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 Long Journey hr600

I have been estranged from my friends for a long time. There are only three people with whom I keep in touch by a Christmas card once a year. They are my kindergarten teacher and two high school teachers. I feel a lifelong obligation to those three for each reason. I came across one of the two high school teachers when I was a senior. She had just graduated from a university and started teaching at my school as a new teacher. She taught Japanese classics and I was one of her first students. The Japanese classics class consisted of a mere dozen students who selected the subject to prepare for the entrance examination of a university or a college. As the class was unusually small and the new teacher was young and friendly, it soon became like a big family. It was as if we had a weekly family gathering that happened to have a specific topic of Japanese classics, rather than a school class. In my dismal and miserable high school life, the class was a chink of light. It was the only place at school where I could breathe and came to life. I took the initiative in having fun. Mostly my target was the new teacher. I pulled various pranks on her at every class, such as all students hid in the cupboards and she walked in the empty classroom, perplexed. On a perfect sunny day, I suggested having the class outside and she taught us in the schoolyard like a picnic. I tried what hadn’t been done at my school before and she just cracked up every time. It seemed I was really good at making her laugh. The whole class eventually laughed all the time, and the old strict teacher who had her class next room often came in to tell us to shut up. She sometimes called my teacher out to the hallway and reprimanded her. Nevertheless, my teacher never hushed us, and continued laughing at my jokes and having fun together. She helped me with those bright hours in my dark last year of high school and I’m thankful for that forever. She quit and moved to the other school when I graduated. We have exchanged New Year cards or Christmas cards ever since. While I write simple season’s greetings on them, she somehow knows and writes what I want to hear most. For instance, toward the end of the year in which I’d had a hard time and felt discouraged, her Christmas card said ‘Hang in there! Things are turning better!’ and made me wonder how she could ever know. We somewhat have a lot in common with the way of living, too. In those years, most Japanese women got married and quit working when they did. While I work and stay single, she also continued teaching at school and didn’t change her last name to her husband’s when she got married as the Japanese tradition goes. Without seeing her in decades, I’ve felt strange bond with her. Last year, my parents moved and their new address startled me. By pure coincidence, it’s weirdly close to the teacher’s. I mentioned about it on the Christmas card to her and then things developed quickly. During my latest trip for a visit to my parents’, we had a chance to meet each other for the first time since I was a teenager. The hotel I stayed in on the trip was located in Osaka because I flew in this time instead of using a train. From Osaka to the station we would meet though, it was a two-hour train ride with several transfers. It would be a long trip but we would bridge a decades’ gap in two hours. I thought of the gap, and suddenly came to myself. Shouldn’t a reunion with one’s former teacher be an opportunity to show some achievement for gratitude? I had forgotten about it because the process to this meeting had strangely gone smoothly as if it had been happening automatically out of my will. I had tried and worked hard all those years, but achieved nothing, no money, no fame. I recalled I had said to her that I would become a musician when I last spoke to her. During the course of life, I did. But that’s it. I haven’t gotten anything to show to her. I wondered if our reunion might be an embarrassment where a teacher would see her student’s unfruitful result of many years…

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Gold Dust hr584

“Would you believe it if I said gold dust could fall on you?” I was asked out of nowhere by Kuri-chan who sat behind me in the classroom when I was a senior in high school. I had known her since junior high and we had chatted casually all the time. Although we had never belonged to the same group to hang around, the last year of high school made us closer as we were in the same class sitting next to each other. She abruptly asked this question with strange solemnity, looking set on confiding her big secret. I had never seen her like this. While I had no idea what she was implying with the question, I answered I would. I thought someone who was seeing the meteor shower was so excited that she or he felt that gold dust was showering on her or him. Or, someone having the happiest moment in the snow might feel the snow gold. Or, gold dust was simply an analogy to an inconceivable happening that made someone very happy. Those thoughts led my answer to yes, on which Kuri-chan hesitantly began to explain her question. She had visited frequently a certain shrine where gold dust fell on a person who believed. And she wanted me to come. I promptly asked her if it had ever fallen on her. She said it hadn’t because she hadn’t believed enough. Then I asked if she had ever seen it fall on anyone. Her reply was no and she added, “But there are people who have seen it.” My head got filled with doubt and questions. How often does it happen? How much does gold fall when it happens? By what size? How is it collected when it is sprinkled all over her or him? Are a broom and a dustpan provided near at hand? Don’t other people scramble for the fallen dust to steal it? How do you declare it as yours? And when you collect it safely, where should it be brought? Can it be cashed out? Does it fall at a time with an enough amount to make a living? I couldn’t subdue my curiosity, greed, and weird self-confidence. What if it fell on me today? Actual gold dust, not an analogy, could be possible when it comes to me. I followed Kuri-chan to the shrine after school, feeling as if I was going to a casino, although I sensed it was some sort of cult. The shrine was in the vast, luxurious premises. There were many people in the main hall, mostly middle-aged and elderly. They were intently praying, which seemed waiting for gold dust to me. A large framed portrait of the founder of the religious sect was hung on the front wall of the hall. Kuri-chan told me that gold dust fell on him first. I somehow refrained from asking her if he built this cult with the money from that gold dust. In my mind, though, I was thinking it would fall quite an amount. I sat face to face with Kuri-chan inside the hall and she put her hand above my forehead. She was going to pray for me and gold dust would fall on me if I believed. I was told to keep my eyes closed until the praying was over. It lasted for about five minutes and I believed hard that gold dust was falling on me now. “It’s done,” She said. I opened my eyes and looked for the dust around me. None. I asked her, “Didn’t only a bit fall?” She smiled wanly and said no, looking surprised that I thought it would happen to me on the first try. I was led to a small room for a new comer. A group of ten new comers was greeted by an unnaturally friendly middle-aged woman. She told the story about gold dust falling on the founder but didn’t explain how to cash it out to the end. When we were leaving, a woman who was an acquaintance of Kuri-chan ran toward us and said hello. She offered a ride to the bus stop. She casually asked where I lived. She said she knew the area well and would drive me home. I began to feel uncomfortable. I declined repeatedly, but she insisted strongly. The car finally stopped near my house and I said goodbye. To my surprise, she told me to let her meet my parents. I asked why and she said she wanted to tell the story about the gold dust to my parents. She gave me a ride to recruit. I was too stupid to know earlier. I said my parents were out for work, but she said she would wait. I said they would come home late because they were farmers, but she was adamant about waiting. I asked her to leave, but she wouldn’t let me out of the car. I felt scared as if I was kidnapped. Kuri-chan joined me and asked the woman to let me go home. With repeated angry begging from two of us, she finally gave in and released me. Next day at school, Kuri-chan apologized to me about how it had gone. “It should never be that way. Trust me. I didn’t know that woman was wicked”, she said regretfully. A few days later, she asked me to go to the shrine together again. I rejected. She asked, “Why? You said you believed gold dust would fall.” I still believed it but wasn’t interested in the cult. I thought if gold dust fell on me, it would happen anyway, with or without a cult. I’ve never joined a cult. But the fact remains that I believe in miracles…

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