I can’t apply my policy

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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

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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

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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

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

My Robot Band hr657

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Year of 1984 was one of the bitterest years of my life and also a major turning point. After I was able to join the band of a locally acclaimed young man, the band had been striving to become professional in Osaka, which is the biggest city in the western Japan. While I had unwavering confidence in the songs we wrote, we constantly had difficulty in finding desirable members. Except for him and me, other members had come and gone, and we couldn’t materialize our ideal sound with any of them. Even a gig was almost impossible with just two of us being permanent members.

My partner and I couldn’t waste any more time searching for apt band members who shared similar passion as ours and played exactly how we wanted. As the solution, we came up with the idea to use a rhythm machine and a sequencer in place of human members. Those gadgets were the cutting edge of music instruments at the time and had just appeared on the market. We thought they would be perfect band members who realized our sound as we requested because we were the ones that put data into them. We weren’t sure about the passion side of machines, but at least they would commit and wouldn’t quit like humans did. Because personal computers were still in the floppy disk era and not strong enough for music, we connected a rhythm machine, a sequencer and synthesizers with cables to play a gig. Added to the machines, I was on the keyboard and vocals, and my partner was on the guitar and vocals. There formed my robot band.

Although it had seemed perfect, we faced quite a few obstacles to play in the band with machines. Let alone it cost heftily and carrying them around by two of us without a car was a daunting physical challenge each time, it took enormous time to enter the whole data of our songs into them. As thumb drives or hard disk drives were yet to come, we needed to record special signals sounding like ‘beeeeep, bip, beep, bip, beep’ into a cassette tape to save the data. The data consumed one cassette tape per song, not at one go although the signals were long. I once inadvertently tripped on one of the cables which erased the whole data that I had spent all night inputting. The worse troubles awaited us at the gig. The innumerable necessary cables and cords made setting and preparation for my band far more complicated and time-consuming than other bands. One single wrong connection would break synchronization. On one occasion, the machines didn’t start and we couldn’t play but stood still on stage because one of the stage staff pulled out one cable by mistake. On another occasion, one of the machines suddenly uttered “Pi!” and went silent in the middle of playing. Furthermore, I needed to put a specific setting for each song on the several keyboards during every interval between our songs. Because the stage usually went dark between songs, it wasn’t easy to see the correct buttons and switches on my keyboards. A stage staff person once came up on the stage to help me with the setting by lighting over my keyboards with his lighter. The venue strictly banned any use of fire and he was harshly reprimanded for that afterwards because of me. Through those unpredictable chilling experiences, I basically feared every time if songs would start without hitches instead of enjoying gigs whenever I was on stage.

Still, harder trials existed. Other bands mostly consisted of college students who played as a hobby not for a career. Their attitude toward music was incredibly easygoing and they were just having fun on stage. Their songs were frivolous likewise. Yet, they were able to draw a large audience since they had friends on the campus so that their gig was usually a big hit with a livened up crowd. On the other hand, my band was just two people standing surrounded by numerous instruments and machines, and singing serious lyrical songs. Because we didn’t have friends to gather, the audience were strangers who had no interest in our playing and just waited for our gig to end.

That was also the case when we took part in a live contest. To make matters worse, a contest was sometimes fixed where the winner had already been decided. As I didn’t know that the contest was only held to give that winner the credential before the label signed a contract with the prearranged winner, I was appalled when we lost to a really bad but pretty singer.

I had gotten to loathe live performance by those experiences. Not just loathe it, but I had gotten to break out in a cold sweat on gigs. Since then, we have performed live less and less and have done none these days. I guess that shows how much I learned the hard way. To this day, the nightmares I have most are that I am playing on stage. However, my robot band has been transformed since it got off stage. The machines turned into a personal computer with software who has been my important partner to create my music. Thanks to it, I have been able to embody exactly what sounded in my head. A long period of time later, my robot band eventually made my dream come true. 

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

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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

the happiest time in my life

An artist who has a contract with a major record company generally has a deadline for work. Due to the cost of studio use and the promotion schedule, they often need to finish recording in a couple of weeks. Sometimes, it requires compromise and the work results in what they didn’t want.

I, on the other hand, have no contract, no obligation, no bind. I’ve been working on the current song for seven years now, including two years of recording. These years have been the happiest time in my life, with contentment from work. I’m in an ideal position to pursue my music as much as I want, so to speak. I always wonder why people don’t live like this.

Of course, if they do, fame and money is almost certainly hopeless as is my case. I have no contract, no fame, no money, and call it ideal. Maybe I’m beginning to become a nutcase…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

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

Kyoto: The Last Successor to One Japanese Family ” The Best Book of 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

Kyoto: The Last Successor to One Japanese Family ” The Best Book of Hidemi Woods “