Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

The Insufficient Child hr644

Photo by Erik Mclean on Pexels.com

I was a nine-year-old child living in Kyoto when I was hospitalized for nephritis. In my room for six patients of the children’s ward, a girl named Ayumi also suffered from nephritis and was next to my bed. She was so little, probably three or four years old, that her mother was allowed to stay in the ward on the makeshift couch beside her bed.
Ayumi’s mother studiously read thick medical books everyday to study kidney disease for Ayumi’s recovery while looking after Ayumi. She would ask millions of questions to an intern nurse and learned from her by taking detailed notes. For Ayumi’s medication, she went to get wafer papers and would divide a dose of powdered medicine into a couple of small wrapped doses three times a day so that Ayumi took it easily.
Next to her bed, I was struggling to swallow powdered medicine though I was nine, and often coughed up and blew powder all over my bed. My mother was hardly around. She visited me barely a few minutes before the visiting time was over and left immediately. She blamed her dash visit for her busy work as a farmer, but I doubted she cared. Looking at what Ayumi’s mother was doing for her, I was stunned by the difference between her mother and mine. Mine had never been attentive like hers even when I was a small child as far as I remembered.
The worst part of my hospitalized days was loneliness and hospital meals. As a nephritis patient, I was banned from taking in salt. My meals are salt-free and with minimum seasoning. I felt like eating sponge three times a day. The volume wasn’t enough either for me who was chubby. Because I persistently complained about the meals to my mother during the short visit, she brought me potato chips. Since potato chips were deemed as the biggest taboo for nephritis, she told me to hide under the bed and move the contents from its flashy package into a plastic bag. She continued to bring other salty snacks and I made a bag of my best mix under my bed. I was strolling about the hallway, carrying the plastic bag of snacks in one hand, munching in my mouth. In case I passed someone, I stopped munching and hid the bag behind my back. But one afternoon, Ayumi’s mother caught me. She asked me to show her the plastic bag. As I did, she said somewhat sadly, “It contains everything you can’t have.” I ignored her caution and kept snacking on what my mother brought. My mother urged me to hide under my bed and let me eat a can of corned beef with a big topping of mayonnaise there. As a result, I stayed chubby in the hospital despite the controlled healthy meals.
One day, a younger girl who had been annoying all the time next to my bed on the opposite side of Ayumi enraged me. I was bashing her with a coloring book while yelling the biggest taboo word in the hospital this time, “Die! Die! Die!”, with full force. Impatient at my unprincipled behavior, Ayumi’s mother raised her voice toward me, “That’s enough, Hidemi! Clean up your act, already!” I thought she was a carping critic because I hadn’t realized evilness of my mother yet back then and had been such a nasty child who had totally accepted my mother’s bad influence.
Ayumi’s father came to visit her on his day off. I was taking powdered medicine on my bed that I had gotten used to swallowing without problems by then. He said to me smiling, “You have gotten the knack of it and no longer choked. Good for you!” I wondered how he had known that as I had rarely seen him here.
A family of caring. Not that I was familiar with.

