Posted in Hidemi's Rambling

Family Casino in Kyoto, Japan

 
 
On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total.
 
This incident happened one New Year’s at the end of the card game called ‘kabu’, in which my uncle acted as dealer for the yearly family casino at my grandparents’ house. He had lost quite a lot to my cousin, who was his son, as usual that night and my cousin had left the table as the morning dawned.
My uncle, my mother and I were left at the table and the game was about to close. My mother asked for a few more deals because she had also lost a large sum and wanted to get it back. To recover her loss quickly, she bet by the $100. The game was played for high stakes every year, but I had never seen the stakes this high. She lost in succession and her loss swelled to $500 in a flash.
“This is the last bet,” she claimed in desperation and put $500 on the table. She tried to offset her total loss on the last deal of the game. All at once the tension skyrocketed and strange silence filled the room. I held my breath and withdrew my usual small bet. The cards were dealt tensely and my mother and my uncle showed their hands of fate. Both hands were ridiculously bad but my mother’s was even worse. She lost $1000. Burying her head in her hands, she repeatedly uttered, “It can’t be! Can’t be true!” I saw tears in her widely opened bloodshot eyes. Then she repeated “Oh, my… Oh, my…” in a faint voice for ten times and staggered away. I clearly remember her state of stupor.
A couple of days later back in our home, I enticed her into playing ‘kabu’ with me since I learned how poorly she played it and I knew I would win. I used to receive cash as a New Year’s gift from my relatives during New Year’s and it would amount to $1000. I dangled it in front of her and said that it would be her chance to get back her loss. She took it and we played for $1000. As I had thought, she lost another $1000 to me. She said she couldn’t pay, and I offered her the installment plan. I got $100 more to my monthly allowance of $30 for the next ten months. That was the richest year in my early teens.
Many years later, she failed in real estate investment and lost most of our family fortune that had been inherited for generations. The amount she lost that time was well over $1 million. And that was the money I was supposed to inherit…
Posted in Audio Episodes, Hidemi's Rambling

A Japanese Girl in The Catholic School of Kyoto 3

Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps.
Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total.
 
Back in my Catholic school days, a teacher for home economics was Sister Carmela. I was in her cooking class. I had no interest in cooking at all and all I did during the class was giggling with my friends and washing the dishes. I simply couldn’t take anything in the class seriously. Home making seemed ridiculous to me, and to begin with, I could laugh endlessly when I thought about a sister called Carmela teaching how to make caramel.
As I was lazy all the time chatting and giggling, Sister Carmela often had to call my name in front of the class and shush me. She also noticed I hadn’t participated in any cooking but just been doing the dishes. No matter how hard and often she scolded me for my bad attitude, I didn’t obey and kept making other students laugh. Her patience snapped at last and she called me before the principal.
In my school, bad students were close to zero and a student was hardly ever called to the principal’s office. The principal was Sister Mary Catherine who reasonably believed I had done something extraordinarily wrong. But she was taken aback when Sister Carmela told her that I had fooled around during the class. She looked at her face with an impression of ‘That’s it?’ After mildly telling me to behave myself, she let me go. Sister Carmela’s punishment didn’t work and my bad behavior continued.
I was in her sewing class next year. Again, I slacked and asked my friend to make a skirt for me. Sister Carmela found that out when I turned in the skirt pretending I had sewn it. That snapped her completely. She decided to appeal directly to my parents and called up my mother that evening. Over the phone, she told her at length how bad I had been in her class. She blamed my bad attitude on my mother’s lack of discipline. My mother kept apologizing for a long time, but her tone gradually changed. As Sister Carmela strongly criticized my mother’s way of raising a child, my mother suddenly yelled, “I have no reason to listen to someone who has never married nor had a child!” and hung up violently.
I was stunned because it sounded to me the most insulting remark about a sister. She said to me, “Who does she think she is? She has never raised a child herself, and yet looks down on me who did raise a child. You don’t have to obey such a stuck-up person!” And Sister Carmela stopped complaining about my behavior ever since…
Posted in Audio Episodes, The Family in Kyoto

if you don’t want to

Audiobook 1 : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. 
Audiobook 2 : My Social Distancing and Naked Spa in Japan by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. 
Apple Books, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total. 
 
if you don’t want to 
From kindergarten to the lower grades, I had suffered from insomnia. I hated going to kindergarten and then to school too strongly to sleep on school nights. As the morning to go there approached, I felt more and more nervous and tense. I would be wide awake in futon no matter how eager I was to fall asleep, watching glittering patterns on the back of my eyelids for hours. Tears ran through my cheeks into my ears during those long nights. When it dawned and the room was filled with the gray of the morning, I could finally doze awhile.
I slept beside my grandparents as my parents were occupied with my little sister in a different room. Before going to sleep, I would try to be near my mother as long as I could because she used to be the last one that retreated to her bedroom at night. But soon I was to be prodded into going to my grandparents’ room to sleep. I once found the courage to confide to my mother that I was having insomnia. She scoffed at it and said anyone could sleep by just closing his or her eyes. Her advice was to close my eyes. I wondered how dumb she thought I was, since I did so to sleep every night. She didn’t take it seriously and so I kept staying awake on weeknights secretly.
Sunday nights were the worst. The thought that a long week at school would start next morning made it undoubtedly impossible for me to sleep. My grandparents used to watch TV in futon before going to sleep. Their favorite drama was on Sunday nights and the end of the drama meant my grandmother fell asleep. I can still hear in my ears the sad tune of the drama’s ending. My grandfather would read a little after that. When the light by his pillow was turned off was a signal that he would also go to sleep and I would be left alone awake in futon.
One night, he noticed I wasn’t asleep in the middle of the night. “You’re still awake,” he was surprised. I confessed that I couldn’t sleep, and he simply said, “Don’t sleep, then.” While I couldn’t believe what I had just heard, he explained, “You don’t have to sleep if you don’t want to.” I had never thought that way. I didn’t have to sleep! Like magic, his words cured my insomnia and I have fallen asleep easily ever since…
Posted in Hidemi's Rambling, Japanese Dream

what I do

Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total.
 
I’ve completed my home studio by handmade soundproofing to my small  apartment room and setting up instruments, equipment and the wiring. The  software and drivers have all been installed on my computer. The only  thing that remains to be done is start working on our new song.
I’ve run out of excuses to avoid work any longer. I wrote the next  song when I was having trouble with my neighbor who newly moved in a  room next door to me in the apartment building that I used to live. At  that time, I was so annoyed and at a loss why I should have endured this  uncomfortable time. But in hindsight, it paid as I earned one new song.
Now, I’m getting down to select instruments, make sounds, arrange the  song, record a chorus, rehearse vocals, record vocals, mix, and master.  It’s lengthy, continuous, lonely work stretched over several years. Our  last song into which I put a great deal of similar effort and time to  complete, by the way, has turned almost no profit so far. This is what I  do with my life at stake…
 
Song by Lousy Neighbor / Hidemi Woods
Posted in Hidemi's Rambling

dreaming

Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total 
 
Inside a cabinet in the old house where I grew up and spent much of my childhood, there was a beautiful music box. It stood out by its glamour and westernized style among other articles of Japanese folk art in the cabinet. My mother took it out once or twice a year for me, solemnly and carefully as a special occasion. She would wind up, open the lid slowly and let me listen to its heavenly melody. It was a gift she received from my father when they were young. The tune was ‘Traumerei’ by Schumann. I asked my father what the title meant and he told me it meant ‘A pleasant feeling beyond description’ although I later learned it actually meant ‘dreaming’. I imagined that he felt dreamy when he married her. Since the music box was expensive, my mother strictly forbade me to touch it. I wasn’t allowed to play it on my own. My parents were usually out for work and I was suffering from autointoxication when I was little. I often fainted while I was playing alone at home and my grandmother had to call a doctor each time. In those days, my secret remedy was sneak open the cabinet and take out the music box. While my mother believed it was a onceor-twice-a-year occasion, I listened to it almost every day. Although by then I had already known that my parents got married by an arranged marriage for each family’s convenience and my mother especially married money, it helped me delude myself that my parents loved each other. By listening to the tune, I felt hopeful and had fewer blackouts from auto intoxication. Decades later, when I lived in the city before moving in here, I had an idea that I would play ‘Traumerei’ on the piano for my parents on their wedding anniversary. I practiced playing it by listening to a Schumann’s CD. But my rare respectable attempt never materialized after all for a strange reason. Every time I practiced ‘Traumerei’, a cockroach appeared from somewhere as if it was a cue. It was impossible to continue practicing because I have a strong phobia about roaches…
Posted in Audio Episodes, The Family in Kyoto

100 years old

Audiobook 1 : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. 
Apple Books, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total. 
 
Audiobook 2 : My Social Distancing and Naked Spa in Japan by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. 
 
