A pair of glasses

I was raised by my grandmother on my
father’s side. She was a very strict and
unsociable woman. She led a secluded life and
spent most of the time retreating into her
room. She would take a trip or go to the
theater with my grandfather only once or twice
a year.
On those rare occasions, she always wore
glasses that she usually didn’t at home. A pair
of glasses was a must for her to dress up. She
had only one pair with gold rims. Although
they were an essential item of her best
clothes, she looked terrible with them. She had
a stern face by nature but the pair made her
look fearsome. Everyone in my family knew
that she looked much better without them, and
yet, none of us had the courage to say so to
her.
Consequently, on every important,
memorable event in her later life, she had an
awful look by putting them on. She did it not
just outside. When there was a guest or I took
my friends from school to our house, she
always greeted with the glasses on. She had
great confidence in glasses. Shortly before her
death, she even urged my father to wear
glasses because she believed they would help
him look grand and dignified. Her treasured
gold-rimmed glasses were put into her casket
when she passed away. The unpopular pair
went to heaven with her. I know she’s wearing
them up there still…

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

test of courage

In my hometown, there used to be a night for
a test of courage for kids in summer when I
was a child. It was a small neighborhood event
that an adult volunteer set up a sign saying ‘A
Test of Courage’ at the entrance to a narrow
lane between the neighbor houses. Except for
the entrance, the rest of the lane was left as it
was, without any special scary decorations or
surprising effects. Enough nature still remained
in my neighborhood back then though, and a
ditch, bushes and shrubs along the lane had
sufficient effects in darkness to scare kids.
One summer dusk, I heard my grandmother
call me urgently when I was playing in the
yard. She grabbed me and ran into the house,
escaping from something. It was a ball of fire
drifting above us. That was the first time I’d
ever seen a will-o’-the-wisp, and I haven’t
seen one since. But to my family, seeing a

willo’-the-wisp wasn’t so rare. My grandmother
once saw it perch on a side mirror of a parked
car in front of our house. Scientifically, it’s said
that a will-o’-the-wisp is some phosphorusrelated

phenomenon. Near our house, there
was a graveyard where we had buried the
deceased from generation to generation, which
is now banned by law requiring cremation, and
we believed it had to do with a will-o’-the-wisp.
I had plenty of natural scary materials in my
childhood…

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


extraordinarily thrilling

The living room in my grandparents’ home was
used for a card game when the house turned
into a family casino during New Year’s. The
game was a blackjack-like one called ‘kabu’
and organized by my uncle. It used to be the
best treat of New Year’s for me in my
childhood and early in my teens.
Unlike ‘mortar roller’ I had introduced before,
this game was played seriously and intensely
because it was for high stakes. The players
usually bet a dollar or more, sometimes as
high as a hundred dollars. The deeper into the
night it got, the higher the bet went. The
family members would leave the table one by
one, as the higher bet would make them tense
and deprive them of pleasure. As for me, I
liked to see the game get heated so much and
would play throughout the night until the game
came to an end in the next morning.
The usual players who stayed at the table
near dawn would be my uncle who was a
dealer, my eldest cousin, my mother and I. My
uncle was a successor of the family by
marriage and so my grandparents were his in

laws. He was on terrible terms with my
grandmother who raised my eldest cousin in
place of him and his wife because they were
too busy working at the family farm.
Consequently, he didn’t get along well with his
own son either. New Year’s ‘kabu’ would
become an intense battle between my uncle
and my cousin by dawn.
My uncle couldn’t lose especially to his son
and that made the game extraordinarily
thrilling. My cousin would bet more than $10
on each deal and my heart would be pounding
by seeing bills on the table. My uncle would
concentrate on the cards dealt to him and his
son too deeply to care about my small bets.
Because he would forget to count me in and
settle my deal thoughtlessly each time, I would
end up winning quite a big amount of money in
total every year.
He would summon all his strength when he
saw the last card dealt to him. In spite of his
prayer-like chants “Come on! Come on!”, most
of the time the card would be the least one he
had wanted. Hand after hand, he drew the
worst card possible while my cousin was rolling
on the tatami floor to stifle his giggling.
As far as I remember, he had never won
against my cousin. He was manly and frank,
but I can still picture him going back to his
room after the game in the morning light with
unsteady steps, worn out, drooping, and on
the verge of tears. Three months after the
house was burned down, he died of cancer
without becoming the head of the family…

Episode From The Girl in Kyoto / 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

sorrow and desperation led to unreasonable anger

Back in my hospital life of my childhood, the next room to mine was a room for six boys. One of them was a five-year-old boy with leukemia. He often hung around my room and we got along well. I taught him how to fold origami. Because he was little, his mother stayed at the hospital with him. She frequently yelled at him, hit him and even kicked him. I was terrified of her. One day, my mother came to see me and went to take some tea for me from the free tea stand near my room. There, I saw her talking with the boy’s mother and learned that he had only a few months to live. His mother sounded so gentle and so sad. I understood why she treated him like that. For the first time in my life, I realized that sorrow and desperation led to unreasonable anger. Although I was only nine years old, I had never felt mortality so closely and strongly while playing with him…