Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

What Wild Animals Try to Tell Us hr640

When the snow still lay six feet deep, my partner suddenly spotted something and pointed it with a surprise out of the dining room window in our apartment during lunch. In the direction of his pointing, I saw a Japanese serow on the snow-covered ground under a tree in the grove about 30 feet away from the building.

I had never seen a Japanese serow in the residential area. Or should I rather say, I had never seen it for real altogether. It had a face like a goat and its body looked rather like a calf than a serow, covered with light brown and gray fur. I wondered why just looking at a wild animal was somehow awe-inspiring. I took my binoculars and observed it closely.
The Japanese serow was standing on its hind legs and holding on to the trunk with its forelegs. It seemed to eat the tree bark or something on the trunk. Every time a car pulled into the parking lot stretched out between the grove and the apartment building, it hid behind the tree and peeked out the lot. After people were gone, it resumed eating.
In the beginning of this winter, my partner bumped into a boar for the first time on the foot of a mountain beside the street he was walking on. The boar was staring at him at a distance of 60 feet. Its size was about a calf and with black fur and a pig-like face. He was afraid and turned back. It was the right choice since I had heard about quite a few incidents that a boar rushed into and injured people or bit them in Japan this year, which hadn’t happened so often before. Considering that much more bears than before appeared in my town last autumn, wild animals have come down to the residential area around this year far more than they used to.
It’s said that has to do with climate change. Wild animals aren’t the only ones that have been sent out of the depths of mountains. Judging from the present situation, unknown viruses that are new to human beings and stay where they’re supposed to be may continue to come out as well.
Twilight drew near and the spots in the parking lot of my apartment building were being filled up as commuters’ cars came back one after another spewing out exhaust fumes. The Japanese serow started walking back slowly. It stared over here for a while one last time as if it was trying to tell something, and plodded back on the snow, up into the mountain.

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Bear Attacks hr636

A black shape of a bear is drawn on a yellow background with big capital letters of ‘Beware of Bears!’. That is a poster I see everyday out of my apartment window lately. Not just one. It’s on the fence along a stream and at the little bridge over it so that I spot it everywhere sitting at my table. It has multiplied rapidly this year. On a bench at the nearby park, on the public bathroom wall in my neighborhood, at scattered vacant lots, the posters are rampant here and there that I’d never seen before in my town. Those are not just for warning. Those indicate the spots where bear’s foot prints were left or a bear was actually witnessed. From morning till night, patrol cars with loudspeakers drive around blaring out “Bears are spotted! Be careful when going out!” all day long. The car stops on the little bridge beneath my window and sets off firecrackers to scare off bears. Some members of the local hunting association fired blank shots there. It’s said that the reason why bears come down to a residential area from the mountains so often has to do with the climate change that causes a shortage of food for them.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com


About ten years have passed since I moved in this snowy town enclosed by the mountains. It’s been warmer and snowed less year after year compared to when I began to live here. That has helped make my winter days easier that I used to suffer from claustrophobia by the deep snow coverage.
Added to the climate change that affects my daily life, I also sense my own mind changes. I had feared if a monotonous country life rusted me away when I decided to move in here. It didn’t happen. Rather, the quiet life increased my concentration and contributed more productivity for my lifework than the time when I lived in the metropolitan area. I have a serener mindset than before and it gives me more understanding toward myself and the world I live in.
Recently, people have stayed home and worked remotely in Japan too. They have left big cities and moved to rural areas. More and more people from Tokyo have moved into my small town that I had expected nothing but to become desolate every year. There are many unfamiliar new residents in the apartment building where I live. The building used to look like a ghost house with dark windows, but it has almost no available room now. I had never imagined that would happen mere one year before. The unthinkable things occurred at the unthinkable speed. In this trend, we can’t tell what happens next. In three years, bears might be chasing after me. Not bears but people might start chasing people and killing each other. Or human race might extinct because of viruses. There might be days of a panic, or moments of danger for life. Even so, it could turn to be better. These unprecedented years have shown how much human imagination is limited. I myself have learned that a superficially dire thing can turn out to be a good thing in the end. Besides, I saw unthinkable things happen, so why not unthinkably good ones? I believe they could happen as well. They should.