100 years old 
My grandfather used to say that he would live until 100 years old. When I was a child and lived with him, I hated him. He was a dictator of my family. My grandmother, my parents, my younger sister and I lived with him cowering and flattering him because we were afraid of him. He wielded absolute power over us and nobody could oppose him.
We needed his permission for anything. For instance, when I wanted a puppy, my plea was rejected because he said, “This is my house.” As a child, I thought his existence immensely violated my freedom and was hoping that he would not live so long.
He liked going out and sometimes took me to a department store. It had never been a pleasant outing. He was stingy. He would go to a department store just for browsing without buying anything, wearing a ragged jacket and worn-out shoes. For lunch, he would order the lowest priced dish and share it with me. And he would tell me to fill my stomach with tea because tea was free there. He couldn’t make it to 100 and passed away at the age of 96. My family agrees that I’m the one who have the character just like him…
Posted in Hidemi's Rambling

A Japanese Girl in The Catholic School of Kyoto 2

Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total.
 
Since I became the class clown at school, I was quite popular back then, not only among the students but also among the teachers. When I needed to see a teacher at the hallway in front of the teachers’ office, other teachers would come out of the office to talk with me. They would stand in a circle around me and laugh at my jokes and stories. Inevitably, it was always noisy wherever I showed up.
The vice-principal was a stern, rigid teacher called Sister Maris Stella. She was the oldest sister at school and dressed in a traditional, old-fashioned Catholic gown. She was strict to students and teachers alike. Everybody tried to keep away from her because she always reproved someone for something. She would appear wherever people were buzzing, to shut them up.
She had recognized that I was often a seismic center of the buzz and given me a look of ‘You again’. Every time the teachers were cracking up with me in front of the teachers’ office, she poked her long-veiled head out of the office. That was a signal for the end of the show. Teachers would disperse quickly while I stopped talking. Sometimes we failed to notice her and she stood behind the circle listening to me. The moment someone spotted her, they would walk away. In those cases, she would ask me what I was talking about. I would apologize and leave.
And one thought occurred to me. She didn’t come out to reprove us. She might want to join us. Even after I realized that, I had no way to keep talking once other teachers ran away. As a result, we just kept leaving when she came up. And one day, when we were scattering at the sight of her as usual, she grabbed my arm. She said to me, “That’s it! You hate me, don’t you? I know you hate me! I know, because I hate you too!” Over her shoulder was a statue of the Virgin Mary with a plaque saying ‘Love and Humanity’. It was the most inconsistent scene I had ever experienced.
Months later, there came a general-school-cleaning day. I was unlucky enough to be assigned to the school cafeteria of which Sister Maris Stella took charge. As if she got a golden opportunity, she made a slave of me. She chose the dirtiest floor just for me and made me crawl to clean up thoroughly, yelling “Not enough! Do it over!” repeatedly. I felt her revenge so strongly. Given the hatred and now the revenge, I deepened the mystery of Catholic sisters…
Posted in Hidemi's Rambling

A Japanese Girl in The Catholic School of Kyoto 1

Episode from My School Days in Kyoto: A Japanese Girl Found Her Own Way  by Hidemi Woods

HidemiWoods.com

Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total

As all the people around me professed Buddhism and Shintoism, I had never been exposed to Christianity until I entered junior high school. The junior high I attended was a private Catholic convent school and most teachers were nuns. Since I had never had any contact with nuns before, they were nothing but mysterious to me. They lived together in a convent next to the school and wore a veil. They were called like Sister Catherine or Sister Patricia although they were Japanese. Until I got used to them, I had always wondered about the small basics. Do they have an ordinary Japanese name? Do they really stay single for life? Are they bold under a veil? Yes, yes, and no, I gradually learned the answers.

I had studied English quite hard to catch up with other students who came from the same convent’s elementary school that gave them a head start in English education. One teacher, called Sister Judith, happened to know that and kindly found a pen pal for me. While students mostly didn’t like sisters, she was an exception. She was popular because she was friendly and beautiful. Students also respected her since she graduated from one of the most renowned universities in Japan and was the smartest sister at school.

The school had the very rigid rules for uniform. If an irregular bag was spotted, it would be confiscated. I carried my personal small bag into school one day in addition to the big uniform bag, and Sister Judith caught me. She said she had to confiscate it and I begged her not to. I promised her I wouldn’t use it for school ever again. She decided to overlook my breach for once out of consideration for my emotional plea. As a stupid teenager, I was defiant to pretty much everything. I believed nothing good existed in this world. So I took my irregular bag out of my uniform bag again as soon as I passed through the school gate after school that day. I was walking toward the bus stop with the bag dangling. Someone called out my name from behind. It was Sister Judith. She didn’t return to the convent as usual and left for an errand on that particular day.

