Marriage in Japan hr634

I went out for lunch with my partner at a cafe the other day that stood across the train station in a Japanese desolate rural town where I live. To call it a cafe is a bit too fancy. It’s not the likes of Starbucks but rather a small old mom-and-pop diner that was built well over 30 years ago and remained as it was, which perfectly matched this old town itself.
We sat at the table and overheard a conversation from the table next to us. Three old women in their eighties sat around the table by the window. “She has passed away, too.” “This could be the last time we get together.” Although they were exchanging a downright sad conversation, they were talking in a matter-of-fact way and their chats were lively.
While we were eating a salad with watermelon that came with our main dishes of curry and rice with a fried pork cutlet, a family of three came in. A boy about ten years old and his parents in their thirties sat at the table near ours. As soon as their orders were taken, the boy started reading one of comic books that the diner placed for customers, and his father went outside to smoke. His mother was staring into space.The father came back in when their dishes arrived on the table but they didn’t talk while they were eating. Except that the parents occasionally said something to the boy separately, there was no conversation between the parents. After they finished eating, the father went out again to make a phone call, the boy played with diner’s puzzle toys, and the mother stared into space again. I saw through the window the father talk with someone over his phone pleasantly while smoking and laughing. He came back in and also began to play with a puzzle toy. I thought it was much more fun for him to have lunch with a person on his phone.
Quite too often, I see a married couple having almost no conversation at a restaurant. I wonder if people stop talking each other when they get married. While they must have clicked each other enough to get married in the first place, what makes them fall silent? Since I have never been married, I have no idea whether it’s because they have changed or they have lost interest in each other after marriage. The closest married couple I know is my parents, which means my knowledge about marriage is a generation old. My parents are from farming villages in Kyoto that is the oldest city in Japan. According to the old custom, their marriage was arranged by their families’ intention not their own. Inevitably, they were strangers with no affection whatsoever. In my childhood, my mother used to say, “I wouldn’t have married such an ugly guy like your father unless he had money.” Times have changed, and people get married by their own will in Japan. Nevertheless, if a couple who liked each other finds it difficult to talk once they marry, I don’t understand what marriage is for. The mystery deepens still more.
The family of three left hastily after they were done with the toys and staring. The party of three old women ordered refills of their soft drinks repeatedly and lingered at the table with their conversations, as if they were reluctant to leave the diner.

decision making spoiled my appetite

After I saw the outside of the buildings, I met a real estate agent who showed me the available room in each apartment.

For a room in the apartment which was under refurbishment, she offered a 20 percent discount because the carpet and the wallpaper in the room was damaged. As the room had been my first choice anyway before I came here and I have a weakness for a discount, my mind was almost set on that place. The thing was, as I wrote here once, the available rooms of that building were concentrated on the fourth floor in the east side and this room was among them. Even after I saw the building and the room with my own eyes, I couldn’t find out what was wrong with the fourth floor.

I checked in a hotel and went to have dinner at a restaurant in the hotel as the stay included dinner. Since it was a budget travel package, I didn’t expect the food at all. But the dinner was probably the most gorgeous feast I had ever had. It included all-you-can-eat crabs, tempura, steak and shrimps. Ironically, fatigue and tension for decision making spoiled my appetite and I was able to eat only little.

At night, I couldn’t sleep either from a sense of claustrophobia because the mountains and the woods closed down the area. I asked myself if I could really move in this area, let alone on the enigmatic fourth floor…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

photograph showed things much better

I transferred the bullet train to the local train to the area where all three apartments of my choice were located. There were no passengers but me on the train although it was a weekday morning. The station was an unmanned small shack. I walked along shabby houses, used-to-be shops and rice fields and found one of the apartments among them.

My first impression was that a photograph showed things much better than they actually were. The building had looked a lot more gorgeous in the photos on a website. I walked on and soon found the other two apartments. One was under refurbishment and I couldn’t see it from the outside. The other stood nearby and I saw a half-naked old man sitting idly on a balcony, who was a kind of person I didn’t like to have as one of my neighbors.

