Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Bear Attacks hr636

A black shape of a bear is drawn on a yellow background with big capital letters of ‘Beware of Bears!’. That is a poster I see everyday out of my apartment window lately. Not just one. It’s on the fence along a stream and at the little bridge over it so that I spot it everywhere sitting at my table. It has multiplied rapidly this year. On a bench at the nearby park, on the public bathroom wall in my neighborhood, at scattered vacant lots, the posters are rampant here and there that I’d never seen before in my town. Those are not just for warning. Those indicate the spots where bear’s foot prints were left or a bear was actually witnessed. From morning till night, patrol cars with loudspeakers drive around blaring out “Bears are spotted! Be careful when going out!” all day long. The car stops on the little bridge beneath my window and sets off firecrackers to scare off bears. Some members of the local hunting association fired blank shots there. It’s said that the reason why bears come down to a residential area from the mountains so often has to do with the climate change that causes a shortage of food for them.

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About ten years have passed since I moved in this snowy town enclosed by the mountains. It’s been warmer and snowed less year after year compared to when I began to live here. That has helped make my winter days easier that I used to suffer from claustrophobia by the deep snow coverage.
Added to the climate change that affects my daily life, I also sense my own mind changes. I had feared if a monotonous country life rusted me away when I decided to move in here. It didn’t happen. Rather, the quiet life increased my concentration and contributed more productivity for my lifework than the time when I lived in the metropolitan area. I have a serener mindset than before and it gives me more understanding toward myself and the world I live in.
Recently, people have stayed home and worked remotely in Japan too. They have left big cities and moved to rural areas. More and more people from Tokyo have moved into my small town that I had expected nothing but to become desolate every year. There are many unfamiliar new residents in the apartment building where I live. The building used to look like a ghost house with dark windows, but it has almost no available room now. I had never imagined that would happen mere one year before. The unthinkable things occurred at the unthinkable speed. In this trend, we can’t tell what happens next. In three years, bears might be chasing after me. Not bears but people might start chasing people and killing each other. Or human race might extinct because of viruses. There might be days of a panic, or moments of danger for life. Even so, it could turn to be better. These unprecedented years have shown how much human imagination is limited. I myself have learned that a superficially dire thing can turn out to be a good thing in the end. Besides, I saw unthinkable things happen, so why not unthinkably good ones? I believe they could happen as well. They should.

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The Positive Generated by the Negative hr625

When I was in kindergarten, I was always pushed away and ignored by my fellow kindergartners.
I played the bells wearing a headpiece of a dove on stage alongside other kindergartners at an annual presentation before the parents. I was told to stand at the edge of the stage close to the wings. As we were playing, the kids next to me continued to thrust me into the wings. I tried to fight the way back onto the stage as it had looked more and more that I didn’t participate the performance. No matter how hard I tried, they kept pushing me aside and the best I could do was to poke half of my face out of the wings.
It was the time of an Apollo-frenzy and the kindergarten held an exhibit of miniature rockets made by the children for the parents. The rockets were to be made out of empty soft drink bottles. Since the plan of the exhibit was introduced, I had diligently collected empty bottles. By the time the miniature rocket began to be built, I collected and brought the highest number of bottles to the class. But once we started making, the kids wouldn’t use my bottles. Although all of us brought similar bottles in the same shape and size, they were carefully excluding the ones I brought as their materials. Every time I glued one of mine to the rocket, some kid removed it. I glued, they removed. The rocket had gotten bigger only with other kids’ bottles as we repeated the glue-remove maneuver persistently. Finally other kids’ patience to keep removing my bottle ran out and they started throwing it away out of the window. I went outside to pick it up and as soon as I came back, another bottle of mine was thrown out. Now a new routine had been established. They threw out, I picked in. The rocket completed without one single bottle of mine. I brought home all the bottles intact and told my parents that those were surplus. My mother came to the exhibit and saw the rocket that I didn’t participate to make, but with my name among the builder’s list.

person singing on stage

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Come to think of it, those kindergarten days precisely represent my whole life. As a singer-songwriter, I have been pushed away and ignored in music circles. Nobody has noticed nor recognized me as if I were an invisible person. I had dreamed that my songs would be in the charts and I would become a celebrity. I would be on ‘Tonight Show’ as a guest and talk with the host. I would be loved by people and be on the top of the world. I had prepared for that day for a long time. I had been dieting and exercising. I had been nice to people and talking to them to improve social skills. I had fervently craved fame. Meanwhile though, the songs that I completed with all my effort and strength by sacrificing everything else had never been appreciated. I think it’s time to accept the reality. It’s about time to abandon confidence and expectation for this world and to admit that I had overestimated the world.
Since the end of the last year, strange things have happened to me as if some messages had been being sent. I had vaguely received and interpreted them. Then I came across one movie that defined the message and made me wide awake. I hadn’t been able to shake off the idea that I had been locked up in a prison or an institution since I was little. And I was right. I realized this world’s true self. Now I have, at long last, found the way to get out of it.
I can’t wake up in the morning. I can’t get along with others. I can’t do what I don’t like. I can’t notice transparent glass so that I bang into it. I can’t get a driver’s license. I can’t perceive people’s feelings. But everything is all right from now on. I am happy to be pushed away from the world because I am no longer part of it. By willingly stopping being part of it, I got out of this world and attained freedom. It’s so funny I had desperately tried all my life to belong to this society that I had known is crazy since my childhood. I will live as myself without conforming to the craziness. I will not care about this society’s value now that I’m out of it. Instead, I evaluate solely by my own value. I judge what is good. I decide what is successful. I’ve never felt free this much in my entire life. All of a sudden, everything reversed and people look locked up while I was released. Outside, my life itself is art because it exists to create music. My songs are supreme pieces and that means I’m totally successful. I’ve become a true artist standing center stage in a spotlight.

