how little I could do

The other night, I had a dream about joining
the military. I was going through various kinds
of training and failed each one of them. As I
couldn’t do any physical activities, the training
officer asked me if I could cook or wash. I
answered honestly I couldn’t do either. The
officer asked my former profession and I told
him that I was a singer-songwriter. He
suggested me to be in the entertainment
division, but I refused because I didn’t like to
perform in front of people. There was nothing I
could do. Then, for some reason, I was
deployed to Afghanistan. And I woke up.
It was a wild dream but the part that I
couldn’t do anything satisfactorily was a fact.
Getting out of bed, I realized again how little I
could do. It’s a wonder I still survive in this
world…

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.

my last pride

I usually get prepared foods at half price at a
supermarket after they give up on selling them
at the list prices as the store’s closing time
draws near. I know very well the exact times
when they put half-off stickers on the leftover
items for several supermarkets near my
apartment.
As I’ve been shopping this way for years,
some of the shoppers have become familiar to
me. At several different supermarkets, the
people jostling for half-off items are usually the
same line-up, including me. They sometimes
get acquainted with each other and exchange
information. Although I am, without doubt, one
of them, I don’t feel like joining the half-off
circle. When I find familiar faces, I always
pretend not to notice and try to look away
from them. It seems my last pride while
enjoying shopping at half price more than
anybody else.
I saw one of familiar half-off shoppers at a
supermarket the other day. She’s the one I see
almost every time I shop during the half-off
time. That evening, she was returning some
half-off items to the shelf, looking into her
wallet carefully. I thought I saw what I should
not see because it was one of the saddest
sights to me that someone was calculating the
rest of money for what they wanted to buy. As
soon as she left the shelf though, I picked the
items she had unwillingly returned and put
them into my basket, as they were goodies.
While buying them was completely legal and
nothing unethical, I couldn’t help feeling guilty
somehow…

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

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

bears and monkeys

Recently, there has been more and more news
about bears and monkeys that appear in town
and attack people all around Japan. It’s said
that they come down from the mountains for
food, as there has been less food up on the
mountains due to the climate change and
deforestation. The area I live in now is animalfree

so far, because there aren’t mountains nor
woods around, just too many crazy people.
But at last, I heard the news that a bear
appeared in the area I’m moving to. My new
place is in the country with numerous woods
and fields, surrounded by mountains. A bear
was spotted in a field and a man got injured.
Terrifyingly, the field was quite close to my new
apartment and I think I walked beside it last
time I went to my place and was on my way to
shopping. That reminded me of a couple I saw
on the street then. They were walking with
tinkling bells. I knew that a bell worked to keep
from a bear encounter and I thought they
came back from hiking in the mountains. But
now I know they were tinkling bells for the
exact spot. By moving, I intended to be rid of
people, but never thought I would live among
bears instead…

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.

unbelievable twist

About my apartment hunting, I’ve written up
to the point that the owner of the room wanted
to consider his or her price, which had been
offered as 20 percent off by himself or herself
in the first place. Two more weeks have passed
and the owner offered 10 percent off. Since I
was going to pay the full price to begin with,
10 percent off was still a good deal to me. I
answered to take it.
Then, the situation took an unbelievable
twist, again. The real estate agent asked me to
pick my convenient days for a contract among
several days in the end of October. That means
it would take two months to close the deal
since I decided on the room. At first, I thought
it would be done in a week because the
process was simple – look at the room, make a
decision, sign a contract and pay. How could it
be possible to spend two months for this easy
process? At this stage, it should be done only
by signing a contract, and yet, they need three
more weeks just to do that.
Meanwhile, I noticed the owner had placed
an ad for the very room I applied for on a
different real estate company’s website. The
room remains available there. Now, a suspicion
crept into my mind. Is the owner waiting for
someone who wants the room at the full price
and prolonging the deal on purpose? But that
someone was me because it was the owner
who offered the discount while I didn’t ask for
anything. Whatever the plot is, it’s beyond my
comprehension. I wonder when and how the
whole thing is settled…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

What kind of game are we playing?

Here’s an update on my ongoing apartment hunting. After I saw the room and deliberated, I decided on the place which price was 20 percent off. A week after I submitted the application form to the real estate company, its agent told me that she hadn’t been able to reach the owner. A few days later, she called me again and said that she finally contacted the owner. But she asked me to wait a little more as the owner wanted to consider the price. From then on, both the agent and I have been just waiting. Now I noticed absurdity.

The 20 percent off price was offered by the owner in the first place, not by me. Is he or she considering his or her own price? And is he or she going to decline the price by himself or herself? What kind of game are we playing? Two weeks have already passed since I applied for the room. I have no idea how it unfolds hereafter…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

it’s close to the limit of my patience

Despite the ceaseless agitation that Japan’s population has been decreasing and its birthrate has critically dropped, a population explosion has been happening in my neighborhood in particular.

People keep moving in, kids keep being born, and houses and stores keep being built. Only the space around me is the exception of a Japanese trend. The more the people, the higher the odds of crazy ones.

I introduced here my neighbors who used the street as their own yard and let their kids shoot hoops from the busy street to their house. The noise of a bouncing ball was so annoying and I dropped a note to stop in their mailbox one day. It worked and I had retrieved peaceful sleep for a couple of weeks as I usually sleep in the daytime. A sad fact is that crazy people don’t learn. They resumed playing basketball on the street last Sunday and I had to drop the note again. This neighborhood was once quiet and sparse, but now, it’s close to the limit of my patience…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods