Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

The Survivor hr661

A small plane was landing on a runway. Beyond it was a blue ocean with white wave crests beneath a cloudy sky that was beginning to be cracked and show a glimpse of the blue sky with a ray of sunlight. That was what I was gazing blankly at through a glass wall of the lounge over coffee and vegetable juice at the small local airport in Japan. Then a thick rainbow appeared from the sea surface toward the sky. It didn’t arc but stretched upright like a big pillar. I hoped it was a good omen.

When I faced financial difficulty and my income decreased sharply last year, I was resigned not to be able to afford a trip ever again. But as it turned out, I have taken a trip much more than I had ever done before in a year because the Japanese government subsidized to save the struggling travel industry so that I could enjoy a hotel stay with a minimal amount of money by using the benefit. I am such an unprincipled person who willingly make use of a bill when it comes to benefits while I usually criticize the government. And here, I was having a good time at the exclusive lounge for holders of a credit card with a premium status that I obtained by the credit card company’s promotion for first-year-free membership. Of course I am going to cancel the card within the first year during which I make the most of it by taking advantage of free stuff as much as possible. My decreased income hasn’t improved at all, yet I manage to hang onto my life persistently although it seemed all over one year ago.

I used to be sulky all the time when I was a child. I would constantly grumble and complain to my parents and they frequently asked me why I couldn’t be thankful for anything even a little bit. I still don’t know why I behaved like that, but I certainly had been discontent with pretty much everything as far as I can remember. It could have been nasty meals, could have been a tense atmosphere living with my grandparents, or could have been pressure from an unspoken rule to become a successor of the family as a firstborn. In any case, I was simply surrounded by what I didn’t like. Although my family was wealthy in those days, I didn’t find anything to be thankful for as a child.

I remained the same in my twenties. I was filled with anger everyday though I managed to leave home and live on my own as a musician instead of succeeding the family. I had craved for fame that I couldn’t get no matter how hard I tried. I bore a strong grudge against major record labels and the Japanese society as a whole that wouldn’t appreciate me. I couldn’t see one single thing that I should be thankful for. Everything in the world looked hostile to me.

Now I got old and thankful for being able to continue to do what I want to do for my life while I still have neither money nor fame. I have learned that one can find a way to live somehow unless one loses oneself. I finished my last glass of free drinks after so many glasses of it at the lounge while seeing a small plane blasting down the runway and taking off. I left the lounge with my partner and headed down to the airport lobby with the escalator. There, I found a gigantic Christmas tree against the backdrop of a beautiful twilight sky out of the window. Watching the glittering Christmas tree, I felt blessed, and thankful as well.

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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.

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Kanji hr655

I came across a website on which custom-made T-shirts, caps and tote bags are made and sold worldwide. Since I have been in a financial crunch lately, I could make and sell T-shirts with my poor drawing on them there. I browsed others’ merchandise which designs looked professional and like works of art. Looking at them, it was obvious that my daub had no part to play there. I tried to look for some other possible designs of my own.

It was when the idea of kanji struck me. Kanji means Chinese characters in Japanese and one of three character sets used for Japanese. That character set is prevalent in Japan and most Japanese names contain it. My name also consists of three kanji characters. When I lived in the U.S. and Canada and my signature was required at shops or other businesses, the salesclerk who looked at it curiously often expressed how cool it was. I sometimes saw a person wearing a T-shirt that had kanji on it, but mostly it didn’t make sense or it had an awkward meaning. That was probably because someone who didn’t have enough knowledge about kanji made the shirt easily. While I understood that the person wearing it didn’t know her or his shirt was telling an absurd thing to the public, I couldn’t help giggling secretly. I even spotted those who tattooed that weird kind of kanji. As a native of Japan, I thought I could make kanji merchandise with proper meanings and decided to give it a try.

Every kanji has its meaning. For instance, my first name is comprised of two kanji characters one of which means ‘excellent’ and the other means ‘beautiful’, and they are read ‘Hidemi’ together. Because of the character’s meaning, my name is embarrassing, I admit. Japanese parents put their expectations and wishes into a name when they name their child. A child’s name reflects their parents’ taste and personality. They wish her or him to be gentle, or to be kind, and they choose the corresponding kanji for their child’s name in most cases. Sometimes a name seems destined specifically for a politician, or a name aims to endure life. As for my partner’s name, its meaning is to be dutiful to one’s parents. Both his parents have already deceased and whether he fulfilled their wish or not is uncertain. Japanese people have to live with carrying bittersweet names on their shoulders.

When I was little, I asked my grandmother on my mother’s side what kanji characters were used for her name Fuki. She told me that Fuki was her nickname and her real name was Fukiko by three kanji characters with the meaning of ‘wealthy’, ‘noble’ and ‘child’ respectively. I had sent her a New Year card or a Christmas card every year by that name with those kanji characters for decades until she passed away. When I attended her funeral, I saw a placard hung at the entrance of a small shabby prefabricated funeral home. It showed whose funeral this was. Although the funeral took place according to officially registered documents, my grandmother’s name on the placard wasn’t what she had told me. Her name was actually Fuki, not Fukiko, and kanji wasn’t used for it. There is a different character set in Japan called katakana, which represents only sound without meaning like the alphabet. Her real name was in those characters, not in kanji. I asked my mother if she had known that. My mother said she also had thought her name was Fukiko in kanji since she was a child. I wondered how many family members of hers had known her real name. At least her own child and grandchild hadn’t. I suppose that she wanted to be wealthy and noble, for which she chose the kanji characters, and named herself.

I chose kanji for my first custom-made T-shirt. They mean ‘hope’.

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Lost and Found hr654

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

The unprecedented has happened.

The prefecture where I reside in Japan has rolled out its travel stimulus benefit to help the struggling tourism industry that covers almost all the travel costs. Although I had given up going on a trip since my income decreased tremendously, the benefit allowed me to book a gorgeous hotel in the city for practically free by clearing some small detailed conditions. I was overjoyed by this unexpected luck and preparing for the trip.

A few days before the trip, I noticed my clothespin was missing at the locker room of the communal spa in my apartment building. I used it to close my bag every evening there and it seemed I had dropped it somewhere between my apartment and the communal spa. I thought of returning to look for it but I was already naked. I didn’t want to put on clothes all over again just for a clothespin. As it was too cheap for someone to keep for themselves, I guessed I would find it where I had dropped it on my way back to my apartment, and took a bath. Nevertheless, all that I could think of was the clothespin while I was in the spa. I seemed attached to it more than I had thought. Also, losing something wasn’t a pleasant feeling no matter how petty the thing was. By the time I hurried out of the spa and back to my apartment while looking for the clothespin, what I wanted most in the world was that clothespin. Sadly, I couldn’t find it. I entered my apartment, disheartened by the loss. And my partner said from the back of the apartment, “Something of yours was left there.” I saw the clothespin on the floor of the hallway. I picked it up as if it were a gem, feeling so happy. On top of that, some of the items that I had put up on the online flea market were sold on the same evening. It was a relief for me because they hadn’t been sold for some time and I had been worried. The day turned out to be wonderful, I thought. But it didn’t end there.

I have hypersensitivity to sound and hear high-pitched sounds boosted. While I get almost no income as a musician, I ironically have a full-fledged occupational hazard as one. I am especially sensitive to children’s shrieking and I reflectively shush them when I hear it. My partner has been recently watching a musical TV show before going to bed. Inevitably the sound has reached my ears every night. The female singing voices from the show have annoyed me immensely. I had wished the series would end soon, but it has gone on and on. On the night of that wonderful day, the female singers were hollering and blaring my favorite song ‘That’s Life’ on the show. It sounded awful and I felt their performance was a disgrace to that supreme piece. I couldn’t take it any more and snapped. I yelled at my partner and we quarreled, which was the first fight with him in a long time. With such a small thing, the whole day was ruined. To be precise, I ruined the day with it.

