Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Frantic Washing hr628

I am a germphobic. I never go out without packs of wet wipes and always carry a small spray bottle of sanitizer. Whenever I touch anything that shares contact with others, I wipe my hand right away. It’s especially cumbersome when I go on a trip. My routine after check-in is to spray sanitizer to tissues with which I wipe the door knobs, switches, handles of the wardrobe and the refrigerator, hangers, remote controls, faucets, toilet seat, toilet cover, flush handle. If the hotel doesn’t have a duvet style bed for its rooms, I bring clothespins and wrap the cover with the sheet by fastening them together so that any part of my body doesn’t touch the cover that isn’t washed each time. Then I place two pairs of slippers that I bring from home, one for pre-shower and one for post-shower. As you can imagine, it’s so much fuss for me to stay at a hotel. I just can’t help it.

I took a short trip the other day to a neighboring prefecture. For this trip, I was extra nervous because of that Corona virus turmoil. The local train I got on was near empty and most of the sparse passengers were wearing a medical mask. A 2-hour somewhat tense train ride later, I arrived at the hotel. A big spray bottle of sanitizer was put at the entrance and all the hotel staff at the front desk were wearing a mask. I went out for lunch at a family restaurant and it was also empty despite lunchtime. The shopping mall I visited afterwards had only few shoppers around. Since I hate crowds and a jam, all places turned in my favor. It seemed I bought comfort with nervousness. Back in the hotel room, I worked through my room-cleaning routine and had dinner with my partner in the room with deli foods I had gotten at the supermarket, not because I was worried about Corona virus at a restaurant but because I am cheap.

side table near bead frame

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Next morning, I used the elevator to have a free breakfast at a small eat-in space inside the hotel. I was off guard and didn’t wear a mask although the small elevator was unexpectedly packed with guests. Nobody was talking and I unconsciously held my breath. After an awkward silence, I was released to the designated floor. The breakfast was a buffet style. I took food with tongs that many guests used, out of plates that they slowly walked by and looked into. Everyone pushed buttons on the dispenser of coffee and juice. Wet wipes didn’t give me usual assurance for this particular trip. I went back to my room and washed my hands frantically.

I have once read an article that says excessive hygiene is counterproductive. It means that being exposed usually to germs builds resistance and thus makes people hard to get sick. If so, my germphobia is not only self-complacent unction but also simply a bad habit. That may be true, but I can’t, just can’t stop for the life of me.

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The Accidental Tourist hr622

On the second day of a trip to the western region of Japan, time was running short for the train I was going to take while I was preparing to go out at the hotel room. I walked to the closest train station hurriedly and called my parents.
One of the purposes of this trip was visiting my parents. When I do, I never tell them about my visit beforehand. My life experience taught me that they will plan some ways to attack me if I give them time. I let them know right before my actual visit in order not to give them a chance to think of any plots.
The one who answered my call was my younger sister to whom I hadn’t talked for more than a decade. Before the trip, I had received a phone call from my mother who was crying and confessed that her life had been hell since my sister began to live with them about a year ago. My parents had kept it secret from me for a year because my sister didn’t want me to know that she had returned to Japan from abroad and had lived with them. Although I had known that from my mother’s phone call, I pretended not to know when my sister answered my call as I also had known her intention. I said, “You’re back in Japan,” and she admitted in a very faint voice. And an unexpected new fact followed when I asked her to put either of my parents on the phone. She told me that my parents had no longer lived there because they ran away from home.
My mother had mentioned some kind of abuse by my sister on the distraught phone call less than a month ago, but I never thought it was serious enough to run away. My sister explained in a feeble voice that they had felt excessively stressful to live with her. And she didn’t know their whereabouts.

access adult blur business

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After I hung up the phone, I called my father’s cell phone. He answered sounding absent-minded. I told him I had come to see him and asked him if we could meet. He answered it was inconvenient for him because he had somewhere to go with my mother and there was no time to spare for me all day long. He apparently avoided me and sounded he didn’t want to see me. When I asked him where they were living now, he said in a vacant voice, “In an apartment near the condo where I lived.” I had a previous engagement to meet with my high school teacher before I was going to see my parents and the train to catch was coming. Although I had tons of questions left, I ran out of time and hung up the phone.
To meet my teacher, I needed to transfer the train at Osaka terminal station. As there was 15-minute space to the next train, I used the bathroom in the station. I was headed for the platform where the next train would depart, walking through the enormous station that has eleven platforms and seven different train lines. The passages were entwined and crawling with passengers. It looked like as much as O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. I was waiting for the train on the platform I had made sure on the information board. When the train came in though, I noticed a wrong destination was displayed on the side of the train. I had checked the platform number by the departure time. Unfortunately, Osaka Station is a gigantic station that has numerous trains depart at the exactly same time. I had been waiting for a train diligently at the wrong platform. I saw the right train coming in a few platforms away. I panicked, rushed down the long flight of stairs, ran down the long main passage, ran up the stairs and tried to zap into the train. But on the platform I ended up, the right train didn’t arrive. Instead, an unfamiliar, new special gorgeous train had been parked and the full-dress station attendants were standing in line in front of the train, giving it a salute. There were some camera crews around them. It seemed some sort of ceremony was being held there, and I appeared in the midst of it dashing out of the stairs. I couldn’t grasp what was happening for a moment and was just looking around frantically for my train. A young lady attendant approached me with a kind smile, saying to me, “Why don’t you take one if you like.” and handed me a small plastic flag on which an illustration of this special train was printed. Then I realized I got on the wrong platform again because I didn’t come here to see off this train with the flag. I ran down the stairs yet again, and dashed up the stairs to the right platform this time.
The platform was empty with no train and no passengers. My train seemed to have long gone. I was standing alone in a daze, panting for breath on the oddly quiet platform with a small flag holding in my hand.

people inside train station

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I was late for the arranged time and made my teacher wait, but was able to see her again who is one of only few people that have understood me and supported me for all the years after I graduated from high school. A good time passes quickly. I was immensely encouraged by her even in this short meeting and got on the train to go back to the hotel instead of going to my parents’ home.
Because the plan to meet my parents was cancelled in an unexpected way, I happened to have time to go to the outlet mall that I had given up the other day because of rain. I enjoyed hanging around there with my partner and had dinner at the Hawaiian restaurant with a turkey sandwich and popcorn shrimps that are rare items in Japanese restaurants and give me yearning for the days when I lived in the U.S. In the end of a weird day filled with totally unexpected twists, a wonderful time waited for me. My precise plan for this trip turned to be completely different two days in a row…

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Travel and Luck hr621

I took a trip to the western region of Japan with my partner. To travel there is an about-once-a-year event for me because the region is where my parents live and one of my favorite destinations to spend a short vacation. I had made a precise plan for this trip a few months in advance. The plan was taking a bullet train and then a plane to get there, hanging around the outlet mall, meeting my high school teacher and visiting my parents’ home.
I saw rain falling quite heavily out of my window on the morning of departure although the weather forecast had been for rain only in the afternoon. Thanks to the inaccurate weather forecast, I would have to walk in the rain to the nearest local train station for ten minutes with an umbrella added to my heavy bags. When we left and got down to the entrance of our apartment building though, the rain just stopped. My partner exclaimed excessively, “How lucky we are! It stopped raining just when we’re stepping outside! How about that!”
We were transferring from the local train to the bullet train at the station. We didn’t have our seats reserved on a bullet train as it cost less. Before getting aboard, we were going to drop by a kiosk to get breakfast. But we looked in an information board for coming trains instead of entering into a kiosk directly. A station attendant happened to pass by, and told us the platform number where the next train would come although we didn’t ask. He also added that if we moved now, we would catch it in time. Instead of breakfast, we took an escalator to the platform while hearing the train coming in. Just when we got to the platform, the train door opened before us. Two business men got off, and two of us got on. Although the train had been full, only two seats that those business men had taken side by side were empty. We sat together without a reservation. My partner was enraptured and said, “Got aboard just in time, only two seats together were empty! How lucky we are!”

airport airplane plane terminal

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After arriving at the airport, we flew to Kansai Airport by a low cost carrier. The flight was completely packed since the fare was incredibly low. I was irritated for the whole flight because a group of a kid, a mother and her friend was sitting right behind me and extremely noisy. The kid was shouting all the way. My patience was about to reach the limit in the end of a mere 90-minute flight. When the plane descended and prepared for landing, it was lapped by dark clouds. Large drops of rain drummed on the windows. The captain announced the weather at the airport would be heavy rain. Probably because it was a low cost carrier plane, it wasn’t connected to a ramp but parked far from the terminal building. After landing, we needed to use the stairs to go down to the ground and walk outside to the building. While I was going down the stairs, I noticed the heavy rain had just stopped. My partner said exultantly, “Look at the sodden tarmac! It must have been raining hard until minutes ago! How lucky we are!”
I finally dared to question him, “If we are that lucky, how come we sat in front of the only noisy child on the plane?” He answered convincingly, “It’s a piece of advice that we shouldn’t take any longer flight than this on a low cost carrier.” He apparently implicated our tentative plan to fly to North America by a low cost carrier and sounded as if we were lucky to find the right indication for the plan.
We took a train to the nearest station from a hotel we had booked. The hotel was a 7-to-8 minute walk from the station. On our way, drops of rain started falling. It rained in earnest a few feet away from the hotel and we rushed forth to the entrance. After we settled in a hotel room, I suggested that we should give up our plan to go to the outlet mall. I thought that it wouldn’t rain again like this if the plan to go there was right. We changed our plan and took the hotel’s spa instead.

bed bedroom chair comfort

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Since the hotel was the economy one, I didn’t expect too much of the hotel bath. But as it turned out, it was the best communal bath I’d ever taken. It was small but clean and stylish, and the total atmosphere was superb with the modern lighting and jazzy background music. And I was the only guest there. I enjoyed it immensely and relaxed totally. It unexpectedly became a true vacation experience. Luck seemed to be on my side on this trip so far. I couldn’t tell any more who or what decides our itinerary…

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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

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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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