My father didn’t feel like taking on such a bother for him and used a clever repelling. He told my grandfather that I was eating pizza everyday in Tokyo.
Of course he knew both that I wasn’t and that my grandfather didn’t know what pizza was. He explained to my grandfather that a food called pizza was oily round bread covered with sour sticky substance called cheese that was stringy and trailed threads to a mouth at every bite. And he added a threat, “You would eat that thing in her small apartment. Can you do that?” My grandfather replied in horror, “Why should I eat such a thing rotten enough to pull threads? I can’t ever go to Tokyo.” That pizza description cleanly stopped my grandfather’s repetitive request.
When I returned home for a visit once, my grandfather asked me a question at dinner time. Pointing the four corners of the dining room and drawing invisible lines in the air with his chopsticks, he said, “Your entire apartment is merely about this size, isn’t it?” As I replied it was about right, he asked, “How come you chose to do all what is necessary to live in such a small space and eat stringy rotten foods with threads although you have a spacious house and nice foods here? Is music worth that much? I don’t understand at all.” He looked unconvinced. As for me, while I had a certain amount of hardship, I had a far better life with tasty foods and freedom compared to the one that I had had in this house. Nevertheless, I didn’t utter those words. I said nothing and pour sake for him into his small empty cup, instead.

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A Rich World Requiring No Wealth hr617

The most luxurious hotel in my small, rustic town is not far from my apartment. I visited there again the other day, not to stay the night but to use the club lounge.
The club lounge is exclusive to a member of the hotel’s loyalty program. The members can use it free of charge. The hotel has a regular lounge for its guests which menu has heart-stopping prices. Nonetheless, it was alive with customers who came to ski on the skiing slopes adjacent to the hotel. At the entrance, just by telling the server that I am a club member and flickering my membership card, she ushered me to the back of the regular lounge. Behind the glass door is the club lounge.
Once I stepped inside, I was in a heavenly place. Despite the hurly-burly of the regular lounge, I had this secluded section to myself. A cartridge coffee machine brewed freshly each cup. Bottles of sparkling wine and club soda stood in the ice-filled silver cooler. Kiss chocolates in silver wrappers, Hershey’s almond chocolates in gold wrappers and packs of a specialty cookie were arrayed. The place used up two-story-high vertical space and the wall-wide window reached to the second floor ceiling. Out of it was a side of the snow-covered mountain. I enjoyed sparkling wine in a flute glass as much as I want, sitting in a cozy sofa. The thing is, I didn’t pay a dime for this service since the membership fee is free. Other occasions I use my membership card except for this lounge are when I travel to the city a couple of times a year and stay at one of the same hotel chain to get its lowest rate.

two round pendant lamps in cafeteria

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on Pexels.com

Happiness seems to be enlarged 10 times when a gorgeous experience costs none. I don’t think that the wealthy feel happy when they pay a lot of money to use a luxurious hotel lounge because it’s how things usually go. I’ve seen many rich people who don’t have a good time with a frown no matter how expensive the place they are at is. My parents used to be rich, but they were always unhappy and pulled a long face. The schools I went to were exclusive Catholic schools, but the students and their parents alike didn’t seem happy at all from any angles I could have ever taken to observe them.
It’s an illusion that money brings happiness. I have just finished my second book that I wrote disregarding big sales. Since I didn’t bother about how many copies would sell, I had fun in all the processes such as writing, an enormous amount of editing work and publishing. My happiness is 100 times as much as the one that I felt when I was desperate to be famous and rich.
A long time ago, I got in a facility of a soft drink company when I visited Walt Disney World. The visitors there were allowed to drink a various kinds of soft drink from the dispensers as much as they wanted for free. The minute I entered the place, I noticed a strange atmosphere. It was crowded, but people were all smiling. Each of them was laughing, talking, jesting, and having fun with a small paper cup in their hand. While I lived in U.S., it was the only place that I saw people look joyful and relaxed without influences of alcohol or drugs.
Does wealth really make people happy? We can be happy without it if we overcome fear and create the world where money doesn’t work on us. I know, though, the way to happiness is of course long and hard…

