Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Japanese Millennials hr609

A big open-air rock festival is held annually every summer in the small town where I live that is enclosed by mountains. More than ten times as many people as the town’s population visit during the few days of the festival. People all over the country and even from overseas fill up the train station that is usually inactive and quiet. In front of it, an endlessly long line is formed in the heat for the shuttle bus to the concert venue. The attendance trend has changed in recent years. While a young attendance has been down, more and more men in their fifties and sixties come by their own. The reason mirrors characteristics of today’s Japanese youth. They have been getting poorer than the generation before and the tickets and the transportation for the festival cost too much for them. Also, they don’t like being dirty. It’s not appealing to them to watch concerts in the rain soaking wet and getting muddy in the open air. That attributes a less crowd on Japanese beaches, too. They opt for a pool where they don’t get covered with sand. I’ve seen young people’s behavior change everywhere. In restaurants, chairs and booths are disappearing and replaced by a Japanese-style space with tatami mats. They prefer sit directly on a tatami floor at a low table by taking off their shoes and folding their legs. In a restaurant that has a Western style without any tatami space, I sometimes see shameful people who take off their shoes and sit folding their legs on a chair as if a chair was a floor. Knives and forks are less available because they like to use chopsticks and suck pasta by making slithering noises. In a movie complex, less and less American movies are showing and Japanese movies are abundant instead. To make things worse,the majority of that small number of American movies is dubbed into Japanese, which spoils original actors’ performances completely. Up until a decade or so ago, almost all the foreign movies were subtitled. Since I exclusively see American movies with subtitles, which by the way I prefer without them but have no choice at a theater in Japan, the selection for the movie is excruciatingly limited nowadays. I sometimes see trailers of Japanese movies before the one I came to see and even a glimpse of it disgusts me. A main character is always a female high-school student or a child or an animal. Most are animated and a story is lukewarm and saccharine without any contention. I don’t understand what is the point to spend time and money to watch those. It seems that American movies, in which things are destroyed, people are killing each other, lives are at stake, emotions are exploding, are too intensive and strong for Japanese gentle millennials. Their taste for fashion is gentle, too. They choose somber, obscure colors with no patterns or accessories so that they look lowly. They seem peculiar to me especially because my taste is fancy and colorful. I like wearing clothes with bright colors and patterns and confusingly complex accessories. Although I’m not rich, I tend to have a glass of sparkling wine at a Western-style restaurant in a hotel. As my favorite restaurants and shops aren’t popular anymore and have been closed or remodeled into a cheap Japanese-style one by one, Japan has been getting an uncomfortable country to live in for me. Well, come to think of it, it has never been comfortable to me since my childhood. I had thought it would have been better by the time I became a grown-up, but it just didn’t happen. It was an illusion of a child and Japan has treated me the same way with different people…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.554

I hadn’t been to a movie theater for fifteen years. The film I saw at the theater fifteen years ago was Brad Pitt’s ‘Meet Joe Black’. It was surely a disappointing film but that wasn’t a reason why I stopped going to a theater. Back then, I lived in the States and movie theaters there were clean, modern and comfortable. They had also a reasonable matinee price. And I moved back to Japan where the movies from the States became the foreign ones. Movie theaters in Japan hadn’t been modernized yet with cramped stiff seats, and didn’t have a reduced price like a matinee. A ticket cost about $17 that was too expensive for me. On top of that, every foreign film had Japanese captions at the bottom of the screen, which obstructed each scene. Those theater circumstances in Japan were the reasons why I stopped going. But I like movies and had regularly watched them exclusively on the TV screen in my living room. My partner loves movies much more than I do. When I asked him what he wanted for his birthday this year, his answer was a movie ‘Birdman’ at the theater. And for the first time in fifteen years, I got in the movie theater. While I was away from them, Japanese theaters had been transformed dramatically into modern, clean, gorgeous ones. The seats were large with padded backs and arms. The rows were placed so steeply that I no longer have trouble with someone’s head in front of me. They were just like US theaters and I loved them instantly. They also had a variety of tickets of a reduced price. Japanese captions were still there, but I managed to ignore them. ‘Birdman’ was such a good film by which I was moved so much, and I was completely awake to the charm of a movie theater. When I was leaving, I found a piece of information that said an advance ticket for a coming movie ‘Tomorrowland’ came with a pin. The film was what I had been interested in and I’m a pin collector. Since the advance ticket had a reduced price already, getting a pin with it would make the price for the film even lower. I purchased the ticket, got the pin, and set out for a trip to U.S. wearing the pin before I saw the movie. In Disney Resort, quite a few people approached me to talk about the pin. Most of them asked where I had gotten it. A cast member told me that the park had carried those and they had been sold out within a week. Those experiences made my expectations for the film higher. I saw it at the theater after I came back to Japan. I was deeply moved to tears that didn’t stop falling. It was so hard for me to mute my sobbing. The last time I cried this hard on the film was when I saw ‘Field of Dreams’. I remember that I wrung my T-shirt at the bathroom that was soaking wet with my tears. Only a couple of weeks after I saw ‘Tomorrowland’, I had an urge to see it again. As the nearest theater from my home had already ended showing it, I went to a distant theater. I was moved even more than the first time. I returned to that theater a few days later to see it for the third time. Then, as no theater around my home showed it any more, I took a trip to a theater in Tokyo by bullet train to see it for the fourth time. Considering the amount of money I had spent for ‘Tomorrowland’, I looked stupid myself. Still, I couldn’t stifle my urge and saw it for the fifth time at the same theater in Tokyo a few weeks later. A few more weeks later, I happened to know that the theater in Tokyo was the only one in Japan that still showed it, and would end that soon. If I missed this opportunity, I would never able to see it at the theater ever again. I felt I would be a fool if I didn’t see it one last time. I hopped on the bullet train yet again. The last week’s schedule for ‘Tomorrowland’ was moved to a late show slot, which meant a day trip was impossible for me because I couldn’t catch the last bullet train home. I stayed at a cheap hotel for the night to see it for the sixth time. My adventurous summer of ‘Tomorrowland’ had thus ended. It reminded me of my teenage time when I was hooked on going to concerts of my favorite band. I’ve made an advance purchase of a ‘Tomorrowland’ Blue-ray and DVD set at Amazon and now can’t wait for the release. One thing I don’t understand is that it wasn’t a mega hit…

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