Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

When You Wish Upon A Star hr660

About a month ago, out of the blue, an offer for an online guest appearance came to me from a Podcast talk show. Since appearing on any talk show in the world remotely is possible thanks to the Internet while I reside in Japan, I took the offer rather casually. However, the more I got to know about the show, the more dismal my decision looked.

The show broadcasts from New York not only on Podcast but also on YouTube which means people see me not just listen to me. The content is an hour-long, one-on-one interview with the host. Learning those, I was gradually getting into trouble. I am an expert of stage fright and get extremely nervous in front of people. I do have my own Podcast show, but only on the premise that no one could see me behind the microphone. I have a complex about my looks and I couldn’t imagine how nervous I would be if I appeared on the screen. I would get hyper-tense and my broken English would get even worse. I would become speechless in the middle of the show or maybe would pass out. The show would be a mess and ruined because of me. It would certainly end in disaster.

My first appearance as a guest on a local radio show happened when I was twenty years old. Although only my voice was on the air, I was so nervous that I actually soiled myself, which I summon all the courage to confess here for the first time. As more shame of mine, I usually get soaked with sweat whenever some neighbors happen to talk to me. My sweat keeps dripping down just for trifling chattering and even my native language Japanese got broken because I am keyed up too much. I am excessively self-conscious and afraid of how I look and how I sound at all times. I didn’t think such a person like me was able to speak properly in front of the camera. For the whole one month after the online interview was scheduled, I had been fretting and worried about the show. The worst case scenario had come over my mind so many times and convinced me that I should cancel it each time. On the other hand though, I knew it could be a one-in-a-million opportunity for me. As a nameless artist, receiving an offer for a guest appearance might never happen again in my life. It was too valuable to throw away since this could easily be the last chance I got. I decided to go through it after days of consideration and wavering. As the date was closing in, I had relived my life in elementary school where a vaccination was mandatory on a regular basis. Because I was terrified of needles, I didn’t want the scheduled day to come. As it came closer, I counted down the remaining time and hoped that day would pass in a flash or I would do a time warp to the next day of the injection. I even thought it would be better that the world ended before the shot. I had felt the same way until the interview finally arrived.

The interview started at 2 a.m. Japan time because of the time difference. I am a night person, but my brain has almost engaged in a sleep mode at 2 o’clock in the morning. Adding to that, a rash broke out due to lingering nerves. On top of that, I lost some weight and my stomach constantly growled because I had had a decrease in appetite since the interview was scheduled. I knew the microphone would pick up my stomach’s growling during the recording. The condition had never been worse. By the time the recording actually began, just to wrap up was all I wanted.

In the end, I was elated enough to be conceited and talk large thanks to the excellent, compassionate host while it was so miserable that it was painful to watch or listen. As it turned out, I somehow felt good to talk about what I was thinking although my ever messy speaking conveyed merely half of what I really wanted to say. Above all, it was all done, and I didn’t soil myself this time.

I had always dreamed of getting on a talk show as a guest. Every time I watched a talk show on TV, I had secretly wished to be there someday since I was little. I used to imagine myself being asked questions and answering them on the screen. I would wonder what kind of feeling it would be seeing someone have interest in me. After so many years, I was unexpectedly blessed with an opportunity like this, which was quite magical considering the fact that I became neither famous nor rich. And I realized that my dream came true.

Advertisement
11 Comments »

Tokyo hr659

The tiny close community of a small village used to be the whole world for me who was born to a farming family living in a rural area of Japan. The sole window to the outside world was TV through which I had encountered what I had never seen in my daily life.

