Mt. Fuji

Mt. Fuji is regarded as a symbol of good luck.
Looking out the window of my apartment, I
can barely see the top of Mt. Fuji far away
after the leaves fall off from the trees nearby.
It’s a season I can see it, but I haven’t been
able to find it this year where it’s supposed to
be. My partner told me that he has seen it for
some time. I looked and looked for the unique
shape of Mt. Fuji which was hardly overlooked.
Then I noticed that the branches of the trees
near my apartment had stretched upward.
They block Mt. Fuji at my eye level but not at
my partner’s who is much taller than I am. No
matter how hard I jump, I can’t see the top.
I am too short for good luck…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

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

threw away my past

As I’ve been packing my stuff to move out this
apartment, various things of sentimental value
to me have come out from the back of the
shelves. I’ve lived here for nine years and
forgotten about most of them since I stored
them away. Some are no longer useful, but
when I clear them out, I feel as if I threw away
my past. That makes me melancholy.
Occasionally, I find some money. It’s like I
get a bonus for packing, but it’s simply what I
stashed by myself in the first place and not
what I newly gained. Mostly, what I find are
numerous room slippers and old broken
appliances. I don’t understand why I kept so
many slippers without using. Packing and
moving requires a great deal of labor and time.
Worst of all, the broken appliances appear one
after another and discarding them is costly. I
have to pay for each one of them just to
dump…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

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

His big secret

While I was packing my stuff to move to my
new place, I inadvertently dropped a scale
model of a Formula One car yesterday. It’s a
McLaren MP4/6 with Ayrton Senna in it, and
handmade by my American friend who made it
for me and gave me as a gift a long time ago.
A rear wing, a front flap, a mirror and a
steering wheel came off. The model is so
elaborate and the repair seems to require
delicate work. I’m not so confident of repairing
it as good as it was, and felt depressed.
I talked about it to my partner later, and he
hinted it had been already broken before I
dropped it. When I asked him what he meant,
he guiltily confessed that he had once dropped
it by himself a few years before. Because the
damage was on the opposite side of the
display, he hadn’t told me that to this date. His
big secret was out. I felt a little easier to find
out that I was not to blame. But it remains
broken all the same…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

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

snowed very heavily

After a quarter of my furniture arrived at my
new apartment, I returned to my old place. It
snowed very heavily on the day of my
departure. When I was about to leave the
apartment, it stopped snowing once, and I
walked to the nearest train station instead of
calling a cab. The moment I got to the station,
it started snowing again, even more heavily. I
was waiting for the local train at the platform,
seeing a surreal view. Everything was entirely
covered with snow and it seemed as if there
was nothing but mountains. Only a vast white
ground spread out between the mountains and
me.

I felt like I was in the movie ‘ Fargo’.
The train didn’t come after the arrival time
had passed. The station was unmanned as it
was too remote, and no announcement was
available. I thought it was delayed by heavy
snow. Time went on. I began to feel uneasy
because I had a bullet train to catch at the
terminal station. There was a man who was
also waiting for the train, and he used the
station’s emergency phone to call the terminal.
He kindly came back to me and let me know
that the local train service was suspended due
to snow. I called a cab with my cell phone, got
to the terminal and barely caught the bullet
train for which I had the reserved ticket. I had
never been in such heavy snow in my life. Can
I really move in and live in the place where it
snows hard enough to stop the train…?

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

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

a different world

As the process of moving, I went to my new
place for the second time. The area was
covered with deep snow this time and it looked
like a different world. I got to my new
apartment on foot from the train station,
walking along the sidewalk sandwiched
between the plowed snow walls. The snow
walls were my shoulder high and I’d never
seen this much snow in my life.
As soon as I arrived, I got down to cleaning
the room. I spent first two days cleaning the
stained carpet. On the second day, I was to
receive several boxes I’d sent from my old
apartment. Looking at the heavy, ceaseless
snow, I was afraid that my boxes wouldn’t
reach here, but they came all right, to my
relief.
On the third day, I went shopping for food.
To get to the supermarket, I needed to take a
train, and I walked along the snow walls to the
station again. I concentrated on my steps not
to slip when an icicle dropped from a lamppost
right before me. I got almost skewered. All the
way to the supermarket, I was busy watching
up and down, for my steps and icicles. That
was awfully similar to an advanced stage of
Mario Brothers. It was an ordeal just to get to
a store. On top of that, my toes became icy as
slush had seeped inside my supposed-to-be
waterproof boots that I’d bought specially for
this trip. You can’t make light of snowy
country…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

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

bargain hunter

I check the TV listings online everyday. I found
a TV show that featured the town I was
moving to. I was looking forward to it in front
of the TV. When the show started, I realized it
was about how to live inexpensively after
retiring.
The town was introduced as the area that
had many budget apartments where retirees
with a drastic income drop could afford and
save money. The show chose a couple of
apartments as super money-saver ones of all
others. To my surprise, my new apartment was
one of them! Seeing the exact building I was
about to move in on TV, I felt delighted and
embarrassed at the same time.
To sum up, the apartment I selected is one
of the best bargain apartments located in the
least expensive area in Japan. It proved my
discerning eye as a bargain hunter, but also
declared my new place was the cheapest in the
country on national television. I have a low
income, all right, but I’m not retiring…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

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

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.
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.