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An Earthly Paradise hr596

When I lived in California, the apartment I rented had an outside Jacuzzi. I liked taking it at night, seeing the sky above. Under the palm trees, I watched an airplane’s small dot of light blinking and moving through the stars. It was the moment that I felt like a winner who obtained a life in paradise by getting out of not only Japan but also my family to which I had been a bound successor. Prices in the U.S. were extremely low compared to Japan back then because of the strong yen. It seemed to me that everything was on sale and I literally lived in a bargain country. Sadly, my life in paradise didn’t last long, though. The Japanese economy crashed and yen turned weak. Inflation had edged up in the States as well. Price hikes assaulted me in all directions. I became unable to pay the rent even if I had moved into a cheap motel. I was practically kicked out of the States and the plane brought bitterly-discouraged myself back to Japan where I returned to a life of reality in a teeny-tiny apartment. Time went by, and I had benefited from technological advances like the Internet and computers, and also from the fall of housing value in Japan. Those benefits let me live in a condominium that has a communal spa. I take a Jacuzzi there watching a beautiful view of the mountains with lingering snow out of big windows. One day, I felt so euphoric that I thought this wasn’t real. I thought I may have already died from that northern Japan’s severe earthquake or from the subsequent meltdown of the nuclear plant, and must be in heaven now. That reminded me of the sensation I had felt in a Jacuzzi in California. I had never expected that I would experience an equally enraptured life here in Japan when I parted with it there. If I traveled back in time with a time machine, I could talk to my other self who was in despair on the flight to Japan from the States. I would say to her, “Years from now, you will get another chance to live in paradise!” I would tell her that she wouldn’t give up music and would have completed two songs back in Japan that had quality she had been craved for and entirely satisfied with. How easier the flight would’ve been if I had heard those words there. I was too hopeless to imagine so much as a speck of the possibility. I always find myself foolish in hindsight whenever I look back later. There are tons of things I have to say to my past self beforehand. The question is, what would my future self tell me now if she looked at me taking the Jacuzzi here. Would she say, “Embrace the moment. It’s the pinnacle of your life”? Or would she say, “Prepare yourself. It’s just the beginning”? I desperately hope for the latter…

 

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Checkout hr591

I got up early in the morning on the last day of my latest trip. The reason was simple; I was going to the hotel’s exclusive fitness club one last time before the checkout invalidated my free ticket. I passed through the heavy double doors of the club again and the clerk ushered me as a personal guide as it happened last night. Since the spa and the locker room don’t open until noon, there is a special locker room for a member who uses the pool in the morning. It was much smaller, but robes, towels and amenities were fully provided. The morning light liberally came in through the glass-dome ceiling and filled up the poolside. I had the large pool facility all to myself again, the whole morning through. It seemed as if the gorgeous pool was reserved just for me. I doubted if Bill Gates even had this scale of luxury. I saw my room through the glass ceiling and spotted my partner who was standing by the window. While I was taking a Jacuzzi on the poolside, I waved at him. He waved back and looked a little sad because he couldn’t enjoy this free treat due to his atopic eczema. On one hand I felt sorry for him; on the other hand, I enjoyed to the maximum such a luxurious, refreshing, and dreamy time that I had never had before. After I took a shower in the elegant shower booth, I left the club. It was about noon and I passed the members who were coming in. It is said that the gap between the rich and the poor is generally small in Japan. I had thought there weren’t so many mega-rich people in Japan as in the States until I came here. But now I realized quite a few mega-rich Japanese people existed, as I actually saw the members who apparently paid the five-digit membership fee. I hadn’t known that because they lived in a different world from me like in this club. I wondered if I could ever visit this club again and wished strongly for that. I came back to my room, packed in a great hurry and checked out. I didn’t forget to have expensive coffee and tea for free one more time at the hotel’s privileged lounge before I left. The receptionist was the same person and got familiar since I came here three days in a row. She knew I used the lounge for free and I felt embarrassed. When I left the hotel, I missed it more than ever now that I experienced the fitness club. I got to another shopping mall by train, bought a skirt 80 percent off and had dinner at a Mexican restaurant that we rarely find in Japan. As the mall is adjacent to Tokyo Disney Resort, I saw the fireworks of the park from the mall for free. I took a train again to Tokyo Station and looked around the shopping area while I was waiting for the bullet train on which I had booked the seat. Just when I was looking, half-off stickers began to be put on packages of sushi. I got one of those and had it on the bullet train with the leftover wine from the hotel that I had brought in a plastic bottle. Although I was exhausted from lack of sleep and swimming, I really wanted to do this trip over from the beginning. I pondered when it would be that I could take a trip like this one. While I recalled the heavenly sensation I had when I was swimming alone in the pool inside that fitness club, the bullet train ran through several long tunnels and sent me back in my town that was packed in deep snow. I took a cab to my apartment. It was a blizzard. I could see nothing but hammering snow out the windshield of the cab. With that near zero visibility, the cab was running into darkness at breakneck speed toward my accustomed world…

