a younger sister

The goal of my OC marathon is drawing near. I watched another three episodes of ‘The O.C. Season 2′ today. They were about Ryan’s brother. I have a younger sister with whom I don’t get along at all. After a number of unpleasant incidents over the years, I’ve developed a terrible relationship with her. I don’t even talk to her anymore. When we were kids, I took care of her because my parents were busy with work. I looked after her carefully, teaching her to have fun, but she has grown to be a proud and prim adult, and, above all, to be my parents’ favorite to live with them in my hometown. Sometimes I wonder what I did wrong with her. And I know they wonder vice versa, what went wrong with me…

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 paranoid traveler

My OC marathon is going on. I watch three episodes of ‘The O.C. Season 2’ every night before going to sleep. PCH often appears on the show. Before I lived in OC, I had visited there as a traveler. First time in OC, I transferred a local bus at the entrance of Balboa Island on PCH. There was nobody but a man wearing sunglasses at the bus stop. He talked to me about the bus being late. As a person who fears everything, I started panicking with bad imaginations. What if he is a serial killer? I’m wearing cheap clothes but he must know I’m a traveler and have traveler’s checks. Isn’t this a perfect place for murder with no buildings or people around and just the bush behind the bus stop? I was about to be sure I would be killed here by this man, when he began to rummage through his big bag. Now I was more than sure it would be a gun. My fear culminated when he held out something to me. It was a pack of biscuits. I got three packs for a dollar! Good deal, huh? Take one, I’ve got plenty!, he said, and the bus came. He was just a kind, friendly man and I was a paranoid traveler. Those were the best biscuits I’d ever had…

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

born in that shabby van

I awoke exhausted. I felt all energy was drained out. My strain of the holiday season had snapped and I thought that was the reason. Finally I found a website where I could watch US TV shows in Japan for free and I watched ‘The O.C. Season 2’ online last night. As they have an expiration date for viewing, I watched three episodes at a stretch before going to sleep. Another possible reason for exhaustion is the intense hearing of English for many hours. My physical strength is not enough even for TV…

 The expiration date for free online viewing of ‘The O.C. Season 2’ is approaching and that led me to an OC marathon. I watched three episodes today too. Watching ‘The O.C.’ evokes my memories because I used to live in OC. My apartment was in Anaheim and I would often go to the mall in Newport Beach. A big difference between my life and the show is that I didn’t get there by one of those gorgeous cars. I always took the free shuttle van of the mall. The van was a completely ragged, worn-out vehicle which seemed to be a miracle to run so fast on Interstate 5. The windows, interior, the floor and the door all clattered and looked on the verge of falling apart. In a way, it was totally a thrill ride. But I should thank that van for what I owe. My new song for which I have been working now was born in that shabby van…

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

the smell of the U.S.

Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV on Pexels.com

I went to Costco again today. I had a hot dog and a slice of pizza at the food court there for the first time. They had incredibly low prices and had the exactly similar taste to the ones I used to have in the U.S. The store also has the smell of the U.S. I think people living there don’t ever notice but supermarkets of the U.S. have unique smell, which is very different from Japanese supermarkets. I could tell instantly by the smell which country’s supermarket it is even if I entered blindfolded.

While I was eating at the food court, I felt back in time when I lived in the U.S. The similar taste and smell gave me an illusion that I still lived there. But one big difference reminded me that this was Japan. The clerks have good attitudes. The hot dog came with an all-you-can-drink soft drink that Japanese food courts don’t have, and I didn’t get how to draw a straw from the container. While I was confused in front of it, a man standing next to me nimbly pushed down the bottom receiver and a straw came out. Now I recollected the American way after being embarrassed…

Episode From Surviving in Japan by Hidemi Woods

Audiobook: The Family in Kyoto: One Japanese Girl Got Freedom by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple Books, Google Play, Audible 43 available distributors in total.

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

compact America

Photo by Cindy Amimer on Pexels.com

Since I shopped at Costco for the first time, I’ve been still in shock at their low prices and thinking about it all the time.

I had decided to move out this apartment after getting some signs for that and had narrowed down the possible areas. But none of them has Costco nearby. I can’t give up the pleasure to shop at those low prices. And it’s a rare store where I can get products from the U.S. that I really like. Inside Costco, there is a very small, compact America. It’s the easiest way to visit the U.S., in a way. Now that I knew Costco and became a member, I should move to the area close enough to shop there.

So, my selection of the place to live went back to the starting point. Costco is beginning to take control of my life…

Episode From Surviving in Japan by Hidemi Woods

Audiobook: The Family in Kyoto: One Japanese Girl Got Freedom by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple Books, Google Play, Audible 43 available distributors in total.