Back in those days, Japanese TV dramas were made and shot in the capital city of Japan, Tokyo. The city view and the people’s way of living in Tokyo looked so cool. Everything from fashion to lifestyle was completely different from things in Kyoto where I lived. On TV, Tokyo seemed like a future world decades ahead to me. I was hooked by one particular weekly crime drama which was shot on location all around Tokyo. Every location looked as if it had been in a Western country and the detectives in the drama were extremely stylish. I was absorbed in seeing that exotic world every week and had spent the other six days of the week waiting for the drama. As soon as I finished watching that show, I would rush into my room and write out the entire show in the notebook. I reproduced all the lines of characters and all the settings by depending on my memory. Since there was no way to record a TV program as a video cassette recorder was yet to come, I read my notebook over and over again to watch it inside my head until the next show was on air. In hindsight, the world of TV dramas was fictional which didn’t exist even in Tokyo, but I was too young to realize that.

Years went by and I became a musician. By the time two years have passed since I joined my first band, the band not only had played gigs around Kyoto but also had made guest appearances and had our songs played on local radio shows from time to time. We had made some connections with music producers who came down to the western part of Japan from Tokyo as judges for some live contests. However, our progress was limited because all the major music labels of Japan were based in Tokyo. My partner and I began to consider moving our base to Tokyo as we were geographically too far off to make a career in music.

Moving to Tokyo was a big deal to me. While I seldom attended, it meant I would quit college once and for all. As a much more serious matter, an old Japanese custom didn’t allow a successor of the family, that was me, to leave home. For me, leaving home meant abandoning my family and all the privileges. Although it seemed crazy to throw away everything when I had no idea how to live on as a musician in Tokyo, I felt living there would be better than staying in my family’s home for the rest of my life. I preferred eating hamburgers and french fries from McDonald’s to eating home-grown vegetables from my family’s fields every single day. I knew it wouldn’t be healthy, but at least I would be able to eat what I chose, when I wanted. To sum up, moving to Tokyo was all about freedom. I was more than willing to jump into the free world where I would make all choices by myself instead of the old fixed rules and customs. 

Oddly enough, things went unexpectedly smoothly once I made up my mind to move to Tokyo. Various kinds of obstructions that had been seemingly difficult to be cleared resolved themselves almost magically. The moving day arrived sooner than I had imagined.

I was waiting for the bullet train bound for Tokyo on the platform in Kyoto Station. A friend of mine came to see me off. She was surprised that she was the only one for me there. “Even your parents don’t see you off?” she sounded bewildered. I wondered what awaited me in the outside world of my window. I was both looking forward to it and afraid.

5 Comments »

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

Photo by Monica Silvestre on Pexels.com

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…

 

9 Comments »

Justice Is Served hr607

The world has come to where Mr. Trump is the President of the United States of America and a villain smiles with the joy of victory even in the movie ‘Avengers Infinity War’. As for me, I had lived this desperate time while I held onto hope by watching ‘Star Wars The Last Jedi’ repeatedly. In the days like that, something huge has finally occurred. Although it is unthinkable and significant enough to be the top news of the world, I’m sure no media reports it and I will take the honor to proclaim the news to the whole world here. The apartment building that I live in has a small gym for the residents. It’s called gym nominally, but in effect, it’s a space with a couple of massage chairs, few exercise machines most of which are outdated, a square exercise mat, and a TV set. Although it’s not a sufficient facility as a gym, I exercise there three or four times a week since it’s free for the residents. The biggest problem is a combination of the TV and the exercise mat spread in front of it. There are residents who are just watching TV lying down on the mat without exercising. Families are watching TV with the kids and let them play around there. They use the space as their second living room or a playground. They almost always set the TV volume so loud. To make things worse, Japanese TV programs are atrocious. Dramas are actors’ shrieking only without content, game shows are babble about nothing, and commercials are all close-up of young women. It’s nothing but a torture to ride an exercise bike engulfed by the picture and sound of those. Even when I exercise alone in the gym quietly without TV, someone who comes in after me walks straight towards the TV set and turns it on without hesitation. They don’t have minimum courtesy to ask if it’s all right to turn it on. I think they regard it as a TV room not a gym. To lessen my discomfort, I had started bringing my smartphone and earphones. I have to listen to music at max volume to compensate the loud TV. One day, a man came in when I was exercising alone. As usual, he turned on TV and began to watch it lying on the exercise mat. That’s the cue that I got used to now. I turned on my smartphone and began to play music in my earphones. On that particular day, I became really indignant at what he was doing because he was a regular and had annoyed me with the loud TV for a hundred times. I unconsciously muttered, “How dare you turn on TV?” The thing is, I was listening to the music at max volume and forgot to control the volume of my own voice. I didn’t mutter, but almost shouted the sentence. The man looked back at me with sheer terror on his face. I was as surprised at myself as he was. Those unpleasant gym days had been my norm for years because of the TV watchers. The other day, a man was watching TV as usual when I came into the gym. A familiar sight. But what happened next was completely different from the usual. As soon as he saw me coming in, he jumped up as if he got startled, and he turned off TV right away and left the gym. I wondered how angry and intimidating my look was. I started riding the bike peacefully without TV and noticed something below the TV screen. There was a sign. I got closer to read it. It said in big letters, ‘This TV is for an exercise video only. To watch general programs, use TV in the lobby. Management’ A miracle happened. Someone who understands what is right exists in this apartment building other than me. It was literally too good to be true. The existence of my kind of person was so hard to believe that I briefly thought that I sleepwalked to the gym one night because of excessive anger and put the sign by myself. I rubbed my eyes to see if it was an illusion. No. The sign was real. For the first time in a long while, I did a pleasant exercise at the gym. It was a refreshing, clean time in which I had all smile on my face…

