an old vintage bus

As the summer holidays began in Japan, an old vintage bus has been running for sightseeing spots in the area I moved in. Its one-day pass is $3 and I tried it for the first time the other day.

What appeared at the bus stop was a cool hooded bus with the ‘50s or ‘60s style. A conductor was aboard, who collected money for the ticket and announced each stop. The bus’s interior remained of its old one and the unfamiliar cab and the dashboard excited me immensely. But once it got going, it jolted violently for old suspension and made my body jump in the seat up and down, right and left, although it was running on asphalt. The heat was also unbearable since the bus wasn’t equipped with air conditioning. I glimpsed how hard traveling was in the past. While I appreciated authenticity of the bus, I was tired from the uncomfortable ride. Maybe there are some kinds of vehicles that are suitable not to be gotten in, but to be looked at, like this bus or a Formula One car.

Watching the quaint bus going through my new neighborhood, I couldn’t help feeling a little sad because it matched well with the town, which meant my new town looked as old as the bus itself…

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

my new habit

I had never been an early riser. I liked to sleep so much and it wasn’t unusual for me to sleep for 10 to 12 hours. Sometimes I despised myself for that. But, since I moved in my new place, I’ve gotten up quite early in the morning. Especially this summer, I’ve slept for moderate hours and woken up early every day.

The reason is obvious. The apartment building where I live now has a spa for the residents and it’s open in the morning for the summertime. Because I pay the monthly service charge for my apartment that includes the spa fee, I can’t afford the luxury not to use it. The sense of a possible loss wakes me up every day just before the morning spa hours are up.

It’s like I gain an enormous appetite whenever I eat at an all-you-can-eat restaurant. The fear I may lose money if I don’t eat as much as possible makes me eat over my limit. My stinginess has finally gone over my mentality and started controlling my physical state. As I haven’t accustomed myself to my new habit of rising early, my condition hasn’t been so good, though. While a spa is supposed to be good for health, it can have a reverse effect to 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

it’s not easy to keep up with it

I found steel shelves on sale at an online store $10 off, for which I had been looking for some time. Its physical store was near my home and I had gift certificates that would give me 30% off to shop there. Adding up the discounts, the shelves would be the lowest price of the market. My strategy to get it for that price was ordering it online and paying with the gift certificates at the physical store.

The middle-aged clerk who took care of my payment at the store wore a name tag that said he was a store manager. But he didn’t know the way to take the gift certificates for the online order and began to grapple with a cash register. He was trying hard for 15 minutes but just couldn’t do it. I gave up too, and decided unwillingly to pay with my credit card instead of the gift certificates since the $10-off for an online order still stood. Then, much to my surprise, he now couldn’t find the way to handle a credit card for the online order. He called a young salesclerk who immediately logged in the computer, retrieved some sort of a code number and nimbly made it available on a cash register to be paid with not only a credit card but also the gift certificates.

While we have many choices for our actions as technology advances, it’s not easy to keep up with it. The store manager would be in a mess again if he didn’t learn from the young clerk how to handle a computer and a cash register for an online order. Because now that I know how to get the lowest price, I will shop in the same way soon…

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

you dread anyway whether it sells or not

My sister always wanted to be a writer but she has settled for being a local government employee.

In a dream I had the other night, my sister said, “I haven’t written anything because I dread that my work won’t sell.” And I replied, “Even if it sold, you would dread that your next work wouldn’t sell while people around you expect a great deal. So, you dread anyway whether it sells or not.”

I woke up and was marveled at what I said in there. In my real life, I’ve never thought that way while I’m craving success in my music career where nothing has sold. I heard my subconscious talk in the dream. That made me think. If I dread either way, it’s meaningless to be disappointed at myself who is still an unknown or to be impatient to make a hit. In fact, too many artists with a big hit got caught by alcohol or drugs and died young.

As an artist, it’s ideal to create music at my own pace without any pressure and hold on. Having said that, I can’t shake off a stupid desire to make a big hit and show off at a high school reunion in front of my old friends who ended up housewives…

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

Lazy and Talented hr666

I started taking piano lessons at the age of four and had continued on and off until I was fourteen years old. Yet, not a single classical piece exists that I can play properly. There are several clear reasons for that.

