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

Regret and Decision hr639

If I could go back in time by a time machine, I would most certainly choose one summer day in my senior year of high school and redo that day.
In the summer of my senior year, I had been in the final stage of study for the entrance exam to the leading university in Japan. My love for music was the biggest obstacle for study and I tended to lapse into listening to rock and pop records on the stereo easily. Since I spent too much time in music instead of study, I determined to stop listening music until the entrance exam was over. I pulled the plug of my stereo off the outlet, paste it on the wall of my room along with a handmade poster that said ‘Patience!’ in capital letters. I tried to devote everything for a life at the best university in Japan.
I was an avid fan of a Japanese band called Tulip. Most albums and tapes I had were theirs. I frequently went to their concert that would give me a heavenly time. I had had to stop going there as well in that summer. So ironically, or almost fatefully I should say, Tulip was having the 1000th concert that coincided that particular summer of that particular year, of all summers and years in the calendar. It was a milestone big enough for them and their fans to be held at an amusement park that was reserved specifically for the event for the whole day. The amusement park was operated as ‘Tulip Land’ for the day, where paper cups and plates donned Tulip Land’s special logos and designs that were available on that day only, commemorative goods were sold, games and events connected with Tulip were held during the daytime, and the 1000th special open-air concert was held in the evening. As you can imagine, it was a dream event in which fans would drool all over. For me, it would be the day with Woodstock, Comic-Con and Disneyland combined all together at one place. It would be actually a dream. There was no way to miss it.
Back then in Japan, it was an era of so-called ‘Entrance Exam War’. Students with four-hour sleep pass, and with five-hour fail, that was a general rule for the war. Not individual ability but a name of the school one was graduated from decided later income and social rank in Japan. It still does. I think a social structure like that has brought this long economic decline to today’s Japan. In a whirlpool of the relentless era, I was an immature, foolish high school senior who was willingly sucked into the war to get a name of the university. In the depth of it, I had looked for any possible way to spare time for the dream event. It would be held in Tokyo that was over 300 miles away from Kyoto where I lived. It couldn’t be a matter of a couple of hours but a two-day trip. It would be crazy to waste two days in the middle of fierce competition like ‘Entrance Exam War’. I reached a heartbroken decision. I chose to study in my room instead of going to Tulip Land.
I had had gloomy days for a few months until the day of the event came. My dismal feeling culminated on the day. For the entire day, all I thought of was what was going on in Tulip Land. I glanced at the clock every hour and imagined what game was held by now. Is it a trivia quiz about Tulip? Or a lottery game for Tulip goods? Are fans sipping soda out of a paper cup that has ‘Tulip Land’ printed on the side? Has the concert started? By which song is it kicked off? Which song are they playing now? Are the fireworks showing? Is it done? Is it over now? I couldn’t focus on anything all day long. I spent the whole day in my room without studying at all.
At the end of the day, I realized I could have been there. I just might as well have gone to Tulip Land as wasted the whole day. I intensely regretted it and literally gnashed my teeth. I blamed myself for my stupidity. The size of regret appalled me so that I sincerely hoped never to feel this way.
I hopefully expected time would heal the regret. On the contrary, it had tortured me at length for months. The regret hadn’t been eased but deepened. It continued to ask me what I was doing, and the question had evolved gradually into why I was studying for the entrance exam, what going to the best university meant, whether it would bring happiness, and eventually, it began to ask me what I lived for. As I had grappled with those questions, I studied less and less. By the time of the entrance exam, I had lost interest in the university. Instead, I got a grip on what I really wanted to do.
I failed the exam not only to the leading university but to all the other famed ones I had chosen as a safety measure. Only one college of my worst-case scenario accepted me but I didn’t feel like going there. I decided to do what I want however society works or whatever people say because I simply didn’t want to experience that kind of regret again. All what I went through in that six-month period after one regret of Tulip Land set the course to take. I chose to live as a singer-songwriter.
Decades have passed, and yet Tulip’s 1000th concert pops up in my mind every time I think about regret. Tulip Land had never been held again. Since the band broke up and the guitarist passed away, it never will. I passed up the once in a lifetime event for sure. Time neither solved the problem nor eased the pain. I still agonize over how foolish I was not to go. In me, a word ‘regret’ stands for Tulip Land.

male-dominated

People like to label everything, and the school
name is very important for them. They
evaluate a person not by what they do, but by
the school they go to. So, to get in a renowned
school, students are prepared for years ahead
for their future. I wasn’t an exception among
those who were caught up in this stupid trend
a long time ago.
My mother was feverish to get me in the
best junior high school in the city where I grew
up. She didn’t want me to be a highly paid
worker at a big company in the future since
the society was male-dominated. She wanted
me to be in the best school out of vanity and in
order to boost the possibility for me to meet a
future candidate of a highly paid worker and
marry him.
I even took the entrance examination for an
eminent supplementary private school to
attend after classes of the elementary school,
to be prepared for an entrance examination of
a junior high school…

