My new Kindle has been published! “A Japanese Girl in The Catholic School of Kyoto : Nuns, Rich Girls and Jesus / Hidemi Woods”

I spent my schooldays from junior high to college at a Catholic school not for religious reasons but for my mother’s vanity. She wanted me to attend the most prestigious school in Kyoto in order to brag about it. With no religious background, I encountered quite a few unfamiliar events at school that held Catholic ceremonies regularly.
The school often celebrated the Mass, which was an entirely new and different culture to me and I hadn’t the slightest idea what they were doing. Christian students sat in the front row with white lace veils on their heads at the assembly hall. The priest gave them something that looked like a soft snack and they ate it. I regarded it as the believers’ benefits to have a snack during the Mass.
The school held the annual Candle Service near Christmas. Before my first-ever Candle Service at junior high, a Catholic sister told us to bring something from home as a donation for the Candle Service. She added for those who couldn’t think of what to bring, that bars of soap would do. I had no clue what the Candle Service was. All I could imagine was I would receive some sort of service from sisters. I looked forward to it because I thought sisters would serve cake or tea like a Christmas party, and I could get it just with a bar of soap. But as it turned out, we just stood in line holding a candle at the dark assembly hall and sang several hymns endlessly to the poor accompaniment of the orchestra club students. While singing, we got on the stage one by one and put a bar of soap or other donations into a cardboard box. When all the students finished putting their donations into the box, the service was over without any cake.
The school had a big, tall fir tree across from the entrance gate. It stood by the side of one of the school buildings like a wall decoration. Its top reached as high as the third floor of the building. Judging from its size, it was planted there when two sisters came from U.S. after WWII and opened the school.
Around Christmastime, the tree was decorated with ornaments and made the school look beautiful. I was a member of the student board when I was a sophomore. Until then, I hadn’t known that the decoration was a student board’s task. I felt exhilarating for the first time as a student board member. The boring board revived and every member had so much fun decorating the tree together. The tree was too tall to decorate the upper part from outside by a ladder. We got inside the building, put an ornament on the tip of a broomstick and stretched it out of the window of the third floor. Gold tinsel garlands were thrown toward the tree from the forth floor window. It was the biggest Christmas tree I had ever decorated.
I had had all those Christian events and classes in the Bible for years until college and yet I never really understood the meaning. I left school, got out into the world, and worked as a musician. Through the years of making music that hasn’t been paying, I feel I finally know why I continue and have spent so much time and energy to create a good song, which hasn’t brought me money or fame. It took a long time to understand, but better late than never, I suppose…

A Japanese Girl in The Catholic School of Kyoto : Nuns, Rich Girls and Jesus / Hidemi Woods

my yukata

My hometown is in Kyoto, which is a popular
tourist destination in Japan. There is a big
historic festival called Gion Festival in summer.
Because it attracts visitors all over the world
and the venue is too crowded, my family had
never gone out to see it.
When I was in high school, my friend
suggested hanging around the venue on the
eve of the festival. The evening of the eve is
also a popular attraction with the parade floats
parked on the street. To go there, it was
common to wear a yukata, which is a casual
kimono for the summer season. I didn’t have
one of those and asked my mother to get one.
Before the festival, she bought a yukata for me
so that I could go. I liked its design very much.
Usually, a yukata had a pattern of morning
glories or goldfish, but mine was unique and
fancy with a fireworks pattern. It became my
treasure as I wore it again a couple of years
later for the festival with my first boy friend.
Meanwhile, after my younger sister failed the
TV talent show audition, she hadn’t stopped
learning Japanese dancing against my wish. My
mother convinced her that she failed because
we were late for the audition that day.
According to my mother, the judges weren’t
taking enough time to see how talented my
sister was. So, she had still taken lessons in
Japanese dancing. It’s danced with wearing a
kimono and for practice, with a yukata. My
sister had some yukatas as her casual practice
wear for the lesson.
One evening, when I was left at home as
usual, my sister came home with my parents
from a lesson. She was wearing my yukata.
She used my treasured fireworks yukata as
her casual practice wear. I cried, “It’s mine!”
My mother explained she was out of fresh
yukatas and made her borrow mine for that
evening only. They were too insensitive to care
about my feelings toward her Japanese
dancing lessons and my yukata. I’ve never
worn it since then…

