Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

The Money Pit hr650

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I made up my mind to become a professional musician when I was eighteen living in Japan. I had imagined that the hardest thing to be one was to keep up better works by strengthening talent, which proved wrong. The hardest thing is money. Scraping up funds for activities as a musician without losing time and energy for music is most difficult. It’s equally the case for either an artist who has made a smash hit or the one who has been unsuccessful like me. And it has remained to be the case today after decades passed.
At the very beginning of my music career, I regularly rehearsed in a studio as a member of the band that strongly intended to become professional. It was the first serious band I had joined. I somehow managed to play well enough compared to other skillful members and didn’t get fired at the first session as I had feared. The band was based in Osaka that is a 45-minute ride by train from Kyoto where I lived. The studios the band used were all in Osaka, which meant I needed to pay the studio rental fee and the train fare each time. I was a college student back then, but barely went to class. Instead, I worked at the restaurant as a cashier and spent everything on the band. My time was dedicated to music and I came home just to sleep.
The studio was equipped with a synthesizer but I didn’t have my own although I constantly appealed my passion to become professional. It had gradually seemed odd that I used a rental synthesizer in every session while I tried to motivate other members to be professional as soon as possible. A thought that other members questioned my seriousness began to cross my mind as I continued to play with temporary sounds. Since we played our original songs, original sounds were necessary. On top of that, when I practiced back at home, I used the piano for a synthesizer that was quite ineffective as practice. I finally decided to get my own synthesizer. I chose the latest model at that time called Yamaha DX7 that was featured in almost all the pop songs and albums in the music business of 80s. It cost about 2500 dollars.
Before I joined the band, I had saved money out of my years’ allowances and was going to use that money to study English in England. The amount of my savings was about the same as the price of a DX7. I had put it in time deposit at the credit union bank for higher interest and for my friend just a few months before. That friend of mine had worked at the bank by giving up going to college because she needed to support her handicapped mother and two younger siblings when her father suddenly abandoned them. I wanted to help her in some way and set a time deposit through her with hope that it might raise her performance evaluation at the bank. Sadly, my rare good deed couldn’t last any longer. I went to the bank, apologized her a million times, and cancelled a time deposit. While she kept telling me with a smile “Don’t worry, don’t bother,” I was bathed in guilt, and yet I withdrew my savings and went on to get a DX7. I chose a DX7 over staying in England and being her friend.
After all, it was just the beginning of the long way that I have walked on until today. Since I decided to become a professional musician, I had lost my friends and my family not to mention a college degree as a dropout. What I gained instead are thousands of sleepless nights for worry about money. Even while I stay awake in the night yet again, I still believe that the happiest thing for a human is to fulfill one’s calling.

 

