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

They must think using the word ‘environment’ makes them a saint.

The rent of my apartment includes utilities, which means I can use them as much as I want. Since it’s murderously hot everyday, I’ve spent most of time inside my air-conditioned apartment, working for music and watching America’s TV shows. A few days ago, there was a note in my mailbox from the management company of this apartment.

It said that even though it’s utility-included, my usage has been so excessive that they may charge me unless the usage drops to an ordinary amount.

Well, I do have my say on this. First of all, I need air-conditioning more because my room is a duplex apartment and the roof is merely nailed iron plates that conduct heat extremely well. It’s their fault, not mine.

Secondly, who decides the ordinary amount? Japanese people are obsessed to categorize everything and they don’t allow someone or something sticks out. I hate to be categorized and fight against it all the time here. They should accept there is someone who works at home during the night and sleeps in the daytime.

Thirdly, the note asked me to care about the environment. They must think using the word ‘environment’ makes them a saint. It was them who had chosen iron plates for the roof! Before they start charging me, I really need to get out of this apartment…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

there’s nothing I can do about it

I spent the whole day giving much thought to the apartment that I’d found. There are numerous cons about the place, but moving in a better place with my low price range seems impossible. I looked for solutions for the cons – the soon-out-of-order water pipes and the broken boiler, except for the neighbor who is wanted for murder, as there’s nothing I can do about it. Thanks to the Internet and my partner’s unconventional ideas, I reached the solutions at the end of the day. I was so excited and happy that moving in that gorgeous apartment was getting feasible.

  I got up this morning only to find out that the place had been just taken. I hope you can imagine how disappointed I am…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Crowned in Dreams hr633

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.

residents is wanted for murder

As I’ve been constantly looking for an apartment online, I found a pretty good one again. It’s located by a lake near Mt. Fuji and it’s spacious, furnished and Western-style. Usually, this kind of property is far above my price range, but this one is discounted considerably so that it dove into my range.

The catch is that the building is very old by Japanese standards. It’s 36 years old. Still, it’s the most gorgeous place I could possibly afford. I gathered information about the area, such as the climate, restaurants, shops and most importantly, the train and bus schedules because I don’t have a car. I decided to go to look at the room and sent an e-mail to the real estate company for an appointment. Meanwhile, I bought a train schedule book and made a precise plan to go there as a weekend trip.

A reply from the real estate company included the more detailed information about the apartment. Because it’s old, the water pipes may give out at any moment. The boiler is broken, too. To finish up, one of the residents is wanted for murder. It’s not the one again…or, is it…?

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

my excitement was gone

My apartment hunting is still going on and I found the best pick so far online last night. That could be it. It looked so attractive and I got excited enough to prepare for going there to close a deal first thing in the morning.

There was some time before dawn and I looked up on the Internet about the property. Plenty of information was there, most of which were complaints about the superintendent of the building. All complaints seemed to refer to the same person and I became doubtful whether I could live in a place that such a bad person manages. While I read on the complaints, a different one caught my eye. A low flow of a shower. It was the last blow. By the time the morning dawned, my excitement was gone…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Vegetables, Yogurt, and Pizza hr632

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.

