Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

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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Another World hr590

At the end of a glass corridor in the hotel, there were heavy double doors painted to imitate marble. It was an entrance to the hotel’s outrageously expensive exclusive fitness club although its appearance was rather like some shady bar. I mentioned the membership fee is expensive, but the degree of expensive far exceeds my definition of expensive. It’s a five-digit matter. I was standing at the doors holding a magic piece of paper that nullified the fee. It was given at the front desk when I checked in as I was staying here with a special low-priced promotion that included the free use of the club. I pushed the heavy doors open with my trembling hand. I prepared myself for a counter, but instead I saw a huge vase of flowers majestically sit on the center of a small hexagonal room. The club spares this space just to welcome a member. Walking into the next room, I finally found the reception desk behind which two clerks were standing. I handed them my magic ticket and they told me the club rules. Those were common rules such as no tattoos, no makeup, and a shower before a tub, but required my signature on the paper. Then, the clerk acted as a guide and courteously ushered me to an exclusive elevator at the back of the reception room. The elevator door opened to a member lounge and a member restaurant. Beside them, round marble stairs led to an entrance to the locker room. Along the carpeted hallway, several private massage rooms lined. Rows of lockers were surrounded by luxurious tables, chairs, and benches. Each locker had a display and the key was digital, by entering numbers of my choice on the pad. Inside, I saw a purple robe neatly folded. Up to this point, the place was already much more gorgeous than any club that characters of Michael Douglas had used in the movies. Since the club rule strictly indicated to wear the robe in the locker room area, additional purple robes of all sizes were abundantly stacked on the shelves, like at an apparel shop, not to mention fresh soft face towels and bath towels, which were all free to use as many as I liked. After my personal guide left, I removed my makeup at the spacious powder room section. All kinds of high-end amenity I’d never seen were arrayed with cottons, tissue and a hair dryer on the dressing tables with sets of mirrors. I was looking around restlessly like a bumpkin and went in the pool. It had a glass dome roof above and wooden tables and deck chairs, shower booths, a sauna, a Jacuzzi and a tanning bed on the poolside. On the edge of the big pool, there were wide round stairs to get into water that looked like an edge of a stage. Except for a pool side clerk who stood behind the counter and politely greeted me, no one was there. I monopolized the heavenly place, swimming, taking a Jacuzzi, looking out a night view of skyscrapers and streets. When I was leaving, a fresh towel was handed by the clerk. Next to the pool was the spa. It had both a Finnish sauna and a steam sauna beside a hot tub, a cold plunge and shower booths. I got in them repeatedly and used imported shampoo by an amount I never used daily. By then, I was dying of thirst and went out to the locker room area for some water. Beyond the powder room section was a relaxation section that had a circle of five or six robotic massage chairs. On the wall, I found something like a water cooler. I took a paper cup and my eyes popped out with surprise. What looked like a water dispenser was a free soda fountain! A wide variety of quality-brand soft drinks such as sports drink, 100% fruit juice and soda came out for free. While I was gulping down eight cups of all kinds, I was quite certain that I had somewhere died and was in heaven now. I spent three hours in total, which wasn’t enough to look at the gym, the indoor tennis courts, the indoor driving range and the putting greens. I wondered how happy I would be if I could live in this completely different world from the one I knew. I also duly knew I was only a visitor who had to leave since I can’t possibly think of a way to be a resident of that totally heavenly world…

