Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Despair and Hope hr631

It happened a long time ago when I lived in Tokyo. My partner and I had dinner at a restaurant one night after we hung around the mall. We came back to our apartment that we had rented on the top floor of the building as our home and the office for our record label.
When I tried to turn my key on the front door, I noticed the door had remained unlocked. It was weird. I may have forgotten to lock the door when I left, which was highly unlikely since I was fussy about locking and couldn’t leave without making sure that the door wouldn’t open by trying the knob for a couple of times. I got in feeling dubious, but our apartment didn’t look unusual. Then my partner suddenly said, “Why is the cabinet open?” My heart began to beat fast with overwhelming uneasiness and I hurried into the bedroom that had a balcony. The tall window to the balcony had been smashed broken. It was a burglary.
I called the police right away while my partner was gingerly looking into the bathroom, the closet, and behind the drapes to see if the burglar wasn’t still hiding. Those minutes were the scariest as too many movie scenes flashed back to me. Thankfully, there was nobody. The police arrived quickly since the station was ironically only a block away from my apartment. Such a location apparently wasn’t safe enough to prevent burglary.
The policemen came in and looked around. As they saw the messy rooms, they showed sympathy saying, “It’s played havoc, huh?” It was funny because my apartment had been messy as it was long before burglary. But probably thanks to it, the burglar didn’t notice an envelope that held a few thousand dollars for the bills and was mingled with scraps of paper on the table. Instead of cash, a dozen of Disney wrist watches that was my collection, a cheap wrist watch that was my partner’s memento of his late mother, an Omega wrist watch that I received from my grandparents as a souvenir of their trip to Europe decades ago, and one game software were missing. Actually, those items had been the only valuables in my office apartment. Other than those and litter, my apartment had been quite empty. The reason was simple. I was near bankrupt at that time.

sofa chair beside window

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

I had started up my music label with my partner and it had grown steadily as business. A person I had trusted offered substantial financial support and I took it. I rented this apartment and hired staff with that money. Then the financial supporter tried to take over my label and threatened to suspend further finance if I refused. Amid horrible disgusting negotiations, money stopped being wired into my account. The label came to a standstill for lack of funds. I laid off all staff and saw what took eight years for my partner and I to build from a scratch crumbling down. The blow was amplified by anger and self-loathing from the fact that I was deceived by a person I had trusted. Despair and emptiness led to apathy. I stopped doing or thinking anything and had played a game every day.
In hindsight, if there hadn’t been burglary, my partner and I would have kept paying the costly rent for the apartment and playing a game until we spent all the money that was left. But something clicked when I saw the very game software I had played every day picked among other many games to be stolen, and the glass window of my dream penthouse apartment smashed. It marked the point where I hit the bottom but also was a wake-up call. We moved out the luxurious apartment immediately and rented a cheap studio apartment in a small two-storied building.
That move left some money in my bank account. The deposit of the penthouse apartment was returned, too. Also, I received an unexpected insurance payout. The expensive rent of my former apartment included a damage insurance. The insurance company assessed the damage based on the report I submitted to the police. For some reason, they calculated the payout more than the total price of what were stolen. I discussed with my partner about what to do with the money. We decided to go to California. A new start form zero. And that was to be the beginning of all these, everything that I do at present. My works have been taken to the world by that decision, made by the burglary.

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Self-made Turmoil hr604

I started off on a customary winter trip to take breath out of my town that is enclosed by the mountains and had been buried in snow. The itinerary of this winter trip was three days in the Tokyo metropolitan area by staying for two nights at the hotels near Narita Airport although I didn’t take the plane. The reason why I chose to stay near the airport that I wouldn’t use was simple; there are a lot of inexpensive hotels around the airport and a huge outlet mall is close. My favorite Tokyo Disney Resort isn’t far so that I can drop by before I take the bullet train home at Tokyo Station. I got up unusually early on the morning when I set off with my partner. We waited for the local bus at the curbside bus stop in front of our apartment. The snow covered the mountains, roads, houses that were all white, and even more was coming down from the white sky. The bus appeared from the white on schedule and took us to the train station. At the station, I was to receive the bullet train ticket on the ticket machine that I had booked in advance. The price gets reduced 35 percent if it’s booked online one month before. By inserting the credit card which number is registered on booking into the machine, the ticket comes out automatically. I have used the service for numerous times and been used to it. I inserted my card into the machine as usual, and the slot spit the card instantly instead of the ticket. It had never happened before. I put the card in again, but it came out again. The monitor showed an ominous message, “Not a valid card.” At that message, I remembered something horrible. My credit card would have expired before the trip. I had received the new one after I booked the ticket, and I had to replace my old card in my wallet with that new one. The dreadful fact here was that I had forgotten to do so. I clearly visualized my new card sitting in my room. I panicked. I threw myself on an unrealistic possibility that I had unconsciously put it into my wallet. I rummaged through my wallet for the card that couldn’t have been in there, babbling “No, no, no, it can’t be happening, no!” The bullet train that I had booked would depart in 20 minutes that wasn’t enough time to get back to my apartment by cab for the new card. I just madly repeated to rummage through my wallet over and over for the imaginary card. Sweat came down. I was panting for breath. My partner stood beside me and asked me what was going on. He looked scared not at what was just happening but at my panic mode. I kept yelling at him, “Card! Left my card! Caaaaaard!” I came up with the last solution. The only way to get my new card here was to use the force or psychokinesis or mind power or whatever it’s called that is supernatural. I pictured and concentrated on my new card in my room strongly enough to shiver, closing my eyes and believing that it emerged in my wallet when I opened my eyes. I looked through my wallet yet again, and of course, the card wasn’t there. I was on the verge of crying. I calculated roughly how much money I would lose by this mistake. The discounted deal for the ticket would be gone, the train also would be gone, the entire schedule of the trip would be disrupted. To sum up, this trip was determined to be ruined already. And seeing in my head figures of the rough total amount of money that would be wasted almost made me faint. My partner tried to get me come to my senses and I remotely heard his voice saying “Why don’t you consult with an operator at the ticket booth?” I staggered toward the booth and asked if there was any way to get the ticket. She told me that I could if I had the reservation number. I had forgotten about the existence of my smartphone until that point. I looked up the confirmation email with my trembling hand and found the reservation number. Beneath the number, I saw four digits. They were the last four digits of the credit card number that I used for this booking. It stunned me. They were not the four of my new card. Suddenly I remembered. When I booked, I purposely tried not to use the card because I acknowledged the expiration would come between then and the trip itself. So, I used another card that I rarely used. And I had that card with me in my wallet now! I jumped and said to the operator, “It’s here! It’s this card! This card!” The operator handed me the ticket. It looked like a dream ticket now. I felt that supernatural power worked in a different way, after all. The operator seemed puzzled and gave me a dubious look as I thanked her a million times with tears in my eyes. I hurried to the ticket gate, got the dream ticket scanned, caught the bullet train, and sat in the seat I had booked. It turned out that I made a big turmoil for nothing. I was ashamed myself whose simply poor memory caused this ridiculous, totally unnecessary fuss. It drained me completely by the time the trip actually began. As if to prove it, a headache also started along with a trip…

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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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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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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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