Photo by Do The Lan on

To begin with, the motive for the lesson was wrong. My vain mother bought the piano as a symbol of wealth not to play it but to show it to visitors although she really hated music. Then she assumed she would be ashamed if someone noticed the piano in our house stood exclusively for a decorative purpose and she decided to make me play it well. I took lessons at my mother’s order, not from my own passion. At first, a neighbor woman who had played the piano when she was young came to my house regularly to teach me. With an introduction from her, I got into Kuribayashi Piano School before long.

The school held a recital once a year at the big hall in downtown. My mother would invite her parents to show the pretty dress in which she clothed me. She would make me practice so earnestly for this once because her vain couldn’t allow me to fail on the stage in front of a large audience. It used to be a big night for my family. The piece for each student was picked up according to their skill by Mr. Kuribayashi every year. Gradually, year after year, the students who were much younger than I was were assigned to much more difficult pieces than mine because I had developed my skill too slowly due to lack of practice. The spot of the students in a recital was decided in ascending order of difficulty of the piece, from the easiest to the most difficult. Consequently the best student of the school played last in the recital. In this order, I had become next to a small boy by the time I was a junior high student. The rehearsal was taken place in the large living room of Mr. Kuribayashi’s home. When my turn came and I sat in front of the piano, I found the chair was too high as the player before me was a small boy. I tried to adjust the chair but didn’t know how. I struggled for some time while other students were quietly waiting and staring. I became panicky with embarrassment. I was all of a sweat jiggling the chair for the time I felt eternally. I glanced at Mr. Kurubayashi for help. He was just watching without a word. At that moment, I suddenly realized. I had long been not his favorite any more. How could I have not known for such a long time, about such an  apparent fact like this, I wondered. Amid terrible embarrassment, horrible disappointment gripped me. A girl who was about my age became unable to just watch my embarrassing fight with the chair and came up to me. She adjusted the chair for me in a flash. That girl was assigned to the last spot of the recital that year, which meant she was the best student. She beautifully played her piece, Chopin’s ‘Fantaisie-Impromptu’ that I believe is the most difficult piece for the piano in the world. When I listened to her play, I felt embarrassed further for my low skill and my longtime self-conceit. And I was clearly convinced that she was the favorite of Mr. Kuribayashi. Immediately after the recital, I left the school.

While I liked music so much that I wanted to become a professional singer someday, I loathed practicing the piano. My older cousin who was good at the piano visited our house one day and asked me to show how much progress I had made so far in playing the piano. I couldn’t understand why she tried to ruin her visit that I had been looking forward to. As I had imagined, she pointed out flaws in my play and began to teach me by which the day was ruined for me. Before I knew it, the keys went blurred because I was crying. She was shocked to see it and apologized repeatedly, but seemed puzzled why practice gave me so much pain. I shared her wonder for that matter.

As I hated practice that much, lessons at Kuribayashi Piano School became a torture. I took a lesson once a week, but I often didn’t touch the piano for the whole week until my next lesson. I was such a lazy student who was always short of practice. Nevertheless, I was somehow the favorite of my teacher, Mr. Kuribayashi. He liked my playing that was stumbled almost constantly, and kept admiring me by saying “You’re talented.” While I was playing, he often hummed along and danced to it. He hadn’t been in good spirits like that with other students. He instructed them strictly and sometimes scolded them. My younger sister started taking lessons a few years later and going to the school with me. Unlike me, my sister was a diligent student and practiced playing every day at home. In one lesson, after Mr. Kuribayashi danced to my usual bad playing and uttered his ‘You’re talented’, in my sister’s turn he slapped my sister’s hand and yelled at her, “No, no, no! It’s not like that! Not at all!”, which drove her to quit the piano for good. On the other hand, he had never scolded me. He was pleased with my play no matter how badly I played. He just showed his frustration saying, “If only you would practice…” Even when I was lazy enough to come to his lesson without cutting my nails, he would quietly hand me a clipper and tell me to be ready while he taught another student. Since I was too dependent on his ‘You’re talented’ and fully conceited, sometimes it took months to finish one piece and move on to another. In those cases, Mr. Kuribayashi would say, “Let’s change the mood, shall we?” and introduce me to a different composer’s piece for lessons, but would never scold me even then.