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Stressful Relaxation hr583

After I completed recording the main vocals for my new song in August, I came down with a cold. I got over most of it within a week, but a throat condition remained bad. It has been persistent ever since and I still can’t shake off this nagging condition. My throat hasn’t reverted to normal yet, which inclines me to anxiety. I try to return to health by relaxing and warming myself at the communal gym and spa inside my apartment complex every day. Those facilities are free to the residents while there is a catch. Their operating hours are limited and they close early in the evening. By the time I finished working and eating dinner, I usually run out of time for going there. I end up doing the dishes and changing into a gym suit in a mad rush and dash toward them. It’s like I go through a time trial before relaxation. Then, after I’m successfully in time for the operating hours, most of the time what awaits me there is something annoying. For example, a man comes into the gym while I’m on an exercise bike and turns on the TV that he makes blare right in front of me. His girlfriend joins him later and they lie down on the exercise mat while watching rubbish before my bike. “This is the gym, not your living room! And not the place for TV!” That’s what I gulp down with effort instead of utter. I’m forced to curtail my exercise and go into the communal spa. There, the residents take their babies and infants with them. They shriek, cry and go on a rampage. The mothers let them relieve themselves in the spa not in the toilet although the toilet is right there at the locker room, and poop is often lying on the floor. “This is the spa, not the toilet! And not the place for infants!” That’s what I gulp down with effort instead of utter, again. I submerge myself in the jacuzzi with the babies who may urinate next to me at this moment. While I’m taking a shower, the announcement that tells the spa is now closing comes from the speaker with a melody of Auld Lang Syne. Now I have to finish up quickly. I rush out to the locker room, hurried to put on my clothes and make barely in time before all the lights are shut down automatically as the operating hours are over. I’m the last one left there when the spa is in the complete darkness. I’m so accustomed to it that I always bring a small LED lamp with me. “10 p.m. for a closing time is too early! Lights should be kept on at least!” That’s what I gulp down, but sometimes utter for this once, as I’m alone in the dark. I dry my hair with a dim light from my small LED and leave. My brutally hectic time of the day finally ends like this. Thus, relaxation is so hard to get. I wonder when my throat returns to a good condition…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.544

Every major holiday, my apartment building in the rural mountains is packed with families and groups from the city who want to spend some time in nature. They use this apartment as a vacation home and the regular residents, one of whom is me, call them ‘Visitors’. Most apartments in the building are used by Visitors and usually vacant. Since only few apartments are occupied by permanent residents, we have a quiet living environment. But once a holiday comes, Visitors that are four times as many as the residents rush in and destroy serenity. They are exceedingly in high spirits on the day of arrival, talking and laughing loudly, and their children are running tirelessly at the hallway. Both the communal spa and gym are full. The jacuzzi is crammed with shrieking kids. My usual heavenly jacuzzi turns into hell. When I once heard a mother who was soaking in that hell cry out ecstatically “Oh my, I am so happy!”, I felt pity wondering how disastrous her daily life was. Visitors, especially families from the city, wouldn’t obey the rules here. They often have a barbecue or light hand-held fireworks at the parking lot and are stopped by the caretaker. They let their kids use machines at the gym although a notice tells machines are adult use only. At the spa, they let their kids swim under big no-swimming stickers. They let them dive headfirst in a shallow stone tub over and over again. Needless to say, they let them pee on the floor inside the spa like animals instead of leaving for the bathroom at the locker room. A group of young women drink cans of beer in the jacuzzi. Visitors also take their pets here although this building is no-pets-allowed. They unleash a dog at the nearby park. They even dump cardboard trash beside the street. There is no end to their lawlessness and it’s hard to tell they break rules intentionally or they just can’t obey them. It seems to me that they come here to enjoy breaking rules. They annoy me so much in so many ways that I always wait for a holiday to end and for Visitors to return to the city. The closer the end of a holiday comes, the quieter Visitors become. In the end, they go back to their city life dejectedly with their head drooping. They pay an upkeep fee of this building every month to use it merely for several days in a couple of times a year. The total amount of money they spend for what they don’t use regularly is huge. And with their money, this apartment building is well maintained and the communal facilities are operated, which I use every day. Since I’m an accustomed giveaway-taker, I have no right to complain their bad manners. After they’re gone, I monopolize the whole spa and have the gigantic tub to myself again. I spread my limbs in the jacuzzi alone and say out loud “This is the life!” On my face is a malicious smile like a villain…

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