Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Justice Is Served hr607

The world has come to where Mr. Trump is the President of the United States of America and a villain smiles with the joy of victory even in the movie ‘Avengers Infinity War’. As for me, I had lived this desperate time while I held onto hope by watching ‘Star Wars The Last Jedi’ repeatedly. In the days like that, something huge has finally occurred. Although it is unthinkable and significant enough to be the top news of the world, I’m sure no media reports it and I will take the honor to proclaim the news to the whole world here. The apartment building that I live in has a small gym for the residents. It’s called gym nominally, but in effect, it’s a space with a couple of massage chairs, few exercise machines most of which are outdated, a square exercise mat, and a TV set. Although it’s not a sufficient facility as a gym, I exercise there three or four times a week since it’s free for the residents. The biggest problem is a combination of the TV and the exercise mat spread in front of it. There are residents who are just watching TV lying down on the mat without exercising. Families are watching TV with the kids and let them play around there. They use the space as their second living room or a playground. They almost always set the TV volume so loud. To make things worse, Japanese TV programs are atrocious. Dramas are actors’ shrieking only without content, game shows are babble about nothing, and commercials are all close-up of young women. It’s nothing but a torture to ride an exercise bike engulfed by the picture and sound of those. Even when I exercise alone in the gym quietly without TV, someone who comes in after me walks straight towards the TV set and turns it on without hesitation. They don’t have minimum courtesy to ask if it’s all right to turn it on. I think they regard it as a TV room not a gym. To lessen my discomfort, I had started bringing my smartphone and earphones. I have to listen to music at max volume to compensate the loud TV. One day, a man came in when I was exercising alone. As usual, he turned on TV and began to watch it lying on the exercise mat. That’s the cue that I got used to now. I turned on my smartphone and began to play music in my earphones. On that particular day, I became really indignant at what he was doing because he was a regular and had annoyed me with the loud TV for a hundred times. I unconsciously muttered, “How dare you turn on TV?” The thing is, I was listening to the music at max volume and forgot to control the volume of my own voice. I didn’t mutter, but almost shouted the sentence. The man looked back at me with sheer terror on his face. I was as surprised at myself as he was. Those unpleasant gym days had been my norm for years because of the TV watchers. The other day, a man was watching TV as usual when I came into the gym. A familiar sight. But what happened next was completely different from the usual. As soon as he saw me coming in, he jumped up as if he got startled, and he turned off TV right away and left the gym. I wondered how angry and intimidating my look was. I started riding the bike peacefully without TV and noticed something below the TV screen. There was a sign. I got closer to read it. It said in big letters, ‘This TV is for an exercise video only. To watch general programs, use TV in the lobby. Management’ A miracle happened. Someone who understands what is right exists in this apartment building other than me. It was literally too good to be true. The existence of my kind of person was so hard to believe that I briefly thought that I sleepwalked to the gym one night because of excessive anger and put the sign by myself. I rubbed my eyes to see if it was an illusion. No. The sign was real. For the first time in a long while, I did a pleasant exercise at the gym. It was a refreshing, clean time in which I had all smile on my face…

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I Have Everything I Need hr606

The next morning, I hurried to the restaurant in the hotel to be in time for its breakfast serving time. I like to have breakfast especially at this restaurant. I can get a slight taste of an overseas travel here and a feeling that I were outside of Japan as most guests are from foreign countries. I glutted myself with the breakfast buffet, got back to the room, packed, and checked out. I transferred the hotel’s free bus at the airport to the express bus to Tokyo Disney Resort this time. I often visit there but don’t enter the parks that are too crowded all the time. Instead, I usually hang around the surrounding hotels and the shopping district. This visit was no exception and I went directly into the movie theater. The object was to see ‘Star Wars The Last Jedi’. It was the third time to see it in the theater and the film won glory as one of my best three movies in my lifetime so far. I had never been sold on any Star Wars movies until I saw this particular one. They were mere melodramas in the galaxy to me. But the one before ‘The Last Jedi’ turned the tide and this one blew me away completely. It has deepened my emotions every time I see it. It was too touching for me to stop crying at the very last scene, again. The story is very much like a film ‘Tomorrowland’ that is the best movie of my life. Both films tell about hope and if ‘Tomorrowland’ was made in a Star Wars setting, it would be ‘The Last Jedi’. I’m constantly afraid of not being recognized as a musician forever because my likings rarely agree with others. For the person like me, it’s a big relief when a favorite movie becomes a blockbuster. It literally gives me hope. Later on, I bought gadgets of R2-D2 and BB-8 that respond to my voice and talk back. I’ve enjoyed talking with them everyday. After the movie, I had a snack at a Mexican fast-food restaurant because it had happy hour that made margarita half price. A clerk there made a mistake for my order in a good way and gave me one more guacamole for free. Then I had a cafe latte at a bakery cafe in one of Disney hotels. Although the place was near empty, a cue of customers began to form outside. It was getting longer in a matter of minutes. It turned out that the sale time for freshly-baked croquette sandwiches was approaching and people were waiting to get them. Japanese people really love to stand in line for fresh food even though it’s expensive. Their strong zest for something hot from the oven is amazing, which I never understand. I saw the fireworks of the park from the same shopping district for free and headed for Tokyo Station by train to catch the bullet train home I’d booked at 35 percent off. At the station, I got croissants and a pork bowl both at half price by a closeout sale that were left unsold and old, and had dinner with them on the bullet train instead of at a restaurant. All in all, my trip cost so little for a luxury savor I could felt. Only, I was kind of blue as the exciting trip was coming to an end now while the train was sending me back to a sober, indifferent small town where my plain daily life exists…

