Too much kindness is a burden

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My partner is very attentive and observant. And often, he is too much so. He does good things to me that I don’t ask for. Mostly I’m happy about it but sometimes it gets on my nerves. As what he does or says is always for me, I feel like shouting “Leave me alone!” He anticipates what I want and does that beforehand. Although I want to have things done to my own liking, he does them for me before I go about it and requires my gratitude.

Yesterday, he cleaned the stairs of my apartment in his way that was different from the way I was going to clean them. And he pushed his kindness to me as usual. I didn’t thank him because I had sensed that what he always claimed to do for me was actually for himself. In my view, he should thank me for letting him do in his way. That threw us into a fight. Too much kindness is a burden…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

After a few days of depression

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Apartment hunting that I’ve been doing for a few months now leads me to think a lot about my future. Since the choice has to do with how much I can afford and how long I intend to live there, it’s inevitable to make a long-term plan.

For a person like me who doesn’t have a steady income, that’s extremely difficult. As the basics, I started with the worst-case scenario. It reasonably excluded some fancy apartment from my picks, and boosted fear for my future. I realized once again how uncertain my future was. Of course, there is still a possibility the best-case scenario will come into play, but if not? I might end up being a lonely old woman with no place to live. That depressed me so bitterly. After a few days of depression, I decided not to think about the future for a change, and began to live a day at a time. It worked for me. I’ve felt easy and full since then…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

I think it’s worth trying

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I installed Cubase to my new computer for mastering of our new song. I’ve decided to do the mastering by myself instead of taking it to a professional. Basically, I don’t trust those who are so-called professionals or authorities. I believe I can do better. After working on the song for seven years, I don’t feel like leaving it to someone in this very last process. It might hit a dead end, and then, I’ll turn to an expert. But until then, at least I want to try and I think it’s worth trying.

On the other hand, by doing so, it’s become uncertain whether the song should be completed by the end of this year…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

there’s nothing I can do about it

I spent the whole day giving much thought to the apartment that I’d found. There are numerous cons about the place, but moving in a better place with my low price range seems impossible. I looked for solutions for the cons – the soon-out-of-order water pipes and the broken boiler, except for the neighbor who is wanted for murder, as there’s nothing I can do about it. Thanks to the Internet and my partner’s unconventional ideas, I reached the solutions at the end of the day. I was so excited and happy that moving in that gorgeous apartment was getting feasible.

  I got up this morning only to find out that the place had been just taken. I hope you can imagine how disappointed I am…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Kanji hr655

Hope Kanji T-shirts by HW

I came across a website on which custom-made T-shirts, caps and tote bags are made and sold worldwide. Since I have been in a financial crunch lately, I could make and sell T-shirts with my poor drawing on them there. I browsed others’ merchandise which designs looked professional and like works of art. Looking at them, it was obvious that my daub had no part to play there. I tried to look for some other possible designs of my own.

It was when the idea of kanji struck me. Kanji means Chinese characters in Japanese and one of three character sets used for Japanese. That character set is prevalent in Japan and most Japanese names contain it. My name also consists of three kanji characters. When I lived  in the U.S. and Canada and my signature was required at shops or other businesses, the salesclerk who looked at it curiously often expressed how cool it was. I sometimes saw a person wearing a T-shirt that had kanji on it, but mostly it didn’t make sense or it had an awkward meaning. That was probably because someone who didn’t have enough knowledge about kanji made the shirt easily. While I understood that the person wearing it didn’t know her or his shirt was telling an absurd thing to the public, I couldn’t help giggling secretly. I even spotted those who tattooed that weird kind of kanji. As a native of Japan, I thought I could make kanji merchandise with proper meanings and decided to give it a try.

Every kanji has its meaning. For instance, my first name is comprised of two kanji characters one of which means ‘excellent’ and the other means ‘beautiful’, and they are read ‘Hidemi’ together. Because of the character’s meaning, my name is embarrassing, I admit. Japanese parents put their expectations and wishes into a name when they name their child. A child’s name reflects their parents’ taste and personality. They wish her or him to be gentle, or to be kind, and they choose the corresponding kanji for their child’s name in most cases. Sometimes a name seems destined specifically for a politician, or a name aims to endure life. As for my partner’s name, its meaning is to be dutiful to one’s parents. Both his parents have already deceased and whether he fulfilled their wish or not is uncertain. Japanese people have to live with carrying bittersweet names on their shoulders.