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A Guest Appearance in The Tonight Show hr614

I am a singer-songwriter but don’t do any gigs before audience any more as I used to do.
I’m too self-conscious and have an almost morbid complex about my looks. Whenever I give a live performance, I worry too much about the way I look instead of the way I play. Since I duly know my looks are bad, I can’t focus on my play. All the while I’m singing, I keep chanting in my head, “I’m ugly, I’m ugly, I’m ugly.” Acute lack of self-confidence for looks makes me extra-nervous. As a result, I get tense excessively, sweat all over, forget the words of my song, and play terribly. I’ve lost every single live contest or audition. It’s easy to assume one of the reasons why I haven’t been successful to date.
Countless numbers of failure later, I’ve become a recording artist who don’t perform before audience. As such, I regularly practice singing to record my songs. During the practice, I sing alone in my room. It usually goes smoothly. But the minute I imagine I were singing in public, my technique disappears and deteriorates to rock bottom. I have a sense that I need to cure this public-phobia in order to be successful. Therefore, I started practicing by turning my room into an imaginary studio as if I were on The Tonight Show.
Since then, when I practice in my room, I’ve sung in The Tonight Show in my head almost every day for years. It has been therapy rather than practice. In that way, my singing is awful because I lose focus on a song. My focus easily turns towards looks. The words of a song in my head are replaced by the thoughts about how I look on TV. Do I look like an old woman? Does my nose get shiny? Are my ugly teeth showing? Am I too fat? Is my hair too thin? Endless concerns hinder my singing. Although I understand it’s desperately shallow, I can’t help it.

people at theater

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But as I’ve practiced that way for a long time, there is a day when I sing well on the imaginary show occasionally. In a case like that, I feel like I’m ready for the actual show. That leads me another difficult phantom aspect – a talk with the host. I imagine myself sitting in the sofa beside the host. Instantly I’m worried about if I don’t talk like a stupid woman, if I cross my legs properly, if I put in clever jokes, if they don’t fall flat, if I leave the stage in style with a big punch line at which the audience laughs and goes crazy, and if people think Hidemi Woods is cute and smart with a superb sense of humor. Because of those worries, an imaginary self on the imaginary show is extremely nervous, fumble the talk all the way with cracked voice, speak broken English, tell a sick joke, sweat like a pig, and the audience goes silent. Seeing an unsightly, nightmarish myself in my head, I again realize that it’s impossible for me to act in public let alone The Tonight Show.
I am clumsy all my life. And I had been very fat since eight years old until all through teenage time. That is probably why I long for good looks too much. As a clumsy person, I definitely believe that I’ve already gone through more embarrassment than ordinary people usually experience in lifetime…

 

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The Last Letter from My Mother hr608

My parents sold our farms, house, land that had been inherited from generation to generation and lost everything after they had failed their business. They moved out their hometown and started their new life in a small apartment in a strange city. It was a huge blow to them because my father had given up everything that he had wanted in order to inherit them, and my mother had married my father whom she didn’t love in order to get his family fortune. Although they had planned the similar life as theirs for me, I refused to inherit my family by sacrificing what I wanted to do. I chose a musician as my career and left home. That drove them to be eaten up with enmity against me and they had done everything they could think of to make me give up and come home. While I kept defying their attacks for a long period of time, they lost all the family fortune and had nothing left for me to inherit. Their battle against me was automatically terminated. Oddly, since they moved in their new apartment, they have become gentle to me as if they had been different persons. Their dramatic change of attitude toward me had often perplexed me. I had tried to explain that they became old, felt weak and had learned a little from their failure, which was why they mended their ways to treat me. As I hadn’t had a good relationship with them for decades, I slightly wished we were having a new starting point to build a better one. That was just about when I received an unexpected letter from my mother that crushed my wish so easily. To my great surprise, all that the letter contained was blame and reproach to me. She just kept on criticizing me at length, complaining how much I disappointed her, how much she bore a grudge against me, how much she felt chagrin at me being a musician, what a bad person I was. Although she had done innumerable cruel, heartless, thoughtless things to me over the years, she had the audacity not to mention one word about those. At the end of all slander, she concluded her letter by writing, “This is the last letter from me to you.” To summarize her long letter, what she wanted to tell me was that she didn’t want to see my face ever again and didn’t want me to send her birthday presents or Mother’s Day gifts ever again. She asked me not to stay in contact with her anymore. I had been treated unfairly by her for so many times but this letter exceeded all the spite that she had shot at me. The letter was out of blue and shocking enough for me to wonder if she was having some kind of brain disorder. Since I was little, she has had a strong tendency to tell an every sort of lie from grave to transparent, and to forget about anything inconvenient to her. For a person like her, it’s not so unpredicted that her old brain got murky. In any case, I was deeply shocked. I shouldn’t forget that things like sending this letter is the norm for her and I’ve gotten used to it already. She only did what she usually does again and I was the one who was fooled by her recent nice gestures. But I asked myself repeatedly if it’s impossible for human nature to be changed after all. My mother is a scorpion which ultimate goal is to make others unhappy regardless of its own profit. The fact that I have the same DNA in me horrifies me. A good thing is that I was mostly raised by my late grandparents. I may have grown up to be a decent person not to be like my mother. I will, and should, prove it by myself with the way I live…