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

Montreal hr637

I wish I could live in Montreal. That’s the thought which frequently enters my mind. Yet I don’t know why it should be Montreal for myself. As a person who was born and grew up in Japan, I had had only a little vague knowledge of it as an Olympic venue of ancient before until I first visited it. I even didn’t choose it as my travel destination for the city itself. I’m an avid Formula One race fan and had been looking for an alternative race to go to see other than the one held in Japan that was too costly and poorly managed. The circuit with the most convenient access from a downtown hotel was located in Montreal, that was the simple reason I chose to go there and a start of my love for the city.
Twenty hours later after I left my apartment in Tokyo, I got off the airport bus in downtown Montreal past midnight. I was headed with my partner for the hotel I had booked that was a 10-minute walk away. My Japanese acquaintance has once told me that he got mugged in downtown Los Angeles and was robbed of his wallet, shoes, and even a tooth capped with gold. I recalled it and thought I was doing the stupidest thing to walk pulling my big suitcase in a strange city, in the witching hour of night. Then I saw someone while I was waiting for the traffic lights at a quiet crossing. A teen-age girl wearing a mini skirt appeared from nowhere and crossed the street humming merrily and dancing ballet. The sight of her gave me a sense that Montreal might be a safe, relaxing and enjoyable city. And it proved true.
I had lived in Southern California for four years before and I imagined that Montreal was quite alike since it was also in North America. But actually, it turned out to be a totally different place. Virtually everything – people’s appearances, values, the way of living and a cityscape – was far from alike. When I lived in California, I believed that life is a competition and that a happy life can’t be attained without success. I had been all worn up with that belief. My work as a singer-songwriter didn’t go well accordingly and I ended up moving back to Japan for a financial difficulty, broken-heartedly. But Montreal’s beautiful cityscape and its fashionable locals who enjoy life not with caring about money but with a laid-back attitude healed me. I fell in love in this city deeply enough to stay for a long period of time repeatedly.
Of course familiar flaws and problems existed since it’s not heaven. I too much often received a wrong change when shopping. One shop clerk surprised me when he gave me a handful of change without counting. He saw my dubious face and added one more handful of coins. I was also surprised that ordinary-looking people begged for small change. A young woman who seemed to be an ordinary house wife asked me to spare change while she was pushing a stroller with a baby in it. Or a bunch of young decent boys asked for change casually while they were having fun talking and laughing on the street. I glared at them for caution when I passed by, and they apologized to me. It seemed like it was their custom or routine to ask for money in passing. I wondered why they would do so in the city that didn’t look jobless nor degenerate. Come to think of it, I had spotted people idling and just sitting on the steps to an apartment in the daytime so many times. Commute traffic jammed at as early as 4 p.m. which looked so odd to a Japanese in whose country the train around midnight is running full with commuters. While I appreciated the city’s peacefulness with no tension of racism or success, its too-easy-going atmosphere sometimes irritated me. But it was probably too much of a luxury to ask for more. Before I was aware, I wished to settle in Montreal and work on my music there. My wish was to be crushed afterwards however, because reality was harsh.
I remember my happy days in Montreal every time I watch Canadian GP on TV. The city’s skyscrapers over the circuit ask me through the TV screen if I can come back someday. I desperately cheer myself up, telling myself that I can, I want to, I’m supposed to. On one Canada Day in the future, while I’m watching the mega-sized fireworks at the head of the Old Montreal pier with my partner, my eyes will be filled with light and shed tears of joy.

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.
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.

the smell of the U.S.

I went to Costco again today. I had a hot dog and a slice of pizza at the food court there for the first time. They had incredibly low prices and had the exactly similar taste to the ones I used to have in the U.S. The store also has the smell of the U.S. I think people living there don’t ever notice but supermarkets of the U.S. have unique smell, which is very different from Japanese supermarkets. I could tell instantly by the smell which country’s supermarket it is even if I entered blindfolded.

While I was eating at the food court, I felt back in time when I lived in the U.S. The similar taste and smell gave me an illusion that I still lived there. But one big difference reminded me that this was Japan. The clerks have good attitudes. The hot dog came with an all-you-can-drink soft drink that Japanese food courts don’t have, and I didn’t get how to draw a straw from the container. While I was confused in front of it, a man standing next to me nimbly pushed down the bottom receiver and a straw came out. Now I recollected the American way after being embarrassed…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Every time, I lose.

What is the sweetest sound for you? Mine is the sound of a credit card having been successfully processed and of a slot machine ringing for a win. I watched ‘Ocean’s Thirteen’ today and heard the latter in the last scene. I have never been to Vegas, but have been to the casino in Montreal. Every time, I lose. For consolation, I persuade myself that the money is deposited for a future jackpot. While keep depositing, I doubt if the day I withdraw from that account ever comes…

You’re number one

When I lived in California, I would often visit Disneyland Hotel, as it was only a few blocks away from the place I lived. One day I had a meal there and went into the rest room. There was a cleaning lady working at the washbowl. I have the habit of thanking and nodding to them and I did so to her at the time as usual. Our eyes met and she gazed at me. I was about to wash my hands but her gaze stopped me. I was puzzled and watched her. She said, “You’re number one.” It was one of the most perplexing experiences of my life. That has mystified me ever since. I’m number one of what? When? I haven’t seen any sign of number one concerning me…