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

TV talent show

When my younger sister had learned Japanese
dancing for a couple of years, my mother
decided to get her on a local TV talent show.
Unlike me, my sister was always my mother’s
pride for her prettiness.
To be on the show, there was an audition in
a city, about 20 miles away from our home. My
father was going to drive them there. I
assumed they would go with just three of
them, leaving me behind as usual. For this
particular occasion though, I felt rather happy
not to join them because I had borne a grudge
against Japanese dancing since my mother let
my sister take lessons not me. But my mother
had the nerve to demand me to come with
them to the audition, saying that it was a huge
event for my sister and I should show support
for her.
I got in the car, not for her audition but for a
possibility to eat out at a restaurant on our
way back, which we hardly did and the three of
them might do without me. My mother was
never punctual and we were already late by
the time we left home. From then, things were
just like the movie, ‘Little Miss Sunshine’.
When we got there, the registration was
closing and the judges were leaving. My
mother desperately begged for the audition.
They reluctantly allowed it with the obvious
intention of making it finish quickly. After my
sister danced for a few seconds, they stopped
the music and said thank-you. I kept asking
my mother if it meant she passed or not while
my sister gloomily undressed.
When my mother admitted my sister failed, I
felt over the moon. I thought justice had been
served. I was in an utterly good mood and was
saying, “Let’s eat out! Which restaurant shall
we go?” all the way in the dismal car. My
parents and my sister were too depressed to
respond to me and we ended up going straight
home. I couldn’t get to eat out after all…

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

I was an outcast in my family

My mother used to take lessons in Japanese
dancing. A woman in the neighborhood taught
it in the evening to the neighbor housewives at
her house. They held an annual public
performance and my mother would practice
earnestly at home when it came closer. My
sister and I used to imitate her and dance
alongside her.
I liked it and danced quite well. I was in
junior high school and my sister was still in
elementary school. Since my sister came home
from school much earlier than I did, my
mother would take her to the lessons and let
her wait and watch there. My father gave my
mother a ride for every lesson. So, my parents
and my sister would go out together once a
week while I was left in the house with my
strict grandparents.
Soon, my sister began to take lessons as
well. I felt it extremely unfair because it was I
who danced well and should take lessons. I
complained to my mother as hard as I could,
but she never paid attention. The junior high I
attended was so far from my home and I
couldn’t come home by the time they left for
lessons. My mother made no effort for me to
ask for a late lesson to the teacher. It seemed
she simply wanted to go out with just three of
them once a week. Even in an instance of
Japanese dancing, I was again an outcast in
my family. I wonder why it kept happening to
me all the 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

mean to her

My younger sister won the first prize of a local
poem contest for elementary school students.
Her poem appeared in the local paper and
many people read it. The title was ‘My Mean
Big Sister’.
Back then, every time she saw my face, her
habit was to say “Play with me!” As I liked to
spend time alone, it had been an endless
torment. Her continuous play-with-me chant
would often drive me crazy and I tried to
escape from her as much as I could. Her poem
described how coldly I snubbed her whenever
she felt happy to see me at home, and that
was highly praised. To congratulate her, I told
her that she owed me for this prize because
her poem wouldn’t have existed if I had been
nice to her. I added that my meanness proved
right and so I would try harder to be mean to
her. Needless to say, she got on the verge of
crying and ran straight to my mother as usual
to tell on me…

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

money has wings

One day in my early teens, I heard a scream
from my younger sister’s room. My mother and
I went in and my sister was crying over the
open drawer of her desk. She said her money
was gone. She had stashed all her money in an
envelope there by saving her allowances and
money as New Year’s gifts from relatives. She
had thought the total amounted to well over
$1000 and had decided to count for the first
time in a long time. But there was less than
$500 and she was devastated. My mother
lulled her by explaining that was how money
was gone. While spending a small amount of
money on candies and snacks at a time, it
accumulated a big amount in total. “That’s why
we say money has wings,” my mother said to
her. But my sister insisted she had never
bought candies that much and never wasted
her money like that because she loved to save.
My mother’s theory wouldn’t change though,
and she kept telling her that money
disappeared slyly while we were unaware. She
said, “You learned an important lesson today.
Now you know what is money.”
Quietly seeing my sister cry hard and say
repeatedly that was impossible, I had a clear
idea what had happened to her money really.
It was I who had regularly stolen her stashed
money. I was in junior high school and my
allowance was always short for what I wanted.
I was constantly in a battle with my mother for
a raise and denied. While there were countless
things in the world that I wanted to buy, my
sister wasn’t interested in buying at all. So, her
money was useless and I did a favor by
spending it instead of her. My sister’s money
had wings all right, and brought me a lot of
records, posters, concert tickets and
accessories. Neither my mother nor my sister
had the slightest idea what I had been doing.
And they still don’t know about this…

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


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

no matter how hard I tried, my voice didn’t come out

Last night, I had a nightmare. In it, I got up and found myself alone. I was a child still living with my family in my hometown. My parents and my little sister came back from McDonald’s. They had breakfast there without me. I grabbed my mother’s arms and said, “Listen to me! Listen to me very carefully!! You must treat your kids equally! Whatever you do to my little sister, you should do the same to me! You can’t keep doing nice things only to her! Besides, how could you bring home nothing for me? It’s McDonald’s where you can get take-out!!” But, no matter how hard I tried, my voice didn’t come out. I repeated those words very hard again and again but only my mouth was moving. In the end, I shouted at the top of my throat, and awoke from the dream. I’m still exhausted. I dream a lot every night. And this one is one of the repeated dreams. Although the details are different, I am ignored by my parents and left alone each time. I’m fed up with this kind of dream but I know I will soon have it again. When am I released from this…?

I couldn’t live up to his high expectations toward me.

My younger sister joined with me in taking piano lessons at the pianist’s house years later. While I didn’t practice, my sister was a diligent student who practiced earnestly. Still, I was the one whom the pianist raved about in the lessons. He was an elderly man and often danced to the piece I was playing falteringly. My sister played fluently on the other hand, but he once slapped her hands while she was playing. He shouted ‘It’s not like that at all!’ as if he couldn’t take her playing anymore. To me, it seemed she played much better than I did, but to him, she didn’t. He held a students’ performance once a year at a concert hall. He picked a piece for a student to play there according to their skill. Because I didn’t practice, my skill had progressed extremely slowly over the years. Even though he had admired my hidden ability, he couldn’t pick a piece for me that required high skill. I played an easy piece that a grade school student could play when I was already a teenager. I couldn’t live up to his high expectations toward me and quit. Eventually, I started writing songs and chose music for my career. Since the pianist also composed music and made sound with a synthesizer, I thought I could learn it form him and visited his house for the first time in years. In the rich residential area, only his gorgeous mansion had disappeared and nothing remained of the house but the empty lot there. I wondered if the place had really existed in the past…

desperate loneliness with these old memories

I had a dream last night that my mother left me in a shopping mall to enjoy shopping just with my younger sister. The sensation I felt in the dream was so familiar that I recalled the similar experiences in my real life. Since I started junior high school, my parents and my sister had often gone out without me because my school was far from home and I came home late every day. As I got furious each time when they came back, they usually lied that they went out just for an errand. But I always knew they went shopping together or in a worse case, visited my favorite grandparents’ house without me. The main reason I could see through their deceit was because they bought something for my sister when going out, and I often found it later in her room, as the evidence. In my theory, parents should get something for a child they leave at home, but my parents do the opposite and get something for a child they are taking with them. And the luckier one who got into the car with my parents for fun was always my sister who came home much earlier from elementary school. I can’t count how many times I shouted a word ‘unfair’ to my parents. Sometimes, they even ate out just three of them and still pretended that they hadn’t had dinner yet. At dinnertime of those occasions, they had strangely little appetite while I was starving. My mother repeated, ‘It’s weird. I’m not hungry tonight’, and my sister followed suit. Only my father tried to eat his second dinner for the night, contorting with fullness. Their acts were so poor that anyone could tell they had already eaten. But no matter how hard I demanded, my mother kept lying. I can still feel some sort of desperate loneliness with these old memories…