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A Heavy Gate hr601

On the day that I would meet my former high school teacher for the first time in decades, I commenced a journey by train from the hotel I stayed to the station of our rendezvous. I had made a detailed plan beforehand for this train trip since quite a few transfers were involved along the way and the area was unfamiliar to me. I took the first train and repeatedly looked over the note I had taken for which train of what time at which station to catch. The plan was perfect. Now that I got on the first train right on schedule, all I needed to do was just moving the rest of the way according to the note. The train arrived at the station where I was to make the first transfer. I was standing in front of the car door to get off when the train stopped. Oddly, the automatic door wouldn’t open. I was waiting for a while until I heard the departure bell ring and noticed a sign saying ‘This Door Doesn’t Open. Use One at Opposite End of Car’ I panicked instantly. The train was about to depart and I had to reach the opposite end of this long car. I dashed down the aisle like a sprinter while all the passengers were startled at my frenzied run. I was barely in time to get off. As I passed a close call of the day, I transferred to the other train line with a relief. Then, the bigger trial assaulted me on the platform of that line. An electric board that shows the upcoming trains in the green light had turned all red. It indicated that all the trains were delayed severely by heavy rain and the next train was cancelled. My jaw dropped. I didn’t see that coming as it wasn’t raining at all here. Plus, the next train that had been cancelled was the very train I was going to take. What are odds that the exact train I was taking is the only train cancelled among all? Taking that train was crucial because I had more transfers to make on the way ahead. Missing that train would disrupt the whole connections. A big piece to complete my journey fell off and my perfect plan came to naught unexpectedly quickly. Now I was officially in a panic mode. I tried to come up with an alternative, thinking hard about which train to take instead and where to transfer to get to my destination. When I frantically looked through information boards on the platform, a delayed, out-of-schedule train came in. Its destination was a big famous terminal that I thought would take me somewhere from. I hopped on it, and found out that the train to which I was going to transfer later would also stop at the terminal. If I had caught it there, I still could have made it on time for the planned appointment. As soon as the train arrived at the terminal, I was a dashing sprinter again, rolling down and up the stairs to move between the platforms like a cartoon character. When I zipped by a businessman in a flash in the middle of a flight, my bag somehow caught his umbrella. I found myself running dangling an umbrella. I ran down to him who gaped at me, returned his umbrella, ran up again, reached the platform and jumped in the train. Inside, I realized that the train wasn’t what I had planned to take but the one happened to be there after a few hours’ delay. It didn’t depart on schedule, which meant I didn’t have to dash around the terminal like a maniac. This unknown train turned out to go straight to my destination without transfer. In a very weird way, I made up for the disruptive schedule with each delayed train and arrived almost on time. I stepped out of the train, completely exhausted. I wondered why I had to endure great hardship like this in order just to reunite with my former teacher. It wasn’t such a long distance. I simply wanted to see my teacher and bridge the decades’ gap. It was supposed to be easy, but it wasn’t. I saw the reason why I had never tried to see her up until now. I wasn’t brave enough to show myself to her. I had believed I ought to be successful when I met her again. I hadn’t had the courage to admit that I haven’t achieved anything and I was still nothing. To see her, I needed to verify what I’ve done in my life so far and get over my foolish pride that I had held onto for a long time. In this trip, I challenged it. This trying journey to see her signified a long difficult way to accept who I am. I struggled around, but reached after all in an accidental way. Over the ticket gate at the station, I spotted her waiting for me smiling…

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Challenge and Disappointment hr599