Ironically, I have never hated playing the piano. On the contrary, I’m fond of it after decades have passed since I quit lessons. While I still don’t practice, being able to play Chopin’s ‘Fantaisie-Impromptu’ remains one of my far-fetched dreams to this day.

gigantic, perfect rainbow in an orange twilight sky

The area that my new apartment is located in is regarded as a sightseeing spot. I visited one of the tourist attractions nearby. It was a small theme park situated at an altitude of 3,000 feet in the mountains and the aerial rope way transported the visitors. Attractions of the park were a garden with alpine plants, go-carts, miniature golf, petting goats, restaurants and that was pretty much it. It had much less attractions in much smaller space than I had expected.

There was intermittent rain during my visit and the low cloud hung over the park. It grew even lower and white cloud slowly covered me. Along with sparse visitors and unfamiliar flowers and trees, I had a weird sensation of being in the hereafter.

When I came home, I saw a gigantic, perfect rainbow in an orange twilight sky from the window. Since I moved in here, I’ve encountered strange things that had never happened to me before. Life has been so different from the one I led at my old apartment in the Tokyo area that I can’t think I live in the same world.

Perhaps, I might have died from Japan’s earthquake in March and wandered into another world since, like the characters in ‘LOST’. Seeing nature all around me everyday makes me feel that I’m a trivial entity, and that the high mountains, rivers and woods have a will to make unusual things happen…

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

totally opposite values

Last Sunday, a gunning engine noise from the parking lot beneath my apartment woke my partner up early in the morning. It was loud enough to be mistaken for a construction noise, but the culprit was a middle-aged man who was gunning his standing minibike. He seemed to enjoy the noise immensely and kept on the disturbance for a good fifteen minutes. Then, there approached a car from which a man said something to him. Considering the time and the noisiness, my partner reckoned that should be a complaint. To his surprise though, it was a compliment on the minibike and the middle-aged man elatedly showed it off.

Not everybody takes that loud noise as a disturbance. Such situations have constantly fallen on to me. When I’m tormented with shrieking kids at a restaurant, other customers often seem pleasant for it. I like to shop at a quiet, empty place while others purposely choose a crowded, thronged place.

Is it some kind of a punishment to coexist with humans who have totally opposite values? Or, is it for learning anything from it? Although I hate noisy people and I always make noise as little as possible, I may offend someone with something other than noise. That would explain why people don’t like me so much…

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

saving on electricity

This summer, people in Japan are fussing about saving on electricity because the accident of the nuclear power plant after the earthquake triggered a nationwide shortage of electricity. Japanese people love to endure something together with everybody in unity and they seem willing to cooperate with the request of the government and the power company to save on electricity. They voluntarily switch to appliances that consume less electricity or fix a thermostat temperature for air conditioning higher.

I hate doing something together and have no intention of reaping the harvest of the power plant’s fiasco. But since I moved out my old apartment where the electricity charge was included in the rent and started to pay the charge for my new apartment, I have coincidentally saved on electricity purely to reduce the bill. I replaced all light bulbs in my apartment with LED bulbs and use electric fans instead of an air conditioner that I don’t have. It’s ironic that I’ve joined the electricity-saving frenzy just because I’m cheap.

By the way, I’ve been looking for a solar-powered lamp at online stores lately. There hasn’t been the one practical enough at a reasonable price on the market yet. If I got one, my electricity usage for lighting could be close to zero. I’m fascinated by the idea not for saving on electricity but for saving my money…

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

Now that it’s not available

The region I newly moved in is situated at comparatively high altitudes. Therefore, it’s a little cooler than a suburb of Tokyo where I used to live. There has been no need to use air conditioning at night so far. The problem is the daytime. Although it’s obviously hot since it’s the summertime, making do with an electric fan isn’t impossible. Because I’m having my first summer here, everything is new to me like how hot it’ll get or how many rainy days we’ll have. I had been undecided about buying an air conditioner and went take a look at it at a nearby home improvement store.

For my apartment, an air conditioner can be put in only on the window frame not on the wall, but all the air conditioners of a window-frame type had been sold out. I looked it up on the Internet, and they had been also sold out at discount appliance stores. Now that it’s not available, I feel like I should have bought it earlier. Some online appliance stores still have them at the list prices, but getting one without a discount means for me to admit I failed to seize the opportunity. Now I fully intend to persuade myself that air conditioning is not necessary in this summer no matter how hot it is…

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