Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

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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A Demon’s New Home hr575

I visited my parents for the first time since their financial difficulty made them sell their house and move into an old condominium. It situated only two train stations away from Kyoto but in the different prefecture, which meant they were kicked out of their hometown too. The moment I met them there, I noticed a big change. Both of them had turned into different persons. They used to be grumpy, gloomy and nagging all the time. But now, they were cheerful and lively. It was as if demons living inside my parents had departed and they regained consciousness. I felt like I saw my good old parents whom I’d known when I was little for the first time in decades. Even their faces had been changed somehow. My father was raving about his days of exploring his new town with childlike excitement. As he had been raised and lived as a successor of the family that had continued for generations on the same land, he had never imagined moving to a different place let alone actually moved out of the house. He moved to a new place for the first time in his life and realized how comfortable it could be. Because our house had stood in an old uncivilized area of Kyoto, everything here seemed modern and incredibly convenient to him. He rapturously talked about his new daily life of shopping at a discount store and eating at McDonald’s. He even mentioned that he intended to start new hobbies such as drawing or English conversation. I had never seen him so positive. It seemed he enjoyed his first freedom. My mother also talked about how much she liked the view from the balcony and how convenient to live in a compact apartment instead of a large house she used to live in. Only, she added every time lamentably, “But I had never imagined myself ending up my life in a small apartment.” I know too well how far the reality diverged from her plan. As a young girl, she planned to live a rich life whatever it took. So she got married with my father whom she didn’t love, and endured living with and taking care of my grandparents, all for money. In return, she believed she would live luxuriously in a mansion until she died. When I was a child, I often heard her say, “How stupid women who marry for love are! They live in a small apartment. But look where I live!” As it turned out, though, she found herself living in an apartment, being old without either love or money. “I should reap what I have sown,” she murmured with a cynical smile. My new changed parents didn’t attack me, which they used to do every time. Not a single complaint came out of their mouths. When I was leaving, my mother looked as if she would miss me. My father walked with me to the train station to see me off. In addition, he slipped me some money and told me to eat something good with it. All those things couldn’t be explained unless demons stopped possessing them. I got on the bullet train from Kyoto toward home and uttered “I’d like to come to Kyoto again.” That was what I’d never said before in my life. But I should have been careful about a wish. My wish to travel to Kyoto came true too quickly. The very next day I returned to my apartment, my partner’s brother called him to let him know his father passed away. Since his father also lived in Kyoto, I traveled back to Kyoto with my partner for the funeral only two days later. And then, three weeks later, I went down to Kyoto yet again with my partner to place the ashes of his father in the grave. I decided never to say ‘I’d like to go to Kyoto’ ever again. After his father’s death, my partner’s brother suddenly changed from a tender and modest man to a completely different person. He came up with a scheme to have a small inheritance all to himself, instead of dividing it with my partner as his father had told to. A demon which left my parents chose him as its new home and moved in…

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