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Shiny Worn-out Shoes hr646

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Heaps of old jackets, skirts, shirts and dresses that I no longer wear are sitting in the back of my wardrobe. All of them are bargains and out-of-date. Even though it’s said fashion recurs in a cycle, they are too old and worn to be put on again. And yet, I can’t throw them away.
In addition to a memory that each one of them holds, I feel guilty to throw away what is still somehow usable by keeping its original form. That sort of my own rule applies not only to clothes but to everything, from food to a cardboard box. I just can’t waste anything. Recently, I have often seen a notice on the table in a restaurant, which says ‘Clear your plate for the earth.’ or ‘Remember again the old don’t-waste-food spirit.’ As a person who is too cheap to leave food on a plate, I always wonder since when Japanese people stopped clearing their plates and forgot the don’t-waste spirit. I’ve practiced it all my life as a habit. A bus person might mistake my finished plates and cups for clean ones because not a bit or a drop remains there when I leave the table.
I attribute it to my grandfather’s DNA. I lived with my grandparents when I was a child and I used to go out with my grandfather. His black leather shoes were totally worn-out. They were not as bad as Chaplin’s but a tip of the shoe had a hole. No matter how often my grandmother asked if he should get a new pair, he was adamant that he could still walk in his shoes. For him, it didn’t matter how he looked in them but whether they were usable or not. Since he kept putting on those shoes with a hole, my grandmother had no choice but to polish them for him. As a result, a weird item as shiny worn-out shoes came into existence. My grandfather would take me to a department store in the city in those shoes and strolled around grandly. Even as a small child, I was embarrassed by his shoes and hated to go out with him.
It wasn’t about money. He had enough money to buy new shoes. On the contrary, he was a rich man who had quite a few properties. That meant his shiny worn-out shoes weren’t necessity. Whether wearing them was his hobby or his principle is still a mystery.
It’s more than a decade since my grandfather passed away. I wonder how the world would be like if people around the world put on worn-out shoes as a common practice. Goods wouldn’t be consumed so much, the number of factories would be less, and more forests would remain. There would be less CO2 emissions, climate change would be delayed, and wildfire and a new virus would be sporadic. All it takes is us wearing worn-out shoes. The problems are solved.
Regrettably, I don’t have the courage to do so. I’m too self-conscious about how I look to others. I don’t want to be looked down on by my looks. Even if my actions led to the destruction of the world, I would like to stroll about a tinseled city and show off by dieting and dressing myself in fashionable clothing. Am I a senseless person? I wonder how my grandfather feels looking at me from above.

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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

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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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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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Around Narita Airport hr605

The bullet train arrived in Ueno and I walked toward the express railroad station steering through a crowd on the nasty, squalid streets between unsightly tall buildings. The express train I transferred to took me to Narita Airport in about 40 minutes. At the airport, I took the bus not the plane, to go to the outlet mall that was the first destination of my trip. It seemed all the passengers except for my partner and me were foreign tourists mainly from China who had just gotten off the plane. I almost didn’t shop anything at the mall, but enjoyed browsing cool stores and having coffee at a cafe and dinner at the food court. My partner sat in a bench watching the mall’s chic streets in the twilight as it was an outside mall. Since most shoppers had already left and only few were strolling, he murmured that he wished he could live in a town like this if it had existed in the real world. The buildings and pavements are tasteful and well-maintained, which decoration is colorful and sophisticated. I’ve never seen such a beautiful town with stylish buildings and neat people outside Disney Channel. All the while I was in this ideal town though, I had been carrying one problem. I had had a stupidly outrageous turmoil when I started off this trip this morning that had emptied out all my energy and caused a headache. It had accompanied me all the way here and gotten worse gradually. By the dinnertime, it became severe. I ended up taking aspirin at the mall’s food court. The hotel I was staying at was also near Narita Airport from which its free bus was available. When I checked in, the front clerk told me that breakfast wasn’t included. I thought the plan I had selected at the hotel’s website included breakfast although I wasn’t sure because I had made the reservation quite a while back and the rate was incredibly low by the limited time sale. They said that my stay would be without breakfast when I asked to double check. Afterward, it will have turned out that breakfast was indeed included and drawn a trouble, but there was no way of knowing at this point in time. Next morning, I had a lunch buffet at the hotel’s restaurant instead as I didn’t have breakfast and had a discount coupon for it. The restaurant was full but everything was so delicious that I ate as much as I could until I got too full to move. Then I took the free bus again to the airport, and transferred to another free bus to the different hotel for the second night. I’ve stayed at this hotel for a couple of times as it’s one of my favorites. The room they chose for me was the one that I had stayed in before. I like this room so much because the rate is low although its large window looks out on the runways of the airport and lets me see planes taking off and landing on closely. The jacket photo of my album that was recently released was taken from this room, too. The hotel’s lounge has happy hour during which drinks are served half price. I had one drink along with free popcorn and edamame. After that, I dropped by a convenience store inside the hotel for my usual main event of a trip. It’s eating and drinking inside the room without ordering room service. While the whole setting was gorgeous, what I was having were cheap snacks and drinks in the freebie-studded day. Reality intrudes on my trip always…

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