Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

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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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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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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Checkout hr591

I got up early in the morning on the last day of my latest trip. The reason was simple; I was going to the hotel’s exclusive fitness club one last time before the checkout invalidated my free ticket. I passed through the heavy double doors of the club again and the clerk ushered me as a personal guide as it happened last night. Since the spa and the locker room don’t open until noon, there is a special locker room for a member who uses the pool in the morning. It was much smaller, but robes, towels and amenities were fully provided. The morning light liberally came in through the glass-dome ceiling and filled up the poolside. I had the large pool facility all to myself again, the whole morning through. It seemed as if the gorgeous pool was reserved just for me. I doubted if Bill Gates even had this scale of luxury. I saw my room through the glass ceiling and spotted my partner who was standing by the window. While I was taking a Jacuzzi on the poolside, I waved at him. He waved back and looked a little sad because he couldn’t enjoy this free treat due to his atopic eczema. On one hand I felt sorry for him; on the other hand, I enjoyed to the maximum such a luxurious, refreshing, and dreamy time that I had never had before. After I took a shower in the elegant shower booth, I left the club. It was about noon and I passed the members who were coming in. It is said that the gap between the rich and the poor is generally small in Japan. I had thought there weren’t so many mega-rich people in Japan as in the States until I came here. But now I realized quite a few mega-rich Japanese people existed, as I actually saw the members who apparently paid the five-digit membership fee. I hadn’t known that because they lived in a different world from me like in this club. I wondered if I could ever visit this club again and wished strongly for that. I came back to my room, packed in a great hurry and checked out. I didn’t forget to have expensive coffee and tea for free one more time at the hotel’s privileged lounge before I left. The receptionist was the same person and got familiar since I came here three days in a row. She knew I used the lounge for free and I felt embarrassed. When I left the hotel, I missed it more than ever now that I experienced the fitness club. I got to another shopping mall by train, bought a skirt 80 percent off and had dinner at a Mexican restaurant that we rarely find in Japan. As the mall is adjacent to Tokyo Disney Resort, I saw the fireworks of the park from the mall for free. I took a train again to Tokyo Station and looked around the shopping area while I was waiting for the bullet train on which I had booked the seat. Just when I was looking, half-off stickers began to be put on packages of sushi. I got one of those and had it on the bullet train with the leftover wine from the hotel that I had brought in a plastic bottle. Although I was exhausted from lack of sleep and swimming, I really wanted to do this trip over from the beginning. I pondered when it would be that I could take a trip like this one. While I recalled the heavenly sensation I had when I was swimming alone in the pool inside that fitness club, the bullet train ran through several long tunnels and sent me back in my town that was packed in deep snow. I took a cab to my apartment. It was a blizzard. I could see nothing but hammering snow out the windshield of the cab. With that near zero visibility, the cab was running into darkness at breakneck speed toward my accustomed world…

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A Wise Shopper hr570

I’m always impressed by the size of houses that appear in TV shows and movies of U.S. Even when the setting is for a poor family, they live in a mansion by Japanese standards. That’s why the story is often confusing when the house tries to tell how much its inhabitants go through hardship. Japanese people live in tiny space as much, including myself of course. One of my favorite pastimes is bargain-hunting. I like searching for goods that are marked down by 80 percent or more and getting them. When I’m out for a store, I keep my eyes peeled for a cart or shelves of bargain items and pounce on like a hyena. Those items usually have a small sticker of the discounted price over the price tag where the list price had been shown. Some of them have a layer of numerous stickers as they got discounted more and more repeatedly. I peel the sticker off carefully to look at the former list price and to see how much it’s reduced. Sometimes the reduction is huge, which means I hit the jackpot. Imagining there are people who got it at the list price, I feel like I’m a wise shopper and it would be foolish if I didn’t get it. So I buy things dirt cheap, most of which are clothes. Back in my apartment, I squeeze the catch into my closet. The closet is already full with those discounted items and hangers are no longer necessary for my clothes because they are sandwiched each other too tightly to drop. I use many cardboard boxes to store my stuff that make my tiny apartment even smaller. My apartment doesn’t have a walk-in closet, but it seems like my apartment itself has turned into one and I live inside it. I can’t throw them away because it would make a profit of a discount a loss. A number of my cardboard boxes are growing and I don’t catch up. I can’t find one particular item when I really need it. Although I know I have gotten it and stowed somewhere, I rummage around and just can’t find it. And that item shows up from somewhere when I least need it. And it’s gone again somehow when I need it. As I repeat that, I can’t tell why and what for I got it in the first place. The other day, I made a firm resolution to clear some space in my apartment by putting my stuff in order closely. It was a troublesome job but I tried to make my apartment bigger and look better. It worked to some degree and my living environment was improved a little. Only a few days later, I needed a scarf when I was going out. And I couldn’t remember which cardboard box I had stored my scarves in and where I put the box. I again pulled back out numerous boxes and opened them. I couldn’t find it. All my scarves that I had collected through the years by bargain-hunting was sucked into a black hole in the galaxy far, far away and disappeared. I wonder how many years will pass until I see them again…

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