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Jackpot hr612

That casino was old and forlorn. Inside, it had the outdated concert hall where gaudy revues and magic shows used to be abundant. Since the casino lost its popularity and customers, the hall had been used as a makeshift break area. Those who used up money for gambling and no longer had anything to do sat there sparsely with vacant eyes, producing a wretched atmosphere that perfectly matched the whole casino. My partner, my mother and I was resting there after we lost most money. As it was too gloomy to be sitting in the break area, my partner suggested that we should use up the scarce rest of our money and leave the casino.
Each of us sat in front of our favorite slot machine. On the screen of my slot, I came close to win with two matched pictures but the third one didn’t come up in every turn. My mother and I quickly ran out of money. Further down the floor, I saw my partner still playing. I left him there and went back to our hotel with my mother.
It was the last day of our stay and I started packing for checkout. The hotel looked out on the waterway that connected the hotel and the casino. For a brief break from packing, I went out on the balcony of our room and watched the waterway. Then I noticed something gigantic floating far up the waterway. It was slowly flowing toward the hotel. The closer it got, the more monstrous it became. It approached near enough to tell what it was.
A tall, triangular-shaped white condominium was carried on a massive barge. Tied behind it was a white enormous sailing ship. They were carried carefully from the direction where the casino located. Considering where it came from and how unusual they were to be carried along the waterway, I assumed that they were some prizes of the casino. I called my mother to the balcony and we wondered what kind of person had extremely good fortune like this.
The barge and the ship stopped in front of the hotel, right under our balcony. There was the third boat tied behind the ship. A man was sitting in it almost buried in numerous boxes and bags. It meant he was the winner. I gazed at the man with the biggest possible amount of envy. And I gasped. The man who won all of those was no other than my partner! I couldn’t shout, couldn’t scream but was just speechless. I saw my partner getting off the boat and being welcomed by the hotel staff. He gave them some instructions and they hurriedly moved around. Soon, there was a knock on the door of our room. The bellboys brought countless boxes of shoes and bags of brand clothes into our room. Finally my partner came in. He said calmly, “It’s time for checkout.” I told him that I hadn’t finished packing and he said, “It’s all taken care of. I hired people to do the rest. We can just leave.”
We stepped out of the hotel. In front of my eyes, the white condominium gleamed under the bright sunshine. The white sailing ship gently swayed with its sails furled. I asked myself repeatedly, “Can anything like this actually happen?”. My mother said, “I’ve always wanted a condominium like this!” and got onboard the barge. My partner returned onto the boat. I was excited enough to jump in the water and floated by a swim ring that was connected to the boat. The fleet began to move again and we were heading home.
While we were slowly moving down the waterway, I saw some parade floats in the water ahead of us. The area was a popular resort destination and the waterway threaded through many hotels. The parade seemed one of the events held in the area. Seeing the floats far ahead and the big condominium and the sailing ship before me, I asked my partner, “This is a dream, isn’t it?” He had been expressionless up until this point but smiled for the first time since he won. “Why? Are you that happy?”, he asked me back. I usually dream a lot. Sometimes I dream a very good one and feel ecstatic in it. But in those cases, waking up is excruciatingly painful. Dreadful disappointment crushes me. I’ve had those experiences more than too much and want no more. I would do anything to avoid it. If this is also a dream, I have to wake up now before euphoria gets inside me. Otherwise, I couldn’t bear a disappointment of this magnitude.
I was sad that everything I had gotten would disappear when I woke up. This was undoubtedly the best and the most vivid dream I’ve ever had. But I had to know whether this was reality or not at this point in order to minimize disappointment. I looked at the clear blue surface of the waterway on which I was floating. It was sparkling in the sunlight. I hit the surface and made it splash. Sprays of water showered on my face. It was cold and refreshing. I slapped my wet cheeks with my both hand. It hurt. Still, everything stayed as it was. I slapped my face over and over, hearing the sound of slapping and splashing water and my partner’s laughter. The condominium and the sailboat were still there. I felt gentle breeze and drips of water streaming down my face. I looked up the bright blue sky and got the dazzling sunshine over my face. I didn’t wake up. This was all real!
Now that I was convinced this wasn’t a dream, I was able to take it in. Indescribable happiness seized me. It almost choked me and I panted for breath. I felt my lungs were pressed with happiness and heated like coals. I’ve never been this happy in my entire life. I became a billionaire. My life got redeemed. I was finally getting out of a prison and living in a place where I should be. I was filled with a sense of relief, peace, and freedom. I felt a lump in my throat. It was as if the heated coals in my chest reached the boiling point and were about to explode. Tears appeared in the bottom of my eyes. They began to liquefy my sight. I blinked to shed tears. I felt tears rolling down my cheeks. I opened my eyes again. Then – much to my horrible surprise – the sight remained black. I blinked again and fixed my eyes on the darkness. It was the ceiling above the bed of my room.
It was completely beyond belief. Although I made sure so many times, all what happened was a dream. I was simply lying on my bed with tears streaming down my face. The sensation I had felt was so real that I even suspected this awakening was a dream. I sat up on the bed, bewildering. Everything was gone along with happiness. I was dazed for a while without moving. I uttered several times, “Can’t be a dream.” because it was too real to be a dream. I made a mistake again that I’ve tried to avoid all the time. This time, the mistake was huge. The dream was too good, too vivid, and too happy. Accordingly, disappointment was severely grave.
I felt the massive disappointment was trying to squash me. I couldn’t get up. I kept sitting on the bed, and started weeping…