I can’t apply my policy

The apartment I currently live in is furnished,
and the place I’m moving to isn’t. That means
I need to get appliances.
First, I bought a microwave oven. And
now, I’ve been looking for a washer. To get a
large appliance like it is quite tricky because it
needs to be set up inside the room. Almost all
retail stores have restrictions on delivery. They
don’t deliver large appliances to isolated
islands or mountainous regions in Japan, or if
they do, they charge extra cost. My new place
is located in the mountains and right among
the restricted areas. There’s a way to shop at a
local store to avoid those delivery restrictions,
but the town I’m moving to is so small to have
only one electrical appliance store. And since
it’s not a chain store, I would pay the list price.
I usually have a strict policy to get something,
which is to get at the lowest price on the
market. But I can’t apply my policy to getting
large appliances this time. I have to give
priority to a store that delivers to my place
over a price. Combined with the extra charge,
the price gets higher and higher. It’s not my
style of shopping, but I have no choice.
Following a bear’s attack, obstacles to live in
the mountains have emerged one by one…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

My junk

I can’t throw things away. Because I’m easily
attached to my belongings and also I’m thrifty,
I keep things for a possible future use, just in
case. As a result, my tiny apartment has
become even smaller with junk such as wornout

clothes, cracked shoes and sundries that I
don’t know what they are for anymore.
As I’ve started moving to my new place, I
realized how time-consuming packing all the
junk was. Packing one cardboard box a day is a
maximum addition to my daily life. So, my
moving process is horribly slow. With this
speed, I can’t even imagine the day I finish
packing everything into boxes will ever come. I
feel like it lasts forever. But the longer it takes,
the more money I end up spending, because
I’ll have to keep paying the rent for my old
apartment. My junk, which I’ve kept to save
money in the first place, took advantage of my
weakness and began to take money away from
me…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Loneliness Is My Norm hr635

The nearest grocery store from my home is a 25-minute walk away. That small local store carried a sale on eggs at one dollar for ten. I walked there with my partner to get them. Since my town is so small and rural, there are usually almost no pedestrians on the streets. Except that cars are passing by sparsely, I hardly see anybody. But on our way back home from the grocery store, I saw a woman standing by a field and watching wild flowers. It was rare to see someone on the street. As I was getting closer, I perceived her looking at me with her face filled with a big smile that was totally familiar to me. I knew her.
She used to be a resident in the apartment building where I live. We often came across and shared some time together at the communal spa in the building. She is much older than I am, but we somehow got along well and chatted heartily every time we saw each other at the spa. About six years ago, she moved out of the apartment to the different one in the same town. I unexpectedly felt so sad because I had regarded her as if part of my family unconsciously since we met and talked almost everyday. However, when I saw her for the last time and she tentatively hinted her suggestion to exchange contact information and invite me to her new place, I just chickened out and dodged a reply. I wavered tremendously but didn’t have courage to step into a new friendship. We parted without even asking each other’s names. The spa had become quiet ever since. Occasionally from nowhere, a thought about how she has been doing came up to my mind while I was taking a bath with no one to chat. I regretted my decision not to be friends with her. I missed her more than I had thought.
And I saw her again after those years by this incredible coincidence. I jumped for joy to have bumped into her like this. Her big smile and loud laughter hadn’t changed a bit and she told me how she had been doing. After we chatted for a while, I sensed the time to say good-bye again was approaching. And I was swallowed by one single thought: Should we exchange contact information this time? I ran through a scenario in my head. If I asked her info here, she would expect me to get in touch later. Then if I got in touch with her, she would invite me to her place. Then if I went to see her, she would expect me to invite her back in my place next time. Then if we found little left to talk about, we would be distant gradually. Then if it broke off, I would regret my contact exchange of today retrospectively. While I was trying to see the future, she also tried to judge my feelings and tentatively brought up a plan to see each other again, like deja vu. The time to decide had come.
I had missed her. I had wanted to be friends with her. I made a wrong decision last time and this could be the second chance falling from the sky. On the other hand, I had too many bitter experiences about friendship and wanted to add no more. I felt harsh loneliness every time I lost friendship. The closer my friend and I were, the harder it was to be estranged. I tend to have high hopes and expect too much for someone I make friends with, that usually leads to painful disappointment when she or he doesn’t meet my expectation. I had had many friends and lost them. For me, getting along well isn’t enough to build friendship. I need to respect someone as a friend. People change. Once I can’t respect my friend any longer, my friendship is over. I also need to be accepted as who I am. That’s why most of my friends left me when I decided to become a musician. I wonder how I could ever start a new friendship as long as I know how I would feel when it ends. Disappointment would be huge this time all the more because I like her. I couldn’t bear the loneliness it would bring.
Since I was a child, I have struggled to escape from loneliness. I had searched for someone to get along, thought I found one, and realized I didn’t. Repeating the cycle had accumulated loneliness. I reached the point to afford no more loneliness long ago. But in the course of my life, I’ve got the solution. I think loneliness may be overestimated and it’s not so bad if you see it from a different perspective. Sometimes loneliness is freedom. Sometimes it’s self-esteem. It works for me to stop looking for the way not to be lonely, but accept to be lonely instead. To fend off loneliness, be lonely already.
I didn’t ask her contact information and neither did she mine after all. We said our good-byes without giving names again. We waved and resumed our ways in opposite directions. Immediately the blame on her crossed my mind that she should have pressed on our contact exchange. If she had cornered me and I had had no choice, I could have told. Why didn’t she simply ask me so that I could answer? No, I reconsidered, it was better as it went. I felt her kindness more than ever not to ask me and walked on with holding a lot of fresh eggs.