My childhood diet was very healthy. That may be the reason why I was such a skinny kid, contrary to how I am today.
I was born in a farmer’s family in Kyoto, an old city in Japan. My family used to be almost self-sufficient. We mainly ate the leftover vegetables of eggplant and spinach that weren’t fit to be sold at the market because of flaws. We also planted rice and other vegetables such as onions, potatoes, carrots, radishes, burdocks and green peppers, not for sale but exclusively for our daily meals. We kept barnyard fowls that provided fresh eggs every morning. Our breakfasts and lunches were almost always row egg mixed with rice and soy sauce, pickled vegetables and too-weak miso soup.
A natural life may sound beautiful and relaxing, but it’s not in reality. Our fowls would holler screaming crows at dawn every day which would induce the clamorous barking of dogs in the neighborhood. Sometimes, one of our fowls that I named and fed every day like my pets was missing, and we had chicken on the table at dinner that evening. It took time for me to realize I was eating my pet fowl while I was worried about its whereabouts. Sometimes, I did witness my grandfather choked and plucked our fowl.
Since we didn’t have to buy vegetables, we had large servings at meals. Unfortunately, all vegetable meals of ours tasted horrible because we had to pay for seasonings or cooking oil and we were stingy enough to refrain them. Everything on our table was flavorless and bland. It never stimulated my appetite and I stayed skinny. As time passed, shops had been appearing in the rural area around our house. Also, my grandfather began to loosen his tight reign of the household and my mother had been able to have some discretion to go shopping and spend money. Our self-sufficiency was rapidly falling. Foods from outside tasted awesome. My appetite finally came out of its long hibernation. I was hooked by ham and mayonnaise in particular, and became chubby in no time.
Of all the terribly-tasted foods that my grandfather had long eaten, he picked yogurt as the worst. When he saw my sister eat it everyday, he asked for one out of curiosity. He said he had never had such an awful food in his life. After I left home for my music career and started living by myself in Tokyo, he often asked my father to take him to my apartment that was far from Kyoto. He wanted to see what was like to live alone there. My father didn’t feel like taking on such a bother for him and used a clever repelling. He told my grandfather that I was eating pizza everyday in Tokyo.
Of course he knew both that I wasn’t and that my grandfather didn’t know what pizza was. He explained to my grandfather that a food called pizza was oily round bread covered with sour sticky substance called cheese that was stringy and trailed threads to a mouth at every bite. And he added a threat, “You would eat that thing in her small apartment. Can you do that?” My grandfather replied in horror, “Why should I eat such a thing rotten enough to pull threads? I can’t ever go to Tokyo.” That pizza description cleanly stopped my grandfather’s repetitive request.
When I returned home for a visit once, my grandfather asked me a question at dinner time. Pointing the four corners of the dining room and drawing invisible lines in the air with his chopsticks, he said, “Your entire apartment is merely about this size, isn’t it?” As I replied it was about right, he asked, “How come you chose to do all what is necessary to live in such a small space and eat stringy rotten foods with threads although you have a spacious house and nice foods here? Is music worth that much? I don’t understand at all.” He looked unconvinced. As for me, while I had a certain amount of hardship, I had a far better life with tasty foods and freedom compared to the one that I had had in this house. Nevertheless, I didn’t utter those words. I said nothing and pour sake for him into his small empty cup, instead.
I wish I could live in Montreal. That’s the thought which frequently enters my mind. Yet I don’t know why it should be Montreal for myself. As a person who was born and grew up in Japan, I had had only a little vague knowledge of it as an Olympic venue of ancient before until I first visited it. I even didn’t choose it as my travel destination for the city itself. I’m an avid Formula One race fan and had been looking for an alternative race to go to see other than the one held in Japan that was too costly and poorly managed. The circuit with the most convenient access from a downtown hotel was located in Montreal, that was the simple reason I chose to go there and a start of my love for the city.
Twenty hours later after I left my apartment in Tokyo, I got off the airport bus in downtown Montreal past midnight. I was headed with my partner for the hotel I had booked that was a 10-minute walk away. My Japanese acquaintance has once told me that he got mugged in downtown Los Angeles and was robbed of his wallet, shoes, and even a tooth capped with gold. I recalled it and thought I was doing the stupidest thing to walk pulling my big suitcase in a strange city, in the witching hour of night. Then I saw someone while I was waiting for the traffic lights at a quiet crossing. A teen-age girl wearing a mini skirt appeared from nowhere and crossed the street humming merrily and dancing ballet. The sight of her gave me a sense that Montreal might be a safe, relaxing and enjoyable city. And it proved true.
I had lived in Southern California for four years before and I imagined that Montreal was quite alike since it was also in North America. But actually, it turned out to be a totally different place. Virtually everything – people’s appearances, values, the way of living and a cityscape – was far from alike. When I lived in California, I believed that life is a competition and that a happy life can’t be attained without success. I had been all worn up with that belief. My work as a singer-songwriter didn’t go well accordingly and I ended up moving back to Japan for a financial difficulty, broken-heartedly. But Montreal’s beautiful cityscape and its fashionable locals who enjoy life not with caring about money but with a laid-back attitude healed me. I fell in love in this city deeply enough to stay for a long period of time repeatedly.
Of course familiar flaws and problems existed since it’s not heaven. I too much often received a wrong change when shopping. One shop clerk surprised me when he gave me a handful of change without counting. He saw my dubious face and added one more handful of coins. I was also surprised that ordinary-looking people begged for small change. A young woman who seemed to be an ordinary house wife asked me to spare change while she was pushing a stroller with a baby in it. Or a bunch of young decent boys asked for change casually while they were having fun talking and laughing on the street. I glared at them for caution when I passed by, and they apologized to me. It seemed like it was their custom or routine to ask for money in passing. I wondered why they would do so in the city that didn’t look jobless nor degenerate. Come to think of it, I had spotted people idling and just sitting on the steps to an apartment in the daytime so many times. Commute traffic jammed at as early as 4 p.m. which looked so odd to a Japanese in whose country the train around midnight is running full with commuters. While I appreciated the city’s peacefulness with no tension of racism or success, its too-easy-going atmosphere sometimes irritated me. But it was probably too much of a luxury to ask for more. Before I was aware, I wished to settle in Montreal and work on my music there. My wish was to be crushed afterwards however, because reality was harsh.
I remember my happy days in Montreal every time I watch Canadian GP on TV. The city’s skyscrapers over the circuit ask me through the TV screen if I can come back someday. I desperately cheer myself up, telling myself that I can, I want to, I’m supposed to. On one Canada Day in the future, while I’m watching the mega-sized fireworks at the head of the Old Montreal pier with my partner, my eyes will be filled with light and shed tears of joy.
When I decided to go back to the mix down
from the mastering of our new song in order to
boost its overall volume, I prepared to take a
few more months to complete it.
Once I accepted the delay and released
myself from constraint called time, things
presented a new twist. I had compared the
volume of our song to other CDs with the
stereo components. Our song came from the
computer through the line-in of the stereo,
which meant I compared the line-in sound to
CDs. Before going back to the mix down, I
burned the song to a CD as a low-volume
version because except for the volume, the
mastering went perfectly.
It happened when I checked the sound of
the CD. The volume was as high as other CDs!
It had been indeed boosted already during the
mastering. I just compared it in a wrong way
through the line-in. I had been struggling with
the volume for a couple of months based on
my false judgement.
When I heard our song at the right volume, I
found out how silly I was and laughed out loud.
At the same time, I burst into tears for
indescribable joy. The only remaining problem
to complete this song was the volume. Now
that the volume was boosted, the song’s
completion was within my grasp.
Looking up at the ceiling of my room, I was
loudly laughing, crying, then laughing, and
again crying, with tears falling down. It was so
funny, ironic, stupid and joyful…
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
On the morning of a day off, I had a long, relaxed breakfast with my partner at home. He told me that he had just seen an interesting dream the previous night. His “interesting” dreams usually bore me, but I reluctantly agreed to hear it out of habit.
In his dream, it was my birthday. We had a party by ourselves in a fictional shabby apartment with half-price deli foods from the clearance shelves of a supermarket. A leftover of three-day-old dessert was converted into my birthday cake and waiting on the kitchen counter. A door bell rang although we didn’t invite anyone and nobody was supposed to come.
My partner opened the door and two Japanese couples showed up. Each couple was fictional, rich old friends of mine in the dream. They were prim in luxury brand clothes and bringing expensive sweets as gifts. They had apparently expected a glamorous home party in a gorgeous apartment. At the sight of them, I shouted to my partner, “Let them in and keep company!” and stormed into my room for a change and makeup because I was wearing worn-out clothes and no makeup. My characteristic wasn’t fictional and I was a vain person even in his dream. He showed them into the living room. They looked disappointed and regretful that they came to where they didn’t belong while he hurriedly cleared the table and fixed drinks for them. Then, there was the second door bell.
This time, a modest woman was standing at the foot of the stairs that led to the outside of the building. She had something handmade as a gift and looked up nervously. “Another guest showed up!” my partner yelled toward me. I rushed out, ran down the stairs, tripped, and dived into a big puddle beside the woman. He saw me sprawling in mud, with my best dress ruined and red and blue from my makeup spread on the surface of muddy water. This part of his dream was familiar to me. In reality, about a month ago, I was walking with my partner looking upward somehow and fell over a big rock. I landed onto hard asphalt and hit my cheek. My palms got grazed badly and covered with blood. That clumsily shocking sight must have remained in his brain.
At this point of his dream, he was resigned to a ruined birthday and his motivation gave out. He went back inside and said to the couples of preceding visitors, “Hidemi dived into a puddle. Would you mind leaving now?” They seemed relieved to be released from a wretched place like this and hurried away.
Just after they had left, strangers appeared one after another. An American man with a camera, a Chinese family and a group of Southeast Asian women came in, all asking “Is this Hidemi’s apartment?” They were looking around curiously and taking photographs. Other people of various races kept coming and the apartment that began to expand was packed with them. He saw more people from the world heading toward my apartment. He became worried that everyone would be disappointed at this place that had nothing to see, nothing interesting. On the contrary, all of those who came seemed content, talking each other at ease or just sitting in a relaxed mood. Looking at them, he realized that what people seek was healing. And he woke up.
Little by little, the number of people around the world who visit my website has been growing since last year. Some visitors leave a comment or a like, some follow me. Those kind actions may have contributed to his dream.
In the meantime, I also had a dream on the same night. I was with Will Smith and a world-famous dancer in my apartment. A box was delivered for me, that was a secret award for the most distinguished person of each fields. Both Will and the dancer had received it before. “You got it!”, they exclaimed. I opened the box excitedly, and there came out a pink hippopotamus headgear. I put it onto my head with profound reverence, felt a sense of achievement, and woke up. In Japanese, ‘hippopotamus’ means ‘Kaba’. If you read it backwards, it is pronounced ‘Baka’, which means ‘fool’ in English.
When I was a teenager, I always wanted to be a singer-songwriter but I was inclined to become a mixing engineer at one time.
That was mainly because I believed that I was too ugly to be a singer-songwriter and should work behind the scenes in the music business. Also, I was a big fan of a Japanese band called Tulip then and I thought working as a mixing engineer was the only way to get close to them. Besides, a person who works on the console at a recording studio or a concert hall looked so cool to me. When I was a senior in high school, there was a course guidance book in the classroom. I looked up how to become a mixing engineer in it. A few technical colleges were introduced there but they required a high score on physics. I was good at math, but in physics, I had no hope. So, I couldn’t find a way to be a mixing engineer.
Time passed, I noticed that I’ve been sitting at the computer console alone for the mix down of my new song all the time lately. It can mean that my dream came true after all. Only one thing is missing. I get no pay…
Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods
I finished the mix down of our new song today. That means the song at long last got completed. I had worked on this song for seven years. I put into this song everything I have, everything I want to say to this world, and everything I’ve felt in my life. So, I’m virtually done. I celebrated with a bottle of sparkling wine instead of champagne that is too expensive for me. When opening the bottle, the plastic cork rocketed to the ceiling and made a mark. Still, the project is far from being over. I need to burn it on CDs, save it in several different kinds of format, and archive the data. I can see a long way to go before I get a sense of achievement…
I still linger on the dream I had, in which a monk told me that I had only 25 years more to live. I’ve given thought to life and death. I have plans for my future and a fairly good deal of hope, I guess. Suppose I work hard and achieve something, but the remaining time to enjoy it is so short. What’s the difference between now and then? Maybe life has nothing to do with achievement. Without realizing, I get influenced in a good way from someone, and I could influence someone as well. If I can encourage someone depressed through my music or whatever I do as I was encouraged, that’s more wonderful than superficial success. I think that’s life is all about. And above all, I’m not alone…
Although I’m not interested in MLB at all, I had a dream of the Mariners’ Ichiro Suzuki the other night. Personally, I don’t like him because he’s exhorting something pompously every time I see him on TV. But in my dream, I won a prize of spending a day with him and unwillingly met him. As the day went on, I began to have fun. Being with him got merrier and happier, and eventually I shouted ‘I’ve never been this happy in my life!’ I wished strongly that this moment would last forever while clinging to his arm. When the day was over and the time to say goodbye came, he said he would get in touch with me on his next visit to Japan. Out of curiosity, I asked him what the chances of his calling me were, feeling sure that he would say 100 percent since he looked happy with me as well all day long. But, his answer was 30 percent. I was surprised at the unexpectedly low odds. I felt so disappointed I had only a 30-percent chance to have such a great time like today. And, I woke up. I sprang to a sitting position on the bed, as I was shocked it was a dream, not a reality. Now that it was a dream, the chance of repeating the wonderful day had dropped from 30 percent to zero. Amid bitter disappointment, I was also disappointed at myself. In the dream, I received VIP treatment everywhere I went with Ichiro. He appeared as a symbol of fame and fortune, and I physically clung to his arm. I boast that I’ve got over the lust for fame and fortune long before. If so, why was I extremely happy in the dream…?
One day, I saw numbers in my dream. I dream a lot every night, but numbers rarely appear. I thought it was some sort of sign, and bought a lottery ticket. I won $10. A few weeks later, I dreamed about numbers again, and bought a ticket accordingly. I won $100. I was convinced this was it. This must be the way for me to become a millionaire. Since then, I’ve kept buying a lottery ticket every week, but with no luck at all. For the first time in almost a year, I won $10 yesterday. The sum dropped off. And the total spending for the lottery has become incomparably much more than I gained…