Despair and Hope hr631

It happened a long time ago when I lived in Tokyo. My partner and I had dinner at a restaurant one night after we hung around the mall. We came back to our apartment that we had rented on the top floor of the building as our home and the office for our record label.
When I tried to turn my key on the front door, I noticed the door had remained unlocked. It was weird. I may have forgotten to lock the door when I left, which was highly unlikely since I was fussy about locking and couldn’t leave without making sure that the door wouldn’t open by trying the knob for a couple of times. I got in feeling dubious, but our apartment didn’t look unusual. Then my partner suddenly said, “Why is the cabinet open?” My heart began to beat fast with overwhelming uneasiness and I hurried into the bedroom that had a balcony. The tall window to the balcony had been smashed broken. It was a burglary.
I called the police right away while my partner was gingerly looking into the bathroom, the closet, and behind the drapes to see if the burglar wasn’t still hiding. Those minutes were the scariest as too many movie scenes flashed back to me. Thankfully, there was nobody. The police arrived quickly since the station was ironically only a block away from my apartment. Such a location apparently wasn’t safe enough to prevent burglary.
The policemen came in and looked around. As they saw the messy rooms, they showed sympathy saying, “It’s played havoc, huh?” It was funny because my apartment had been messy as it was long before burglary. But probably thanks to it, the burglar didn’t notice an envelope that held a few thousand dollars for the bills and was mingled with scraps of paper on the table. Instead of cash, a dozen of Disney wrist watches that was my collection, a cheap wrist watch that was my partner’s memento of his late mother, an Omega wrist watch that I received from my grandparents as a souvenir of their trip to Europe decades ago, and one game software were missing. Actually, those items had been the only valuables in my office apartment. Other than those and litter, my apartment had been quite empty. The reason was simple. I was near bankrupt at that time.
I had started up my music label with my partner and it had grown steadily as business. A person I had trusted offered substantial financial support and I took it. I rented this apartment and hired staff with that money. Then the financial supporter tried to take over my label and threatened to suspend further finance if I refused. Amid horrible disgusting negotiations, money stopped being wired into my account. The label came to a standstill for lack of funds. I laid off all staff and saw what took eight years for my partner and I to build from a scratch crumbling down. The blow was amplified by anger and self-loathing from the fact that I was deceived by a person I had trusted. Despair and emptiness led to apathy. I stopped doing or thinking anything and had played a game every day.
In hindsight, if there hadn’t been burglary, my partner and I would have kept paying the costly rent for the apartment and playing a game until we spent all the money that was left. But something clicked when I saw the very game software I had played every day picked among other many games to be stolen, and the glass window of my dream penthouse apartment smashed. It marked the point where I hit the bottom but also was a wake-up call. We moved out the luxurious apartment immediately and rented a cheap studio apartment in a small two-storied building.
That move left some money in my bank account. The deposit of the penthouse apartment was returned, too. Also, I received an unexpected insurance payout. The expensive rent of my former apartment included a damage insurance. The insurance company assessed the damage based on the report I submitted to the police. For some reason, they calculated the payout more than the total price of what were stolen. I discussed with my partner about what to do with the money. We decided to go to California. A new start form zero. And that was to be the beginning of all these, everything that I do at present. My works have been taken to the world by that decision, made by the burglary.

Costco is beginning to take control of my life

Since I shopped at Costco for the first time, I’ve been still in shock at their low prices and thinking about it all the time. I had decided to move out this apartment after getting some signs for that and had narrowed down the possible areas. But none of them has Costco nearby. I can’t give up the pleasure to shop at those low prices. And it’s a rare store where I can get products from the U.S. that I really like. Inside Costco, there is a very small, compact America. It’s the easiest way to visit the U.S., in a way. Now that I knew Costco and became a member, I should move to the area close enough to shop there. So, my selection of the place to live went back to the starting point. Costco is beginning to take control of my life…

 

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

destroying my cozy living environment

Next to my apartment is a parking lot. A loud noise of a car engine without a muffler woke me up early in the morning today. Sick people who enjoy driving a car without an engine muffler and with a booming car stereo are increasing here. I was able to go back to sleep but then the neighbor kids’ voice disturbed my sleep again.

The window of my room looks out on the front yard of a neighbor’s house. Kids and idle housewives were playing and talking loudly. Kids are my archenemies. They relentlessly attack me with their evil, highpitched voices and shrieks. When I first moved in here, there were few houses around. But soon, more and more houses were built, more families were moving in, and I got surrounded by kids.

Every time I move somewhere quiet, the area quickly gets booming and kids are running everywhere destroying my cozy living environment. Now that I’ve decided to move, the destination should be someplace quiet, kids-free, bugs free, and hopefully, people-free…

 

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods