Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Kanji hr655

I came across a website on which custom-made T-shirts, caps and tote bags are made and sold worldwide. Since I have been in a financial crunch lately, I could make and sell T-shirts with my poor drawing on them there. I browsed others’ merchandise which designs looked professional and like works of art. Looking at them, it was obvious that my daub had no part to play there. I tried to look for some other possible designs of my own.

It was when the idea of kanji struck me. Kanji means Chinese characters in Japanese and one of three character sets used for Japanese. That character set is prevalent in Japan and most Japanese names contain it. My name also consists of three kanji characters. When I lived in the U.S. and Canada and my signature was required at shops or other businesses, the salesclerk who looked at it curiously often expressed how cool it was. I sometimes saw a person wearing a T-shirt that had kanji on it, but mostly it didn’t make sense or it had an awkward meaning. That was probably because someone who didn’t have enough knowledge about kanji made the shirt easily. While I understood that the person wearing it didn’t know her or his shirt was telling an absurd thing to the public, I couldn’t help giggling secretly. I even spotted those who tattooed that weird kind of kanji. As a native of Japan, I thought I could make kanji merchandise with proper meanings and decided to give it a try.

Every kanji has its meaning. For instance, my first name is comprised of two kanji characters one of which means ‘excellent’ and the other means ‘beautiful’, and they are read ‘Hidemi’ together. Because of the character’s meaning, my name is embarrassing, I admit. Japanese parents put their expectations and wishes into a name when they name their child. A child’s name reflects their parents’ taste and personality. They wish her or him to be gentle, or to be kind, and they choose the corresponding kanji for their child’s name in most cases. Sometimes a name seems destined specifically for a politician, or a name aims to endure life. As for my partner’s name, its meaning is to be dutiful to one’s parents. Both his parents have already deceased and whether he fulfilled their wish or not is uncertain. Japanese people have to live with carrying bittersweet names on their shoulders.

When I was little, I asked my grandmother on my mother’s side what kanji characters were used for her name Fuki. She told me that Fuki was her nickname and her real name was Fukiko by three kanji characters with the meaning of ‘wealthy’, ‘noble’ and ‘child’ respectively. I had sent her a New Year card or a Christmas card every year by that name with those kanji characters for decades until she passed away. When I attended her funeral, I saw a placard hung at the entrance of a small shabby prefabricated funeral home. It showed whose funeral this was. Although the funeral took place according to officially registered documents, my grandmother’s name on the placard wasn’t what she had told me. Her name was actually Fuki, not Fukiko, and kanji wasn’t used for it. There is a different character set in Japan called katakana, which represents only sound without meaning like the alphabet. Her real name was in those characters, not in kanji. I asked my mother if she had known that. My mother said she also had thought her name was Fukiko in kanji since she was a child. I wondered how many family members of hers had known her real name. At least her own child and grandchild hadn’t. I suppose that she wanted to be wealthy and noble, for which she chose the kanji characters, and named herself.

I chose kanji for my first custom-made T-shirt. They mean ‘hope’.

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Lost and Found hr654

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The unprecedented has happened.

The prefecture where I reside in Japan has rolled out its travel stimulus benefit to help the struggling tourism industry that covers almost all the travel costs. Although I had given up going on a trip since my income decreased tremendously, the benefit allowed me to book a gorgeous hotel in the city for practically free by clearing some small detailed conditions. I was overjoyed by this unexpected luck and preparing for the trip.

A few days before the trip, I noticed my clothespin was missing at the locker room of the communal spa in my apartment building. I used it to close my bag every evening there and it seemed I had dropped it somewhere between my apartment and the communal spa. I thought of returning to look for it but I was already naked. I didn’t want to put on clothes all over again just for a clothespin. As it was too cheap for someone to keep for themselves, I guessed I would find it where I had dropped it on my way back to my apartment, and took a bath. Nevertheless, all that I could think of was the clothespin while I was in the spa. I seemed attached to it more than I had thought. Also, losing something wasn’t a pleasant feeling no matter how petty the thing was. By the time I hurried out of the spa and back to my apartment while looking for the clothespin, what I wanted most in the world was that clothespin. Sadly, I couldn’t find it. I entered my apartment, disheartened by the loss. And my partner said from the back of the apartment, “Something of yours was left there.” I saw the clothespin on the floor of the hallway. I picked it up as if it were a gem, feeling so happy. On top of that, some of the items that I had put up on the online flea market were sold on the same evening. It was a relief for me because they hadn’t been sold for some time and I had been worried. The day turned out to be wonderful, I thought. But it didn’t end there.

I have hypersensitivity to sound and hear high-pitched sounds boosted. While I get almost no income as a musician, I ironically have a full-fledged occupational hazard as one. I am especially sensitive to children’s shrieking and I reflectively shush them when I hear it. My partner has been recently watching a musical TV show before going to bed. Inevitably the sound has reached my ears every night. The female singing voices from the show have annoyed me immensely. I had wished the series would end soon, but it has gone on and on. On the night of that wonderful day, the female singers were hollering and blaring my favorite song ‘That’s Life’ on the show. It sounded awful and I felt their performance was a disgrace to that supreme piece. I couldn’t take it any more and snapped. I yelled at my partner and we quarreled, which was the first fight with him in a long time. With such a small thing, the whole day was ruined. To be precise, I ruined the day with it.

I am not an atheist, but not so religious either. I simply can’t help feeling that something with great power is watching over me. Although it gave me a grandly wonderful day, I didn’t appreciate it, not to mention I ruined it. I was sure that it would take away what it had given me as a punishment for such an arrogant, faithless reaction of mine. In light of what happened today, the punishment would be losing my possession of much more importance than a clothespin and be no more sales at the flea market. I was convinced those two matters would happen to me soon anyway though I regretted bitterly and apologized to that something for what I did.

A couple of days later, I set off for a two-day trip to the city. I dashed out of my apartment by jamming my accessories into my bag as the bus to catch was coming and there was no time to put them on. At the bus stop, two women were chatting loudly while I was taking a mask out of my bag to wear it. I shushed them as usual and got on the bus. I was putting my accessories in my seat and saw my pendant missing. I rummaged through my bag where I had put it, but it didn’t appear. On the bus, in the train, and at the hotel, I kept searching for it by turning out all my belongings, but couldn’t find it. I lost my favorite, most cherished pendant. And I knew it was coming. The punishment. It did happen.

I tried to see how I had lost it, and recalled taking out a mask at the bus stop. That was the only time I took something out of my bag before getting on the bus and the only chance something else could be out with it. I also remembered I was shushing others at that time. I realized again how unappreciative I had been. I was given a practically free trip and still got discontented. Come to think of it, I had managed to live despite financial difficulties and other problems. I had been constantly rescued by something but never appreciated but disregarded because of dissatisfaction. Now I found myself having been so perverse. I asked for forgiveness and determined to be grateful for everything from now on. During the short trip, I learned that much by the punishment and came home the next day with the firm determination to be a better person.

I came into my apartment and turned on the light. On the floor of the entrance, I found the pendant. It had never been in my bag. But it was apparent to me that something returned it to me. Soon after that, another sale was made on the flea market. I was awed by the mercy I received. I was forgiven. A financial crunch that assaulted me had often made me doubt that something. Yet, it still surely watches over me. Since the trip, I have kept my determination and appreciated everything. I haven’t shushed people but smiled. Then, it seems people have become nicer to me and days fuller.

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Time to Let Go of the Attached hr653

Living in Japan, I have been recently selling what I have in my apartment through a Japanese online service that is similar to eBay.

Japanese people had basically prioritized anything new and hadn’t been accustomed to buying and using what was used. They had believed what they got should be new and unused whether it was a house or a car. Needless to say, there had been no way that they put on or used what a stranger wore or possessed. It could have had something to do with their social customs of not shaking hands nor hugging. Or, they were just simply too hygienic.

However, as the Japanese economy has steadily worsened, the used market has finally grown larger. I myself struggle to make both ends meet, and I started selling my stock of clothes and cosmetics in order to make up for living expenses. I had had a tendency to get extreme bargain items even if they weren’t strictly necessary because I loved bargain hunting. That contributed too much unused stuff all over my small apartment. Selling it is a good idea that helps give my apartment space and also give me some money.

At the same time though, I feel a little sad as I remember how much fun I had when I shopped for the item or how excited I was when I wondered where to go with those clothes on. The higher my stuff’s selling price can be expected, the harder I say good-by to that one as I like it better and have a happier memory of my purchase.

My sister used to live alone abroad in an apartment provided by her company that included a housekeeping service. She had gradually been unable to throw away empty cans or wrappers after she consumed the contents because each one carried some kind of memory to her. She had kept them until her apartment was filled with her mementos that were commonly called piles of garbage. That made the housekeeper’s work incredibly difficult and they complained to my sister’s company repeatedly. My sister got fired for that although she had held a management job and her own secretary. While I don’t think I am as extremely attached to my stuff as she is, I can understand to some extent how she feels. Does DNA work here, I wonder.

During my daily parting with my attached things and memories, my mother called me the other day. She was going to rent an apartment and asked me to be a surety which was required for the contract. I gaped at her audacity to ask me a favor after she has deceived and tormented me mentally and financially so many times. I refused her request outright. As always, she couldn’t think of anything but using me in any possible way. My adamant refusal seemed to put an end to our relationship at long last. As for this matter, I felt relieved and free rather than sad. 