Leave a comment »

Defection from A Negative Empire hr578

I’m a singer-songwriter living in Japan. Yet, I’m totally unfamiliar with Japanese recent entertainment. As I haven’t caught up with Japanese pop music, TV dramas and movies for decades, I don’t know any tunes, any titles and any names and faces of a band, a singer or an actor. I have lost interest in Japanese entertainment as a whole except for comedians for a long time. The reason is simple: there’s nothing worth listening or watching at all. Every single thing I encounter is rubbish and I have stopped trying to find something good. It seems that as a nation falls into decay, its entertainment perishes accordingly. The most common sales pitch for movies in Japan is ‘You can cry hardest.’ The tears in the pitch don’t mean what we shed when we are moved or touched or happy. They mean specifically the ones when we are sad. The sadder a story is, the bigger hit a movie scores. As a result, movies that center only on death of one’s beloved are overrun in Japan. That kind of movie is what I want to watch least. I prefer foreign movies which themes exist, touch me, and consequently make me cry. But Western films are not sad enough for Japanese people and every year the number of foreign movies that come into theaters shrinks. Even the Japanese comedy TV shows are aired less and less although they are the only domestic entertainment I can enjoy. I used to be an avid frequent visitor of a Disney theme park in Tokyo where I could feel like I’m visiting America. Sadly, Japanese taste has been greatly increased there and changed its atmosphere so much that I’ve long since stopped going. While less Western culture flows into Japan, more and more Japanese games and animations are going abroad. I’m afraid that the Japanese negative spirit might brainwash teens and children in U.S. through them. Thanks to cable TV I recently subscribed, I enjoy TV shows and movies from U.S. every day. Unlike domestic counterparts, good ones are abundant throughout the channels and I can easily find myself absorbed in. Zombies, devils, serial killers and the FBI come at me every night and I fight against them. That gives me food for thought, and makes my brain active and me feel positive. I’m duly aware of a lot of problems, but I can see hope exist in U.S. I suspect that’s the very reason why Japanese people are inclined more for domestic culture. They have lost hope and want to share denial of hope with others. They see themselves die with characters in the Japanese movies. I will stay away such a negative and would rather wander around cable TV channels from U.S. I intend to devour good entertainment as much as possible for my own survival. And I believe that will lead me to create good works of myself and help them be part of good entertainment. It’s not a matter of fame and money any more. It’s a matter of life or death. Well, of course it’s even better to stay alive with fame and money, I admit…

Leave a comment »