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The Main Attraction hr589

On the first day of my latest trip, I checked in the hotel after I left the shopping mall. The room had a big window looking out on Tokyo Bay. A night view of the jet-black sea and glittering skyscrapers of stylish condominiums was spread on it. Onto the gorgeous glass table, I laid out packs of deli foods that had a sticker telling ‘Half Price’ on each lid that I’d gotten at the grocery store in the mall. My chief delight of a trip is to enjoy drinking in a hotel room. I usually get food outside the hotel and bring a small plastic bottle that I refill with cheap brandy beforehand at home. Compared to the room service, the cost is digits lower in this way although the place to have it is the same. It feels like I order room service of a space as an elegant cocktail lounge by staying at a hotel instead of drinks and foods. Since I bring cheap liquor and snacks, I can enjoy drinking in a quiet, luxurious setting without worries of the bill or the closing time, which is somehow my main purpose of a trip. I was nibbling on half-off seafood looking out the view that I couldn’t possibly see out of my apartment window and wished this moment would last forever. Although I had feared the hotel might be crammed with Chinese tourists because of the Lunar New Year, it wasn’t the case here and I didn’t see many of them. But as the way the world goes, hotels are never quiet enough to sleep in well. I woke up next morning by noises from neighboring rooms without sleeping tight. Quite a few hotels stand together in this area and I walked to the different hotel for lunch. A restaurant in that hotel has a lunch buffet that is reasonably priced and served in a chic atmosphere. About 95 percent of the customers are women and the place is always full. I had no trouble to get a table though, as I had made an online reservation that gave me a discount. I enjoyed as much roasted beef and dessert as I wanted that was too expensive to have in my daily life. Then I moved to a nearby outlet mall. Because my apartment is about to be burst with cheap clothes already, I just strolled around as a window shopper. But when I found a bracelet at $5 that was marked down from $30, I couldn’t help jumping at it. I was staying at the same hotel that night, which meant my favorite drinking time would come again. I got a plastic bottle of wine at $4 and, as I was still more than full from the lunch buffet, some salad and light snacks for dinner at a convenience store and walked back to the hotel. Before going back to my room, I had an important thing to do – using the hotel’s premium member lounge as a nonmember, again. I repeated the extravaganza of the previous day there, having expensive coffee and tea for free as much as I liked. I didn’t know why free drinks tasted especially good, but I knew for sure that I was the one who made the most of the free use of the lounge as this hotel’s off-season promotion. It was early evening and there was still time until I opened my cost efficient bar by myself in my room. So I went to the fitness club of this hotel for the first time. The club requires an outrageously expensive membership fee and normally I just do nothing but ignoring its existence. Only, this off-season promotion stay came with preferential treatment at no extra cost that included the free use of the club. I was curious what an astronomically expensive fitness club looked like. As I walked through a glass corridor leading up to the club, I saw the whole new world unfold before my eyes. I had cherished drinking in a hotel room as the main attraction of a trip for years till then. Yet the experience I was about to have in this fitness club overturned and changed everything so easily…

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A Picture-Card Show hr586

I was absorbed in one kind of play when I was about seven years old. It was paper play called ‘kamishibai’ in Japan. It’s a picture-card show in which a performer tells a story while showing a picture that corresponds to it. A performer impersonates the characters to say their lines and flips a picture to the next one when the scene changes. It’s a sort of street performance that is hardly seen these days. But when I was little, an old picture-card showman came to the small park near my house every two weeks or so. He would walk around my neighborhood while ringing a bell to let children know the show was coming. When I heard the bell, I would spring toward the park clenching small change in my hand. The show was free, but the performer sold cheap snacks and candies before the show. His theater was his bicycle. On the back of the bicycle, a big wooden box was fixed that contained both the pictures and candies. Once the show started, the box transformed into the picture holder. By tacit agreement, children who had bought candies stood in the front and those who hadn’t stood on their toes in the back to get a view. Although the story itself didn’t interest me so much, I loved the experience that I saw a live performance while eating delicious snacks. It was a luxury to me. Probably because I liked it too much, I asked my parents and got a picture-card show play set. The play set was available at a bookstore and came with a sono-sheet. A sono-sheet was a very thin flexible vinyl record on which the story, the lines of the characters and the sound effects all that corresponded to the picture cards were recorded. The instruction for the timing to flip the pictures was also recorded. The story and the pictures were from a popular TV animation program for kids. Unlike the picture-card show at the park, with this play set, I was a performer. Since there was a vinyl to be played along with it, I could sit in front of the picture holder and watch it as a lone audience while listening to the record. Only, I wasn’t interested in being the audience. I’d rather stood behind the picture holder and flipped the pictures according to the instruction played on the record. The characters’ lines were printed on the back of each picture and I read them along with the record. The number of the picture cards were over twenty and I practiced flipping each one of them in the perfect timing and reading the lines with emotions by imitating the voice actors on the record. That was my favorite play of my childhood and I spent a lot of time and energy every day. The funny part was, I didn’t need any audience. I practiced intently not to show the play but to perform perfectly. And I performed exclusively for myself. This play couldn’t be accomplished without the record player that sat in the guestroom of my house. I would sneak in there to play with the set because I couldn’t concentrate on my performance if someone heard or saw it. In case my younger sister asked me to play it to her, I drove her away. Not to be bothered by anyone, I didn’t even turn on the light of the room. I would play the show along with the record alone in the dark, and relish satisfaction and joy when I thought the performance went perfectly. Recalling my favorite childhood play now, it awfully looks similar to the way I engage in my work of music. I guess I make my songs strenuously for perfection not for audience’s reception. I always thought I pursued people’s attention and stardom, but it wasn’t true as long as I remembered how I felt happy in my childhood. That explains why my songs don’t ever sell. I perform to no audience. It seems that’s the way I liked, and the way I’m destined for…