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Free Foods and Drinks hr588

The bullet train ran through several long tunnels in the mountains and carried me out of snow. In less than twenty minutes, I was in a different, snow-free world where the sun was shining and the blue sky spread. I put on my makeup and had rice balls that I’d gotten back at the station. By then, my worry about this trip had dwindled away and I began to feel thrilled. On the other hand, my poor partner who accompanied me on this trip had been suffering from atopic eczema and was sitting next to me nervously, as his body was itchy. We arrived at Tokyo Station where we walked through an underground passage that was busy and crowded with people and transferred to the local train. As this line runs along Tokyo Bay, the ocean can be seen out of the train window. It was so refreshing to see a stretch of the horizon over the sea for me who live surrounded by mountains. I thought I finally got my breath. The hotel I’d booked was close to the train station. I got in there but wasn’t allowed to check in until 7 p.m. since I chose the bargain rate for the room. I went straight ahead to the top floor lounge to enjoy the afternoon tea for which I had collected points diligently for two years to exchange to a fifty dollars off coupon. Although a small usual disappointment was alongside, which there was a family with a noisy child even in a luxury lounge like that, I was in seventh heaven looking out the magnificent twilight view of Tokyo Bay. And it was practically free because I paid only a fraction of money thanks to the coupon. Then I moved to another lounge that was exclusively for the hotel’s premium member. This bargain rate stay came with preferential treatment at no extra cost as their off-season promotion and I was entitled to use this lounge. It had a single-serve coffee machine and expensive soft drinks. I had two cups of freshly dripped specialty coffee, two cups of specialty tea and a bottled sparkling water along with elegant cookies that the receptionist had brought to me. And everything was free! I wondered why something complimentary was always gone to my stomach easily and endlessly. As it was still too early for my check-in time, I was headed for a shopping mall near the hotel. When I was walking on the broad sidewalk beside a modern convention center and looking ahead the twilight skyline of tall buildings, I somewhat missed urban life. I stepped in the gigantic shopping mall and looked around the grocery floor for something to eat in the hotel room. The floor had ten times as large space as a grocery store of my town and had all kinds of deli foods, salad and bread. I imagined how much fun it would be if I shopped daily at a place like this. Adjacent to the mall was Costco. A lot of kinds of free samples were being given out there, such as beefsteak, salmon, sushi rolls, and croissant. I became full enough with those. My partner took free samples and had them too, which was odd. He’s usually a little lofty and conceited and doesn’t like to get free samples. But this time, he willingly joined the line for a sample, took it, swallowed, and eagerly repeated it over and over. I observed his strange behavior thinking that he must have been so much hungry, or the samples must have tasted so good, or his atopy must have been bad enough to affect his brain. After our free sample jamboree, I dropped by the food court of Costco. The place to eat was dirty and looked like a visitors’ room of a prison. But considering the incredible size of the hot dog and the cup of soda, they were virtually free because their prices were incredibly low. I gobbled them and walked back to the hotel. The first day of my trip ended this way, filled with freebies and savings…

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