I took a rest on a bench, wondering if this trip had already become a fool’s errand…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

budget travel package

My apartment hunting has come to a climax. Last weekend, I went to see the places of my choice in the countryside where I had never visited before. I had found a budget travel package online that paying only for train tickets made a hotel stay, dinner and breakfast all free.

It was a 90-minute bullet train ride and to take the bullet train, I got to the downtown train terminal. I hadn’t been downtown for years and was shocked by its filthiness. Years ago, my English friend once said that she was amazed at how clean it was when she first came to Japan. Now, time has changed that and litter was everywhere on the streets.

But once the train left the terminal, I was supposed to enjoy a beautiful countryside view from the train window after a while. Since it was a super discount travel package, the trains and the seats were specified beforehand. The bullet train was a double-decker. My seat was on the first floor from which I could only see people’s feet on the platform from the train window. Although I expected the countryside would come into view after departure, low soundproof walls standing along the railroad track blocked scenery all the way…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

casino in Japan

There is no formal casino in Japan. Instead, there are innumerable pachinko parlors all over Japan. A pachinko is a very popular Japanese gambling game that is partly like pinball and partly like slot. They buy small silver balls to play with, and the machine brings out the balls if they win. They exchange the balls for money or items like cigarettes and chocolates. For some reason, it’s not allowed to exchange directly for money. They get a certain strange item with their balls once, and exchange it for money at a small dark hut behind the building. A pachinko parlor is sort of a mix of a casino and a game arcade. It has a large number of pachinko machines side by side in aisles and exists around almost everywhere people live.

Sadly, it doesn’t make people a millionaire. By playing all day, they win a few hundred dollars at most. As for me, I’ve never played a pachinko in my life. My life itself is awfully like gambling and I’m bogged down with it completely…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

They must think using the word ‘environment’ makes them a saint.

The rent of my apartment includes utilities, which means I can use them as much as I want. Since it’s murderously hot everyday, I’ve spent most of time inside my air-conditioned apartment, working for music and watching America’s TV shows. A few days ago, there was a note in my mailbox from the management company of this apartment.

It said that even though it’s utility-included, my usage has been so excessive that they may charge me unless the usage drops to an ordinary amount.

Well, I do have my say on this. First of all, I need air-conditioning more because my room is a duplex apartment and the roof is merely nailed iron plates that conduct heat extremely well. It’s their fault, not mine.

Secondly, who decides the ordinary amount? Japanese people are obsessed to categorize everything and they don’t allow someone or something sticks out. I hate to be categorized and fight against it all the time here. They should accept there is someone who works at home during the night and sleeps in the daytime.

Thirdly, the note asked me to care about the environment. They must think using the word ‘environment’ makes them a saint. It was them who had chosen iron plates for the roof! Before they start charging me, I really need to get out of this apartment…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

locked me up in my apartment

It’s been one of the hottest summers in history of Japan. Surely it’s the hottest summer in my life. The daytime high often reaches over 95 degrees and that has locked me up in my apartment. To make the most of a day like this, I placed an order of groceries at an online supermarket and had them delivered today.

They carried a special promotion to give a customer a box of laundry detergent for free any $50 or above purchase. I had calculated carefully and made the total $50.48.

After the delivery person left, I noticed the detergent was missing. There was a piece of paper instead, that said one of the items I’d ordered was sold out and its price was subtracted from the total. As a result, the new total got less than $50. I felt furious and was on the verge of calling for complaint when I recalled the delivery person. In the midst of the unbearable heat, he came up to my door, carrying heavy grocery bags and boxes, yet smiling and being courteous. All I had to do was to receive them, and still, I was complaining about a dollar or so. I wonder why the smaller money is, the more persistently I pursue…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Too much kindness is a burden

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

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

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