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Radio Days hr652

During my school years in the late 70s and the early 80s, many teenagers in Japan where I grew up were hooked on late-night radio shows. It was the time when SNS didn’t exist and video games just emerged, and I myself also used to be excited to turn on the radio every night. I was fascinated by the feeling that radio personalities such as comedians and musicians were talking right beside me about what had happened to them in daily life or something funny. Listening to the show let me visit the blithesome world of celebrities and forget the reality of my hopelessly boring rural school days.

I was not satisfied with just listening, but regularly sent messages on postcards to the show. Not email or texting, but a postcard by mail. I would hold a pen in my hand and write down a message, a comment, or a request for a song by my own made-up radio name with a pun. Then I would edge the card with a coloring pen to make it distinguished, attach a stamp that I sneaked from my father’s collection, and go out on my bike to drop it in a mailbox. That was one of my daily routines. Sometimes the local station picked up my message or a request and introduced it on the show, which made me explode with joy feeling as though I had become a celebrity. I would patiently wait to experience such an ecstatic moment again while listening to the radio in bed almost until dawn. Because of that, I used to lack sleep on weekdays and was always sleepy. I would sleep in class at school and sleep on the local bus that I rode home from school for 50 minutes. I often slept too tight on the bus to miss my stop and woke up riding far past.

I still listen to radio shows of U.S. online with my smartphone. Now, I have finally started my Podcast program. There, I read one episode from the books I wrote and talk about it. As I set up the instruments for that in my home studio, it looked awfully like a radio show. I was thrilled. Although I also felt nervous and couldn’t sleep well the night before recording, I was excited again to see me sitting in front of the microphone like a radio personality and pushed the record button.

I recorded an opening message for the show that I had prepared and read an episode from my book without problems. When I was about to talk freely next, suddenly and unexpectedly, I froze. Nothing came out of my mouth. I couldn’t figure out what to talk about and inside my head was completely blank. As I tried to squeeze out something, only sweat spewed out instead of words. I was speechless. After a few minutes of silence in which I writhed in agony without a single word, I gave up and pushed the stop button.

I had overestimated myself as a person who could speak fluently as long as circumstances allow. But things weren’t so easy as I had expected. In the end, I made a list of what to talk, and then did the recording over again from the top. The finished take disappointed me with my extremely nervous, faltering talk although it was redone. However, I strangely felt good, having a sense of fulfillment somehow. Before I knew it, I already looked forward to the next show and began to prepare some ideas for it.

Come to think of it, I have managed to realize what I had wanted to become. I’m a singer-songwriter and a recording engineer both of which I have wished to be since I was a teenager. This time, I have become a radio personality that was my answer to the graduation questionnaire of what you dream to become in the future when I finished the elementary school. But only few people know any of what I have accomplished. Needless to say, none of them have brought me money of course. I may have wasted so much time and effort all these years for the totally meaningless. One thing is for sure, though. I have spent a remarkably enjoyable time throughout. 

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Overflowing Endless Whys hr651

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I had constantly troubled my parents by asking reasons for about everything in the world when I was little.
“Why did that person say that?”
“Why does this go this way?”
Too many things in the world didn’t seem reasonable to me. Among them, the reason for people’s behavior was chiefly mysterious. My parents had been fed up with my unstoppable assault of questions and their answers had become stuck to “You’ll understand when you grow up.”
Now I’m grown-up, and yet I still don’t understand anything.

Why do many shoppers choose a list-price package on the shelf right next to ones with half-price stickers?
Why do they come to the supermarket without bringing their shopping bags but pay additionally for harmful plastic bags instead?
Why is driving a luxury car by paying outrageously a status symbol while accidents and natural disasters caused by environmental destruction kill people?
Why do people throw away clothes that are still wearable?
Why do people replace appliances that are perfectly working to new ones?
Why do people leave and discard food or drink that they pay for or order by themselves?

Why do I bring travel amenities like toothbrushes or combs from the hotel to my home where they have been stored in cardboard boxes to the amount of what I would never use them all up before I die?
Why don’t I feel like throwing away old receipts and tattered socks?
Why can’t I get up in the morning like most people do?
Why do I have every night dreams that are too vivid to distinguish from reality?
Why do I do everything slower than others although I do it in a great hurry each time with trembling hands?
Why do I always button my shirt one hole down?
Why don’t I have friends?
Why have I felt an urge to wash my hands each and every time when I touch something since long before the pandemic?
Why has the government kept giving so much money since the pandemic?

Why do people keep getting married while marriage doesn’t make them happy?
Why do people have children who consume their money and aspirations?

Why did my mother lie to the doctor that she hurt her arm when she tried to get something heavy from the top shelf and it fell on her although in truth her injury was inflicted by a chair that my sister had thrown at her?
Why did my father suddenly send me a letter in which he lashed out at me severely and at the same time, enclose some money for me?
Why did my parents do so many terrible things to me who was their own child?

Why don’t I stop wondering why? It would be easy and at peace if I could swallow everything and accept it simply as the way it is.

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