When I was little, I asked my grandmother on my mother’s side what kanji characters were used for her name Fuki. She told me that Fuki was her nickname and her real name was Fukiko by three kanji characters with the meaning of ‘wealthy’, ‘noble’ and ‘child’ respectively. I had sent her a New Year card or a Christmas card every year by that name with those kanji characters for decades until she passed away. When I attended her funeral, I saw a placard hung at the entrance of a small shabby prefabricated funeral home. It showed whose funeral this was. Although the funeral took place according to officially registered documents, my grandmother’s name on the placard wasn’t what she had told me. Her name was actually Fuki, not Fukiko, and kanji wasn’t used for it. There is a different character set in Japan called katakana, which represents only sound without meaning like the alphabet. Her real name was in those characters, not in kanji. I asked my mother if she had known that. My mother said she also had thought her name was Fukiko in kanji since she was a child. I wondered how many family members of hers had known her real name. At least her own child and grandchild hadn’t. I suppose that she wanted to be wealthy and noble, for which she chose the kanji characters, and named herself.

I chose kanji for my first custom-made T-shirt. They mean ‘hope’. 

residents is wanted for murder

As I’ve been constantly looking for an apartment online, I found a pretty good one again. It’s located by a lake near Mt. Fuji and it’s spacious, furnished and Western-style. Usually, this kind of property is far above my price range, but this one is discounted considerably so that it dove into my range.

The catch is that the building is very old by Japanese standards. It’s 36 years old. Still, it’s the most gorgeous place I could possibly afford. I gathered information about the area, such as the climate, restaurants, shops and most importantly, the train and bus schedules because I don’t have a car. I decided to go to look at the room and sent an e-mail to the real estate company for an appointment. Meanwhile, I bought a train schedule book and made a precise plan to go there as a weekend trip.

A reply from the real estate company included the more detailed information about the apartment. Because it’s old, the water pipes may give out at any moment. The boiler is broken, too. To finish up, one of the residents is wanted for murder. It’s not the one again…or, is it…?

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

my excitement was gone

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My apartment hunting is still going on and I found the best pick so far online last night. That could be it. It looked so attractive and I got excited enough to prepare for going there to close a deal first thing in the morning.

There was some time before dawn and I looked up on the Internet about the property. Plenty of information was there, most of which were complaints about the superintendent of the building. All complaints seemed to refer to the same person and I became doubtful whether I could live in a place that such a bad person manages. While I read on the complaints, a different one caught my eye. A low flow of a shower. It was the last blow. By the time the morning dawned, my excitement was gone…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

low price always has its reasons

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I shopped at the discount supermarket that I’d recently noticed its existence again. Their usual prices are at the level of special sale prices at other supermarkets. They also have their private brand at even lower prices for beer, noodles and wine. Meat is cheaper than the half-price one at other stores. I get the meat there with further discounts because of the imminent expiration date, so that the price is unbelievable for meat.

It’s open 24 hours and I can go there any time I want without worrying about its closing time. It’s a perfect place to shop for me if not one particular thing – the music played in the store. They play Japanese hit songs annoyingly loudly. Their problems are they sound like a patchwork of fragments from hit songs of U.S. that were popular ten years ago. Their Japanese lyrics are particularly horrible with childishness. I try not to listen to them but it’s loud enough to beat any defense like earplugs or portable music devices. I don’t want to be contaminated, so I have to leave the store quickly each time. Being unable to enjoy shopping leisurely is the catch of this otherwise great store. The low price always has its reasons…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

lucky or unlucky

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When I left for Costco yesterday, it started raining slightly. I thought how unlucky I was. I could have returned home but I didn’t want to waste my time to have prepared for going out and went on. By the time I got off the bus to walk to Costco for the rest of the way, it had stopped raining. There seemed a big downpour during my bus ride. I may have been lucky after all. On my way home, I missed the bus. I thought how unlucky I was, again. But by taking the next bus, my subsequent connections for the train and the buss went incredibly smoothly. I may have been lucky again.

When I went to bed that night, I felt numb in my left arm and I feared that I would die from a stroke during my sleep. Thinking how unlucky I was, I fell asleep…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods