You’re not crying, are you? You’re just clearing your eyes, right?

My father was an attentive father. He treated
me so nicely throughout my childhood. My
mother didn’t like how he treated me because
she believed he was just spoiling me. Every
time he did a nice thing to me, she got angry.
To avoid her anger, he had learned to give me
a treat without her presence.Near my home was a temple famous for the
five-storied pagoda, and a fair was held along
the approach to it once a month. A relative of
ours had a booth at the fair and my father
helped carry merchandise every month. He
never forgot to get some toys for me there
when his work was done. There was no greater
pleasure for me than seeing him entering the
house, waving some play house items to me.
Of course he was scolded by my mother when
she caught it.
I usually slept beside my grandparents and I
had suffered from chronic insomnia in my
childhood. Once in a while, I had a happy
occasion to sleep with my parents when my
grandparents were on their trip. On one of
those occasions, my mother was taking a bath
when my father came to futon next to me.
Since my parents didn’t know about my
insomnia, he was surprised I was still awake.
He thought I couldn’t sleep because I was too
hungry. Not to be caught by my mother, he
stealthily got out of the room, sneaked into the
kitchen, made a rice ball and brought it to me.
He told me to finish it before my mother came
out of the bathroom. Seeing me devouring it,
he said that he had never made a rice ball by
himself before and didn’t know how. It was
surely the ugliest rice ball, but the most
delicious one I had ever had.
My mother also didn’t like to see me cry. She
had told me not to cry because crying made me look like an idiot.

While my little sister cried
all the time, I tried not to as hard as I could.
But as a small child, I sometimes couldn’t help
it and my mother would get angry with me for
crying. In those cases, my father always said
to me, “You’re not crying, are you? You’re just
clearing your eyes, right?” I hadn’t noticed
until recently that there are the exact words in
my song ‘Sunrise’. I’ve put his words
unconsciously…

an awkward atmosphere

My father’s hair started thinning in his late
twenties and he has become bald by his mid-thirties.

As a child, I knew him only as a bald
man. One day, I came home from school, and
found that my father’s head was full of hair all
of a sudden. I was so surprised that I asked
him what had happened. “Nothing,” he replied.
I rushed to my mother and asked the same
question. She said, “His hair grew back today.”
I wondered how long I had spent at school. My
conclusion was a toupee, except for which
there was no other explanation.
But my mother bluntly denied it. She
reiterated his hair had simply grown back in
one day. From her tone, I sensed that this was
a sore subject I shouldn’t mention further.
Back then, it had been my favorite trick that I
quietly slid the bathroom door open and
startled my father while he was taking a bath.
I played the trick one evening and saw him
covering his removed toupee frantically with a
basin. Unfortunately, the basin rolled down
from the toupee, making it lay bare. His
embarrassed eyes met mine. I closed the door
without saying a word and never played the
trick again.
I had lived with an unaccustomed-looking
father in an awkward atmosphere for a next
few weeks. Then, his toupee days came to an
abrupt end and he returned to a bald man as if
nothing had happened. We’ve never talked
about it to date.
A couple of years ago, I had a chance to see
my cousin and we talked about our childhood
memories. He said he hardly remembered his
childhood, but did remember one thing vividly.
His only memory was that my father showed
up at his house wearing a toupee…

Episode From An Old Tree in Kyoto /Hodemi 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

my yukata

My hometown is in Kyoto, which is a popular
tourist destination in Japan. There is a big
historic festival called Gion Festival in summer.
Because it attracts visitors all over the world
and the venue is too crowded, my family had
never gone out to see it.
When I was in high school, my friend
suggested hanging around the venue on the
eve of the festival. The evening of the eve is
also a popular attraction with the parade floats
parked on the street. To go there, it was
common to wear a yukata, which is a casual
kimono for the summer season. I didn’t have
one of those and asked my mother to get one.
Before the festival, she bought a yukata for me
so that I could go. I liked its design very much.
Usually, a yukata had a pattern of morning
glories or goldfish, but mine was unique and
fancy with a fireworks pattern. It became my
treasure as I wore it again a couple of years
later for the festival with my first boy friend.
Meanwhile, after my younger sister failed the
TV talent show audition, she hadn’t stopped
learning Japanese dancing against my wish. My
mother convinced her that she failed because
we were late for the audition that day.
According to my mother, the judges weren’t
taking enough time to see how talented my
sister was. So, she had still taken lessons in
Japanese dancing. It’s danced with wearing a
kimono and for practice, with a yukata. My
sister had some yukatas as her casual practice
wear for the lesson.
One evening, when I was left at home as
usual, my sister came home with my parents
from a lesson. She was wearing my yukata.
She used my treasured fireworks yukata as
her casual practice wear. I cried, “It’s mine!”
My mother explained she was out of fresh
yukatas and made her borrow mine for that
evening only. They were too insensitive to care
about my feelings toward her Japanese
dancing lessons and my yukata. I’ve never
worn it since then…

Episode From An Old Tree in Kyoto /Hodemi 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

TV talent show

When my younger sister had learned Japanese
dancing for a couple of years, my mother
decided to get her on a local TV talent show.
Unlike me, my sister was always my mother’s
pride for her prettiness.
To be on the show, there was an audition in
a city, about 20 miles away from our home. My
father was going to drive them there. I
assumed they would go with just three of
them, leaving me behind as usual. For this
particular occasion though, I felt rather happy
not to join them because I had borne a grudge
against Japanese dancing since my mother let
my sister take lessons not me. But my mother
had the nerve to demand me to come with
them to the audition, saying that it was a huge
event for my sister and I should show support
for her.
I got in the car, not for her audition but for a
possibility to eat out at a restaurant on our
way back, which we hardly did and the three of
them might do without me. My mother was
never punctual and we were already late by
the time we left home. From then, things were
just like the movie, ‘Little Miss Sunshine’.
When we got there, the registration was
closing and the judges were leaving. My
mother desperately begged for the audition.
They reluctantly allowed it with the obvious
intention of making it finish quickly. After my
sister danced for a few seconds, they stopped
the music and said thank-you. I kept asking
my mother if it meant she passed or not while
my sister gloomily undressed.
When my mother admitted my sister failed, I
felt over the moon. I thought justice had been
served. I was in an utterly good mood and was
saying, “Let’s eat out! Which restaurant shall
we go?” all the way in the dismal car. My
parents and my sister were too depressed to
respond to me and we ended up going straight
home. I couldn’t get to eat out after all…

Episode From An Old Tree in Kyoto /Hodemi 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

I was an outcast in my family

My mother used to take lessons in Japanese
dancing. A woman in the neighborhood taught
it in the evening to the neighbor housewives at
her house. They held an annual public
performance and my mother would practice
earnestly at home when it came closer. My
sister and I used to imitate her and dance
alongside her.
I liked it and danced quite well. I was in
junior high school and my sister was still in
elementary school. Since my sister came home
from school much earlier than I did, my
mother would take her to the lessons and let
her wait and watch there. My father gave my
mother a ride for every lesson. So, my parents
and my sister would go out together once a
week while I was left in the house with my
strict grandparents.
Soon, my sister began to take lessons as
well. I felt it extremely unfair because it was I
who danced well and should take lessons. I
complained to my mother as hard as I could,
but she never paid attention. The junior high I
attended was so far from my home and I
couldn’t come home by the time they left for
lessons. My mother made no effort for me to
ask for a late lesson to the teacher. It seemed
she simply wanted to go out with just three of
them once a week. Even in an instance of
Japanese dancing, I was again an outcast in
my family. I wonder why it kept happening to
me all the time…

Episode From An Old Tree in Kyoto /Hodemi 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

always tinged with disappointment

The house where I spent my childhood was very old. Half the floor in it was bare earth and my family lived like in the way of the Wild West. With our shoes on, we walked around the house and ate meals. It was all right to throw away the rest of a drink from a cup directly onto the floor.

 My father used to smoke. When he smoked, he would light a cigarette with a match and toss the match to the dirt floor. It burned itself out. That is probably my earliest memory. I remember a thrown match was burning out on the floor and I said “Ah…” According to my parents, I uttered “Ah…” every time my father threw away a match as if I didn’t approve it. And my tone was always tinged with disappointment. I guess I was already cheap as a child and couldn’t bear a thing to be thrown away after just one-time use. I was nagging at my parents about everything all my childhood, and even my earliest memory is something critical about my parents. No wonder we’ve been on bad terms for such a long time…

Episode From An Old Tree in Kyoto / Hodemi 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

mean to her

My younger sister won the first prize of a local
poem contest for elementary school students.
Her poem appeared in the local paper and
many people read it. The title was ‘My Mean
Big Sister’.
Back then, every time she saw my face, her
habit was to say “Play with me!” As I liked to
spend time alone, it had been an endless
torment. Her continuous play-with-me chant
would often drive me crazy and I tried to
escape from her as much as I could. Her poem
described how coldly I snubbed her whenever
she felt happy to see me at home, and that
was highly praised. To congratulate her, I told
her that she owed me for this prize because
her poem wouldn’t have existed if I had been
nice to her. I added that my meanness proved
right and so I would try harder to be mean to
her. Needless to say, she got on the verge of
crying and ran straight to my mother as usual
to tell on me…

Episode From An Old Tree in Kyoto /Hodemi 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

money has wings

One day in my early teens, I heard a scream
from my younger sister’s room. My mother and
I went in and my sister was crying over the
open drawer of her desk. She said her money
was gone. She had stashed all her money in an
envelope there by saving her allowances and
money as New Year’s gifts from relatives. She
had thought the total amounted to well over
$1000 and had decided to count for the first
time in a long time. But there was less than
$500 and she was devastated. My mother
lulled her by explaining that was how money
was gone. While spending a small amount of
money on candies and snacks at a time, it
accumulated a big amount in total. “That’s why
we say money has wings,” my mother said to
her. But my sister insisted she had never
bought candies that much and never wasted
her money like that because she loved to save.
My mother’s theory wouldn’t change though,
and she kept telling her that money
disappeared slyly while we were unaware. She
said, “You learned an important lesson today.
Now you know what is money.”
Quietly seeing my sister cry hard and say
repeatedly that was impossible, I had a clear
idea what had happened to her money really.
It was I who had regularly stolen her stashed
money. I was in junior high school and my
allowance was always short for what I wanted.
I was constantly in a battle with my mother for
a raise and denied. While there were countless
things in the world that I wanted to buy, my
sister wasn’t interested in buying at all. So, her
money was useless and I did a favor by
spending it instead of her. My sister’s money
had wings all right, and brought me a lot of
records, posters, concert tickets and
accessories. Neither my mother nor my sister
had the slightest idea what I had been doing.
And they still don’t know about this…

Episode From An Old Tree in Kyoto /Hodemi 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


It’s no good!

I had a dream about my sister last night. In
each and every dream about her, she takes
my parents away from me. She’s four years
younger than I am and I still remember the
time when she was born. Although everybody
told me that I must have been very happy to
become a big sister, I felt gloomy more and
more as my mother’s due date was drawing
near.
I strongly wished my sister would never be
born because I knew grown-ups’ attention
would leave me. And I was right. She was born
to be my parents’ favorite. My mother
especially stood by her all the time, both
physically and mentally. I was sent away to my
grandparents’ room to sleep with them. My
mother’s arms and lap were always occupied
by my sister and I was constantly driven away
to my father.
Only consolation for me was my
grandfather’s attitude. Because Japan was
excessively male-dominated – it still is, in my
opinion – he was bitterly disappointed that his
newly born grandchild was a girl again. He
kept complaining about it to his neighbor
friends, saying “It’s no good! A girl again! No
good!” For that matter, he had six
grandchildren in all and none of them was a
boy. I regard it as a curse.
My sister still gets along well with my parents
as their favorite, lives with them in my
hometown, and they brag about whatever she
does while they criticize for whatever I do. To
this day, they remain taken away from me by
my sister. It can be a good thing for me,
though…

Episode From An Old Tree in Kyoto /Hodemi 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

Doll’s Festival

The Doll’s Festival in Japan is for celebrating
girls and they decorate old style dolls on
stepped shelves. The festival I had when I was
12 years old coincided with the day to know
whether I passed or failed the entrance
examination for the best private junior high
school in the city. In Japan, each candidate is
given an applicant number and a school
releases the numbers of the passed ones on
big boards put up in a school.
After excruciating two years that I attended
the supplementary private school for the exam
additionally after finishing a whole day at the
elementary school, I was reasonably confident.
I went to see the announcement boards with
my parents and my younger sister. It was a
big day for my family, as the result would more
or less decide my future.
In front of the boards, I was astounded. My
number wasn’t there. I failed. On our way
home, we stopped at a bakery for cake for the
Doll’s Festival. While my mother and my sister
went in the bakery, I was waiting in the car
with my father. It started to snow. I still can
vividly picture those snowflakes falling and
melting on the windshield. I had never felt so
devastated before.
In the evening, my mother took a bath with
me and she wailed saying “I’m so
disappointed!” again and again. Because I
wasn’t used to seeing her crying, my despair
turned fear. The fear that I made a fatal,
catastrophic error. Since then, every year on
the Doll’s Festival, I remember that year’s
festival…

Episode From An Old Tree in Kyoto /Hodemi 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