I am not an atheist, but not so religious either. I simply can’t help feeling that something with great power is watching over me. Although it gave me a grandly wonderful day, I didn’t appreciate it, not to mention I ruined it. I was sure that it would take away what it had given me as a punishment for such an arrogant, faithless reaction of mine. In light of what happened today, the punishment would be losing my possession of much more importance than a clothespin and be no more sales at the flea market. I was convinced those two matters would happen to me soon anyway though I regretted bitterly and apologized to that something for what I did.

A couple of days later, I set off for a two-day trip to the city. I dashed out of my apartment by jamming my accessories into my bag as the bus to catch was coming and there was no time to put them on. At the bus stop, two women were chatting loudly while I was taking a mask out of my bag to wear it. I shushed them as usual and got on the bus. I was putting my accessories in my seat and saw my pendant missing. I rummaged through my bag where I had put it, but it didn’t appear. On the bus, in the train, and at the hotel, I kept searching for it by turning out all my belongings, but couldn’t find it. I lost my favorite, most cherished pendant. And I knew it was coming. The punishment. It did happen.

I tried to see how I had lost it, and recalled taking out a mask at the bus stop. That was the only time I took something out of my bag before getting on the bus and the only chance something else could be out with it. I also remembered I was shushing others at that time. I realized again how unappreciative I had been. I was given a practically free trip and still got discontented. Come to think of it, I had managed to live despite financial difficulties and other problems. I had been constantly rescued by something but never appreciated but disregarded because of dissatisfaction. Now I found myself having been so perverse. I asked for forgiveness and determined to be grateful for everything from now on. During the short trip, I learned that much by the punishment and came home the next day with the firm determination to be a better person.

I came into my apartment and turned on the light. On the floor of the entrance, I found the pendant. It had never been in my bag. But it was apparent to me that something returned it to me. Soon after that, another sale was made on the flea market. I was awed by the mercy I received. I was forgiven. A financial crunch that assaulted me had often made me doubt that something. Yet, it still surely watches over me. Since the trip, I have kept my determination and appreciated everything. I haven’t shushed people but smiled. Then, it seems people have become nicer to me and days fuller.

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Time to Let Go of the Attached hr653

Living in Japan, I have been recently selling what I have in my apartment through a Japanese online service that is similar to eBay.

Japanese people had basically prioritized anything new and hadn’t been accustomed to buying and using what was used. They had believed what they got should be new and unused whether it was a house or a car. Needless to say, there had been no way that they put on or used what a stranger wore or possessed. It could have had something to do with their social customs of not shaking hands nor hugging. Or, they were just simply too hygienic.

However, as the Japanese economy has steadily worsened, the used market has finally grown larger. I myself struggle to make both ends meet, and I started selling my stock of clothes and cosmetics in order to make up for living expenses. I had had a tendency to get extreme bargain items even if they weren’t strictly necessary because I loved bargain hunting. That contributed too much unused stuff all over my small apartment. Selling it is a good idea that helps give my apartment space and also give me some money.

At the same time though, I feel a little sad as I remember how much fun I had when I shopped for the item or how excited I was when I wondered where to go with those clothes on. The higher my stuff’s selling price can be expected, the harder I say good-by to that one as I like it better and have a happier memory of my purchase.

My sister used to live alone abroad in an apartment provided by her company that included a housekeeping service. She had gradually been unable to throw away empty cans or wrappers after she consumed the contents because each one carried some kind of memory to her. She had kept them until her apartment was filled with her mementos that were commonly called piles of garbage. That made the housekeeper’s work incredibly difficult and they complained to my sister’s company repeatedly. My sister got fired for that although she had held a management job and her own secretary. While I don’t think I am as extremely attached to my stuff as she is, I can understand to some extent how she feels. Does DNA work here, I wonder.

During my daily parting with my attached things and memories, my mother called me the other day. She was going to rent an apartment and asked me to be a surety which was required for the contract. I gaped at her audacity to ask me a favor after she has deceived and tormented me mentally and financially so many times. I refused her request outright. As always, she couldn’t think of anything but using me in any possible way. My adamant refusal seemed to put an end to our relationship at long last. As for this matter, I felt relieved and free rather than sad. 

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