Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

The Main Attraction hr589

On the first day of my latest trip, I checked in the hotel after I left the shopping mall. The room had a big window looking out on Tokyo Bay. A night view of the jet-black sea and glittering skyscrapers of stylish condominiums was spread on it. Onto the gorgeous glass table, I laid out packs of deli foods that had a sticker telling ‘Half Price’ on each lid that I’d gotten at the grocery store in the mall. My chief delight of a trip is to enjoy drinking in a hotel room. I usually get food outside the hotel and bring a small plastic bottle that I refill with cheap brandy beforehand at home. Compared to the room service, the cost is digits lower in this way although the place to have it is the same. It feels like I order room service of a space as an elegant cocktail lounge by staying at a hotel instead of drinks and foods. Since I bring cheap liquor and snacks, I can enjoy drinking in a quiet, luxurious setting without worries of the bill or the closing time, which is somehow my main purpose of a trip. I was nibbling on half-off seafood looking out the view that I couldn’t possibly see out of my apartment window and wished this moment would last forever. Although I had feared the hotel might be crammed with Chinese tourists because of the Lunar New Year, it wasn’t the case here and I didn’t see many of them. But as the way the world goes, hotels are never quiet enough to sleep in well. I woke up next morning by noises from neighboring rooms without sleeping tight. Quite a few hotels stand together in this area and I walked to the different hotel for lunch. A restaurant in that hotel has a lunch buffet that is reasonably priced and served in a chic atmosphere. About 95 percent of the customers are women and the place is always full. I had no trouble to get a table though, as I had made an online reservation that gave me a discount. I enjoyed as much roasted beef and dessert as I wanted that was too expensive to have in my daily life. Then I moved to a nearby outlet mall. Because my apartment is about to be burst with cheap clothes already, I just strolled around as a window shopper. But when I found a bracelet at $5 that was marked down from $30, I couldn’t help jumping at it. I was staying at the same hotel that night, which meant my favorite drinking time would come again. I got a plastic bottle of wine at $4 and, as I was still more than full from the lunch buffet, some salad and light snacks for dinner at a convenience store and walked back to the hotel. Before going back to my room, I had an important thing to do – using the hotel’s premium member lounge as a nonmember, again. I repeated the extravaganza of the previous day there, having expensive coffee and tea for free as much as I liked. I didn’t know why free drinks tasted especially good, but I knew for sure that I was the one who made the most of the free use of the lounge as this hotel’s off-season promotion. It was early evening and there was still time until I opened my cost efficient bar by myself in my room. So I went to the fitness club of this hotel for the first time. The club requires an outrageously expensive membership fee and normally I just do nothing but ignoring its existence. Only, this off-season promotion stay came with preferential treatment at no extra cost that included the free use of the club. I was curious what an astronomically expensive fitness club looked like. As I walked through a glass corridor leading up to the club, I saw the whole new world unfold before my eyes. I had cherished drinking in a hotel room as the main attraction of a trip for years till then. Yet the experience I was about to have in this fitness club overturned and changed everything so easily…

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Free Foods and Drinks hr588

The bullet train ran through several long tunnels in the mountains and carried me out of snow. In less than twenty minutes, I was in a different, snow-free world where the sun was shining and the blue sky spread. I put on my makeup and had rice balls that I’d gotten back at the station. By then, my worry about this trip had dwindled away and I began to feel thrilled. On the other hand, my poor partner who accompanied me on this trip had been suffering from atopic eczema and was sitting next to me nervously, as his body was itchy. We arrived at Tokyo Station where we walked through an underground passage that was busy and crowded with people and transferred to the local train. As this line runs along Tokyo Bay, the ocean can be seen out of the train window. It was so refreshing to see a stretch of the horizon over the sea for me who live surrounded by mountains. I thought I finally got my breath. The hotel I’d booked was close to the train station. I got in there but wasn’t allowed to check in until 7 p.m. since I chose the bargain rate for the room. I went straight ahead to the top floor lounge to enjoy the afternoon tea for which I had collected points diligently for two years to exchange to a fifty dollars off coupon. Although a small usual disappointment was alongside, which there was a family with a noisy child even in a luxury lounge like that, I was in seventh heaven looking out the magnificent twilight view of Tokyo Bay. And it was practically free because I paid only a fraction of money thanks to the coupon. Then I moved to another lounge that was exclusively for the hotel’s premium member. This bargain rate stay came with preferential treatment at no extra cost as their off-season promotion and I was entitled to use this lounge. It had a single-serve coffee machine and expensive soft drinks. I had two cups of freshly dripped specialty coffee, two cups of specialty tea and a bottled sparkling water along with elegant cookies that the receptionist had brought to me. And everything was free! I wondered why something complimentary was always gone to my stomach easily and endlessly. As it was still too early for my check-in time, I was headed for a shopping mall near the hotel. When I was walking on the broad sidewalk beside a modern convention center and looking ahead the twilight skyline of tall buildings, I somewhat missed urban life. I stepped in the gigantic shopping mall and looked around the grocery floor for something to eat in the hotel room. The floor had ten times as large space as a grocery store of my town and had all kinds of deli foods, salad and bread. I imagined how much fun it would be if I shopped daily at a place like this. Adjacent to the mall was Costco. A lot of kinds of free samples were being given out there, such as beefsteak, salmon, sushi rolls, and croissant. I became full enough with those. My partner took free samples and had them too, which was odd. He’s usually a little lofty and conceited and doesn’t like to get free samples. But this time, he willingly joined the line for a sample, took it, swallowed, and eagerly repeated it over and over. I observed his strange behavior thinking that he must have been so much hungry, or the samples must have tasted so good, or his atopy must have been bad enough to affect his brain. After our free sample jamboree, I dropped by the food court of Costco. The place to eat was dirty and looked like a visitors’ room of a prison. But considering the incredible size of the hot dog and the cup of soda, they were virtually free because their prices were incredibly low. I gobbled them and walked back to the hotel. The first day of my trip ended this way, filled with freebies and savings…

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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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