A lottery promotion is occasionally held at 7-Eleven stores in Japan. A customer draws a card from a box by every six dollars purchase. If a winning card is drawn, the customer can get merchandise that the card shows for free. The prize merchandise varies in what is sold at about one dollar, such as an ice cream, a snack, and a soft drink. In my experience, one in every three cards is a winning card, which is a low-risk-low-returns lottery. As a greedy person, though, I face heavy pressure to draw despite the cheap prize. When the cashier holds out the draw box in front of me at the counter, I take a deep breath, close my eyes, concentrate and pray for a wining card just to get a one-dollar prize. I push my hand in through a hole of the box and my hand rummages and searches for the right card by touch in the box until the cashier gives me a dubious look. Right before the cashier decides to ask me what is going on, I pull my hand out of the box with a card. If I win, I repress hard an urge to jump and scream, and instead put a weird grin that stretches across my face. If I lose, I desperately bear not to drop to my knees, and instead simply droop over the counter. I know the cashier is wondering what is a big deal, but I can’t afford to keep my composure. For the rest of the day, I’m tortured by disappointment and remorse. I ponder about why I drew a blank and the meaning of that. Was it because I had done something wrong before I drew the lottery, or was it a sign telling me something hereafter? Since the matter is too trivial, the answer usually can’t be found. A small lottery causes such a commotion in me, regardless. Although I really hate this pitiful struggle, I’m willing to wage a fight at 7-Eleven whenever it carries the lottery promotion. At the store, I put goods into the basket doing a sum in my head to get the total amounted to six dollars that qualifies for the drawing. To challenge the lottery, I even get something I don’t need and play into the hands of 7-Eleven. This unwise challenge of mine somewhat resembles my career as a musician. It is the source of my trials and tribulations, and yet I can’t stop. The difference between the two is that I’ve won several times at 7-Eleven while I’ve never won as a musician. But my challenge continues all the same…

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The New Song Completed, Again hr598

After a one-year-long struggle with mastering, I completed my new song and got to open Moet Chandon. I took a long summer vacation for the first time since I became a musician. Then I got down to post production, starting with mastering the instrumental track of the new song. The instrumental track isn’t important, it’s a kind of an incidental that is prepared just in case. I was going to take it easy and get it over quickly. That approach of mine led casual settings for the effects and their readings. I tried an experimental setting that I had never applied on the master track since I knew it would go overboard. While it was easy to imagine that the resultant track would be bad, I just did it for some sort of fun. The most difficult part of mastering is to boost volume. To get the song to its adequate volume, I spent an unbelievable amount of time sending the master track into the effects repeatedly by which the volume got bigger little by little. But as for this instrumental track, the volume got magically big on the first try of my experimental setting. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the track’s fat audio wave. In a case like this, I knew too well that its sound would be crushed and terrible. I listened to the track and I couldn’t believe my ears either. The new instrumental track sounded better than the finished master track. I tried to grasp what was going on. The only explanation I could find was that this was the instrumental track without main vocals. The track with main vocals can be another matter altogether because vocals tend to complicate effects’ settings. The settings that work for the instrumental track don’t necessarily work for the one with vocals. The problem here was though, that I was assaulted by an urge to try these settings on the master track. I battled with the urge by asking to myself: Haven’t I declared the song’s completion? Am I redoing all over again? What if I bog down into that notorious endless mastering loop again? Am I really willing to repeat that struggle? Do I prolong this project even more? Although I did my best and tried the limits of my abilities for the new song, I couldn’t deny that there were some aspects I had to give in. It sounded slightly different from what I really wanted, but I couldn’t find the way no matter how many times I tried. What if these new settings were the solution? If I wanted the song to be perfect, wouldn’t it be worth a try? The urge prevailed. I redid the mastering with the settings that happened to be found for the instrumental track. It worked. On one try, the song turned into exactly what I had been searching for. I had no other way than replacing the version I had completed with a one-year-long struggle with this new version completed in a few minutes. I felt rather chilled than happy. I experienced the inexplicable. The very thing I had struggled to get over one year was found totally accidentally, ridiculously easily. It was as if the date for the song’s completion had been fixed long since. The song has been completed surely this time, but I had already finished Moet and had nothing to celebrate with. I was too embarrassed to tell my partner who works as the producer this course of events. I didn’t have the nerve to tell someone who had waited for the song with enormous patience during the one-year-long mastering that I changed the master track to the one I just finished in a matter of minutes. I hesitated but eventually confessed. Sometimes, taking time doesn’t mean the best result. I still feel that someone else was mastering the song in place of me while I was taking a summer vacation as a reward for having done my best for one year. Music can be after all what is given, not what one makes…

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