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Hidemi Woods, Author hr602

Over the various obstructs, I finally passed through the ticket gate and saw my former high school teacher at the train station. I recognized her right away and she did the same to me among the crowd of passengers getting on and off the train although we hadn’t seen each other in decades. Even before we exchanged greetings, our hands were squeezed in one another’s. We settled in a cafe in front of the station. The long gap dissipated instantly and we were talking as we had been in a high school classroom. We talked about what we had been doing all these years to catch up. As I listened to her, I realized why she was a rare teacher with whom I got along oddly well in my high school days and why I had kept in touch with her by Christmas cards. She was a person who was similar to me. When I talked about how I had turned my back on Japanese music industry and moved my business to US, she easily understood. She also once looked for a way to get out of Japan and live abroad. It didn’t happen because her work, teaching Japanese classic literature, wasn’t so global-oriented. Just as I’ve felt, she felt her way of thinking and living didn’t fit well into Japanese intolerant society. One example was that she wanted to keep and use her last name instead of her husband’s when she got married, but the Japanese law didn’t allow it. She had patiently waited for the new bill to be enacted, only to see it revoked every time. She wearied of Japanese inclination to disregard differences and couldn’t agree with implicit pressure to be the same as a Japanese. I wasn’t sure if it was the reason but she said most of her past students with whom she still got in touch lived abroad at one time or other like myself. Now I knew we were alike, and we had suffered from the same thing in the different field. She listened to me so joyfully while I was talking about myself, but that grave fact lingered on in my mind – I haven’t achieved anything. I had nothing to show off, and didn’t have audacity to forge stories. What I was telling her was all true in which there was no success. I couldn’t wipe off the thought that I might be disappointing her, in this very moment. I had brought my first physical book, ‘An Old Tree in Kyoto’ as a gift for her since she was my literature teacher. I only could do that much. When I handed it to her, she was very pleased. Actually, she was pleased so much that she asked me to inscribe the book for her. Up until the point to meet her, there were too many incidents I panicked at, but none of those was in this magnitude. I seriously panicked. I had never inscribed a book before, let alone I had never imagined that would happen to me. The day came without any warning, out of the utter blue. I couldn’t think of anything, and absolutely had no idea what to write. She said gleefully, “Write something.” I froze. I just couldn’t figure out how to do it. I tried to remember the scenes of a book signing in the movies and TV dramas. An autograph, that was what I came up with. Sadly, I didn’t have mine as I’m too obscure. In conclusion, I had nothing worthy to write. I said to her apologetically, “I don’t have an autograph because I’m not famous.” In contrast to my grave note, she replied frankly, “Oh, no, no, I’m not asking for your autograph. That’s okay.” I was cornered. An inscription is supposed to be meaningful because of someone’s achievements. In my concept, it’s not what an unimportant person gives. I noticed sweat slowly came down to my brow. I held a pen in my hand, my book before me, still as a stone. There was no escape. It was time to throw away all the remaining pride I had clung to and confess. “Teacher, neither my music nor my book sells. I’ve never inscribed a book. I’m completely nobody.” Although I uttered it on the verge of crying for embarrassment, she gave me a vacant look as if she didn’t get what I was talking about. “I don’t care,” she said. “I just want you to write something on your book to commemorate this incredibly happy day of mine.” Her eyes were twinkling with sheer joy. I made an inscription with my trembling hand. I was too tense and nervous to remember what I wrote. I can’t recall to date while I have a vague memory of scribbling her name, something about remembrance of a happy reunion, the date, and signing Hidemi Woods. What I remember vividly is the sensation I had when I finished writing. I felt as if I had officially become an author and that book signing was its ceremony. I handed back my book to my teacher, weirdly confident like a different person. We said goodbye at the ticket gate of the train station. When I was leaving, she said, “If I were your parent, I would be very proud of my daughter.” After the decades’ gap, she taught me something again…

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