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

She had no place to go

My parents married by an arranged marriage.
Marriage used to be a knot between two
families, not individuals in Japan. A mutual
acquaintance introduced my parents to both
families with their photographs. Although my
parents didn’t like each other, the tie as the
family seemed favorable to their parents. My
mother agreed with the marriage very
unwillingly after the fortuneteller said that she
would handle money by the million if she
married my father.
As for my father, he reluctantly obeyed his
parents’ decision because he had never said
‘no’ to his father in his life. A month after the
wedding, my mother decided to leave my
father because she couldn’t stand to live with
his parents any longer. She went back to her
parents’ home but her father didn’t allow her
to come back. She had no place to go and
gave in to her dismal marriage. And I was
born. I wasn’t the result of a happy marriage,
but I embodied my mother’s resignation…

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

excellent and beautiful

My mother turns to a fortuneteller when it
comes to a big decision. Every big decision that
has fundamentally influenced her life was
made by a fortuneteller, including her
marriage. When my parents named their
children, they of course had a fortuneteller
choose the names. So, I was named by a total
stranger. My parents each had their own pick
for my name when they visited the
fortuneteller and they also had a few other
names as spares just in case. The fortuneteller
picked ‘Hidemi’ out of the spares, which was
neither of their picks. Most Japanese names
are written in Chinese characters. Each of the
characters has its inherent meaning. My name
is composed of two characters. The character
for ‘hide’ means ‘excellent’ and the one for ‘mi’
means ‘beautiful’.
In Japan, we are often asked the
corresponding characters to the name when
we give out our names. I always explain
“Hidemi as in excellent and beautiful.” And the
person who hears it almost always gives me a
wry smile. I know what they think…

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

do the exact opposite

When I was little and took a bath with my
mother, she said in the bathtub, “Never marry
someone with whom you fall in love.” In her
theory, marriage for love is a ticket to
unhappiness because love burns out quickly.
She insisted that I should have an arranged
marriage as she did. She and my father would
find a man for me and do all the necessary
background checks so that I’d be better off.
She also once said to me in the bathtub, “I
married your father because he was wealthy.
Do you think I would choose such an ugly man
like him if he didn’t have money?” When I
grew up, I learned that she had been seeing
someone before she met my father at an
arranged meeting, but she chose my father
because he was richer and had better lineage.
I think she dealt with the devil and sold
herself at that moment. Since then, she has
been unhappy and that made her a person
filled with vanity and malice. When it comes to
decision making, I always imagine what my
mother would do and do the exact opposite.
Since I adapted this rule, my life has been
easier and better…

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

test of courage

In my hometown, there used to be a night for
a test of courage for kids in summer when I
was a child. It was a small neighborhood event
that an adult volunteer set up a sign saying ‘A
Test of Courage’ at the entrance to a narrow
lane between the neighbor houses. Except for
the entrance, the rest of the lane was left as it
was, without any special scary decorations or
surprising effects. Enough nature still remained
in my neighborhood back then though, and a
ditch, bushes and shrubs along the lane had
sufficient effects in darkness to scare kids.
One summer dusk, I heard my grandmother
call me urgently when I was playing in the
yard. She grabbed me and ran into the house,
escaping from something. It was a ball of fire
drifting above us. That was the first time I’d
ever seen a will-o’-the-wisp, and I haven’t
seen one since. But to my family, seeing a

willo’-the-wisp wasn’t so rare. My grandmother
once saw it perch on a side mirror of a parked
car in front of our house. Scientifically, it’s said
that a will-o’-the-wisp is some phosphorusrelated

phenomenon. Near our house, there
was a graveyard where we had buried the
deceased from generation to generation, which
is now banned by law requiring cremation, and
we believed it had to do with a will-o’-the-wisp.
I had plenty of natural scary materials in my
childhood…

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


The 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

pick up my family’s ancestors

In mid-August, Japanese people get a few
days’ holiday for the ‘Bon’ Festival that is a
Buddhist event to ease the suffering of their
ancestors in the life after death. It’s believed
that their ancestors’ spirits return to their
home during ‘Bon’ and the family and relatives
get together to hold a memorial service and
have a feast.
When I was little, I used to go to pick up my
family’s ancestors with my grandmother at the
beginning of the ‘Bon’ period. The pick-up spot
was a small, ordinary vacant lot on the edge of
the hamlet. Our neighbors would also pick up
their ancestors there. At dusk, we lit incense
sticks there and carried them home, on which
smoke our ancestors were supposed to ride to
our house. Once we arrived home, the incense
sticks were put on the Buddhist altar, and that
meant our ancestors came in there. We
welcomed them with many plates of food on
the altar.
Although it had been an annual sacred event
for my grandmother and me, it was stopped
abruptly one year for good. When I asked what
happened to the pick-up, my grandmother said
that our ancestors had decided to come home
by themselves from now on. In hindsight, I
assume the real reason was because my
grandmother’s bad leg had gotten worse and
she became unwilling to walk to the pick-up
spot, or simply the vacant lot was replaced
with a new house and there was no pick-up
spot available. But back then, it didn’t make
sense even to a child that our ancestors
suddenly considered their descendants’
convenience and stopped requiring a pick-up.
What about an old custom we had observed for
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