She didn’t confiscate my bag, though. Instead, she was crying. “I trusted you and that was why I let you go. But you betrayed my trust. I’m bitterly disappointed in you,” she said quietly and walked away. I felt it was much better that she yelled at me and took away my bag…

Posted in Hidemi's Rambling

an old Japanese custom

Episode From The Girl in Kyoto / Hidemi Woods

HidemiWoods.com

Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks, 43 available distributors in total

There’s an old Japanese custom called ‘Age of Thirteen Visit’. A child who reaches thirteen years old by the traditional system of age reckoning visits a specific local shrine to receive wisdom. The important event has one critical rule. The thirteen-year-old visitor should never look back until they pass through the shrine’s gate after the visit. If it happens, wisdom they’ve just gotten is returned. Every time a topic of the visit was brought up by some chance in my childhood, my mother would strictly instruct me not to look back when my visit came. It had become a repeated threat for me. After those years, I reached eleven years old, which is thirteen by the traditional system, and the day for the visit arrived. I was so tensed and nervous because of years of my mother’s threat. I got dressed up with kimono and my mother put a wig on my hair to make me look grown-up. While I was greedy enough to look forward to getting wisdom, I was anxious about looking back as much. From the moment we left home, my mother kept reminding me not to look back at the shrine. As the pressure had accumulated, a sense of panic had been built inside me. By the time we prayed at the altar in the shrine and started leaving, I was panicky. On the spot about only several yards to the exit gate, I couldn’t stop myself and looked over my shoulder. I blundered away my once-in-alifetime visit. My mother made sure I didn’t look back when we passed the gate. I lied and said no. On our way home, we dropped by my aunt’s house. She noticed that I was wearing a wig. But when she pointed it out, my mother instantly denied it. I didn’t understand why she had to lie about such a small thing like a wig, but she just insisted it was my real hair. My aunt slipped beside me when we were about to leave and asked me if it was a wig. Although I said yes indifferently, she triumphantly uttered, “I knew it!” She sounded as if she had beaten me and I felt annoyed. I hated my mother’s totally unnecessary lie. And as for me, I went through a terrible teenage life with my own trifling lies. I believe that was because I had returned wisdom at the shrine on my Age of Thirteen Visit…

Posted in Hidemi's Rambling

relic of the foolish fuss

Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps.
Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total.
 
It took my partner and I the whole past year to put together a book by  selecting stories about my family from ‘Hidemi’s Rambling’, writing some  new stories and re-editing them. When the book was close to go on sale,  my partner found out about Amazon Breakthrough Award and was lured on  to an entry for it. His excitement about it was caused by a $50,000  advance for the winner. There were several qualifications for the entry.  Firstly, it had to be fiction. Secondly, no selection or collection  from what had been already published was allowed. Lastly, it’s author  had to be one person. We pondered a lot and came to the reluctant  conclusion that we regarded our book as an “I” novel although everything  written in there was what really happened. Also, we decided to stop the  publication of our existing ‘Hidemi’s Rambling’ e-books at Kindle. We  cleared the two qualifications, but the last one was a toughie. Since we  had published everything in the name of 88th Planet that is a unit  name, we needed to change the author name to my name, Hidemi Woods. That  drew an argument between us over who wrote the stories. They were mixed  with what I wrote on my own from the beginning to the end, and what my  partner chose interesting experiences of mine, wrote down outlines in  Japanese, and then I constructed them to the whole story in English by  adding details. Considering his involvement, it wasn’t fair to eliminate  his name from the author. To make it consistent, we also considered  using my name for our music in place of the unit name. We had been  talking about it seriously for a few weeks. Ridiculously enough, we even  talked about how we would split the prize money of $50,000. I had been  moping for the demise of ‘Hidemi’s Rambling’ e-books even though they  hardly sold. When we settled on Hidemi Woods for the author name and  everything for the entry was prepared at last, my partner found out that  there was a length qualification. Our book was simply too short for the  entry. We were brought back to our senses and gave up the entry. I  regretted our useless deliberations and felt disappointed about losing  $50,000 that we wouldn’t have won even if we had entered the  competition. The funniest thing was our desperate attitude toward a blog  that we had started as a break from music in the first place. Our  e-books are on sale as before and the new book has been published, as  non-fiction, but in the name of Hidemi Woods like a relic of the foolish  fuss…