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A Train Ride in Japan hr585

My main means of transportation is the train. As manners and common sense vary in countries, I introduce here what a train ride in Japan is like. In the Tokyo metropolitan area, it’s just atrocious especially during the rush hours. I had had a lot of trouble when I lived in the area. It’s almost impossible to get a ride since both the train and the platform are packed with people. The train is full, which means in Japan’s case that you can’t move as you’re pressed firmly against other passengers’ bodies around you. Because I’m short and feel claustrophobia only in a few minutes, I have to pass several trains to wait for a less crowded one. That results in a long, inefficient travel although the trains run every ten minutes or less. As the night deepens, the smell of alcohol fills the train car that has more drunken businessmen, some of whom are befuddled. It used to be common that men openly spread and read porn magazines and tabloids in the car, but thankfully they are replaced by smartphones now. There are women-only cars that men aren’t allowed to get in during the rush hours. Too many cases of being groped or molested in a crowded train car made railroad companies invent this crazy sexism solution. I myself can’t count how many times I was touched or saw a man expose himself in the train. When I once squeezed myself into a packed car on my way to school, I barely got my body inside the car but my bag couldn’t. The door closed on the handles of my bag and left the bag outside. I rode for three minutes with my bag dangling outside the train, swinging violently. In daytime, the murderous congestion subsides. Instead, enters a group of housewives with large strollers that block aisles. They ignore their children who are crying and shrieking. Some passengers eat snacks, rice balls or sandwiches in the train. Some eat cup noodles or lunch in a box called bento. Even drinking alcoholic beverages is okay. But, people dart an angry look at someone who is putting on makeup. One of major complains to railroad companies is making up in the train. I don’t have the slightest idea what that means. It’s acceptable no matter how drunken or how loud you are inside the train, but not that you’re putting up makeup. I heard on the radio show that an elderly woman complained about a young lady who was putting on mascara in the train. Her point was she couldn’t allow a woman to turn up the whites of her eyes in public. It doesn’t make sense and to me, it sounds clear sexism. I almost always put on makeup on the train for time efficiency and wage a quiet battle against other passengers’ angry glances. With good or bad manners aside, trains in Japan are generally safe and a murder or a robbery hardly happens. A pickpocket steals a wallet from a drunken passenger who has fallen asleep, or a drunk beats a conductor, that’s the maximum. If you have carelessly left your belongings in the train, they’re found and delivered to a station in most cases. It may be too extravagant to complain of Japan’s trains that are well maintained, so clean, and graffiti-free. While it’s sometimes uncomfortable to share a ride with people whose likes and dislikes are pretty different from mine, it’d be better to relish the difference and be surprised by it. That may help me grow leniency. Besides, there’s no such thing as the world going round solely by my own rules after all…

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