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Club Lounge hr603

A Japanese high-class hotel chain has one property in my small town that situates in a mountainous region. The hotel looks uncommonly luxurious for a rather obsolete town like this. It operates to attract rich customers who visit for skiing. I had never stepped into that hotel although I had lived in this town for seven years now. Since my apartment is here, I don’t need to stay at a hotel. Also the restaurants in the hotel are all too expensive and out of my reach. I had just imagined that the most gorgeous space in this town existed inside it. I took a trip to the Tokyo metropolitan area a few years ago, and happened to choose a hotel of the same chain there to stay. When I booked it, I joined its loyalty membership program to get a discount for the room because the membership fee was free. The chain has a club lounge at selected locations that a loyalty program’s member can use for free of charge. Lately, the lounge was newly added to the hotel of my town. As a free bus to the hotel circulates around my town in the skiing season, it was a good opportunity to take a look at the hotel for free. I visited there for the first time after seven years in this town, wearing better clothes among what I have, with my partner. The hotel was lively with many skiers. A menu board stood at the entrance of its luxurious lobby lounge. The prices were depressingly high and my partner was on the verge of fainting by looking at them. I was confirmed that the only affordable place for us in this hotel was the free club lounge. I told a clerk who stood smiling at the entrance that I was a member of the loyalty club and wanted to use its lounge. She ushered us right away treating us as if we were VIPs. She opened the lounge door and let us in without requiring my membership card. “Enjoy”, she said bowing and left. The club lounge was small but empty. It had a Keurig coffee machine and a heap of its cartridges beside it. There was an abundance of clean expensive coffee cups and saucers. Packs of a well-known specialty cookie were laid out neatly. An array of chocolates in gold and silver wrappers was in a glass case like jewelry. We had all these to ourselves, and they were free! I sat in one of the soft quality easy chairs beside a sofa, looking at the blue sky and the snow-covered mountains out of the large windows. While I was pouring mineral water into a flute glass and smelling fresh brewed coffee, I felt a sense of happiness filled my brain. “Is all of this really free? It’s too incredible!” I doubt I could feel this kind of happiness if I were rich and afforded expensive foods at an exclusive place. It’s natural that things are gorgeous when you pay a lot. But experiencing luxury without paying anything doubles happiness because I feel luck is on my side. It was that feeling above all that made me fall for this club lounge. I wanted to come here every day if I could, but a monthly visit would be at best. After I had two cups of coffee, two cups of tea, a bottle of mineral water and five pieces of sweets, the time to catch a free bus came and I left the lounge. I got out of the gorgeous hotel through its elegant entrance and got on the shabby, ramshackle free bus like magic on Cinderella finished working…

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