My new Kindle has been published! “When I was in Junior high of Kyoto: the private Catholic school, rich girls and a geek / Hidemi Woods”

I spent almost the whole first year at the private junior high school as an uncool geek. Every get-cool scheme of mine had failed. Neither breaching the school rules nor joining the drama club worked. I hadn’t come up with a new idea and had hung around with my not-so-cool friends.
One day we were having a hilarious time at recess with tongue twisters I had devised. I had made a list of oddly sounded words on a piece of paper and read it out quickly in front of my friends. I seemed to sound so funny and they laughed hard. As we were making a racket, other students began to look at us curiously. Some cool girls from rich families approached us and asked what was going on. They never came near uncool girls but I drew their attention this time. I showed the list and demonstrated my tongue twisters, which didn’t appeal to them at all. They sneered and left. But I realized one thing: cool girls starved for laughter because they put on airs and kept their countenance every day. If I could make them laugh regularly, they might like me and include me in their circle.I commenced my assaults in earnest. Since then, I had behaved in a silly way whenever I passed by cool rich girls at school. I made funny faces, walked by dancing weirdly, or mimicked a TV comedian. At first they just looked at me in dismay, but they were gradually interested in me. They stopped and talked to me, “You’re so funny!” Then I would press an insurance laugh with haphazard puns or gags. Since I didn’t have a talent for making people laugh basically, I was out of comic materials so easily. I had to use the fact of a farmer’s daughter to make them laugh. This last resort of mine really succeeded. Soon one of the cool girls asked me to have lunch together, and I was invited to her circle.
I officially joined the cool group at last. That acted like magic and other students stopped mocking me completely. In the end, after so many trials, to be the class clown was indeed the solution to be cool at school for me…The effect of being in the cool and rich group at junior high school was much bigger than I had expected and was almost magical. I was no longer a geek at school. Other students’ attitude toward me changed dramatically and they even respected me. I jumped into the whole new world.The girls in the group looked through a teen fashion magazine and chatted about its contents zealously at lunchtime. It looked like an adult life to me, as I had never been interested in fashion, let alone talked about it with my friends. After school, they would hang around the downtown area in the city, looking around the shops or having a snack at a fast food restaurant. I had seldom been downtown and I felt like I started a city life all of a sudden. Walking by elegant shops had never been my usual habit, and as for a fast food restaurant, I had never stepped into it before. On weekends, they would go to the movies together. My way of spending time outside school completely changed and it was almost like I began to live in America.
On the other hand, there was a huge set back to be a part of the group. It was horribly costly. My scant monthly allowance didn’t last more than a week while other girls from the rich family didn’t have to care. A coin jar in the dining room in my house became empty quickly. My younger sister’s stash of money in her desk drawer had been shrinking steadily by my regular stealing.One of the girls in the group had a friend in a boys’ school and he invited us to his school’s homecoming. Since ours was a girls’ school, it was an exciting opportunity to meet boys. There, the boys asked us out after the homecoming, but I was the exclusion among the group. No one asked me out. While they were headed for a fast food restaurant, I went home, crying.I would do anything to stay in the cool circle, including acting a totally different person by giving up being myself…

 

When I was in Junior high of Kyoto: private Catholic school, rich girls and geek / Hidemi Woods

My new Kindle has been published! “A Little Girl in Kyoto: only evil people in this world / Hidemi Woods”

It has gotten warmer little by little and spring is near. Shortly, cherry blossoms are blooming here and there around Japan, making a usually somber country beautiful. Cherry blossoms mean the season to begin a new year at a school and an office in Japan. It was spring when I entered elementary school and this time of year reminds me of how I felt at that time.At Japanese schools, the whole school assembly is held once a week. I remember the first assembly at the elementary school held in the schoolyard. The school had a large number of students, close to 2,000. They gathered in the schoolyard to listen to a principal’s weekly address, lined up in neat rows by the class and the grade. As I was in the first grade, my row was near the edge of the yard. I glanced at the far side of it, where the sixth-graders stood in line. They were tall and looked like grown-ups to me.And all of a sudden, a strong sense of claustrophobia seized me. I realized that I would keep coming to this school until I grew that big. Considering the excruciating two years I spent at kindergarten, coming here for six years seemed forever and torture. On top of that, it wouldn’t end there. Three years at junior high school and another three years at high school would follow. My mother had already talked about a college then, too. The day I would be freed from school I loathed so much would be so far away. I felt as if I had been put in prison with a life sentence, while the principal was congratulating the first-graders in his speech and cherry blossoms were warmly looking down…

 

it was simply a bad omen

Photo by Tara Winstead on Pexels.com

Most of the stuffed animals and the toys I had in my childhood came from my uncle. He bought something for me every chance he got. When he got married, he left our house and moved into his new house that my grandfather built for him. But he frequently dropped by our place, mostly to have lunch cooked by my grandmother.

 One day, he came into the house cheerfully calling out my name. He took me to his car and told me to get in. I hesitated because I’d never gone out with him. I asked him where we were going and he proudly declared that he would buy me any toy I wanted today. I felt extremely nervous right away. Although I had been surrounded by the toys he gave me, I had never shopped with him. Also, I had never been in his car before. Above all, his offer sounded desperate since I knew he had started drifting jobs again.

 In his car, I was even sure that we weren’t headed for a toy store but somewhere else. So, I was confused when we arrived at a small toyshop actually. He told me to choose whatever I wanted in the shop. It would be a dream moment for an ordinary kid, but for me who had known my uncle, it was simply a bad omen. I reluctantly looked around the shop and found the toy I’d wanted for a long time. It was a shoe shop of Rika’s mom. Rika was a Japanese version of Barbie Doll and I used to play with the doll all the time. Rika’s mother was set to run a shoe shop and the toy had a shoe display case filled with fancy shoes for Rika.

 Seeing my pick, my uncle said, “That’s it? I said whatever and you didn’t choose an expensive one! You’re a fool!” Since it was exactly what I wanted, I didn’t change my pick and he bought it for me. On our way home, I was still certain something bad would follow, but nothing happened. He came to buy me a toy and that was all. And that was the last time he gave me a toy, as he became a father of two shortly afterward. I wasted a golden opportunity to shop around toys for my negative mindset…

Episode From An Old Tree in Kyoto /Hodemi Woods

Audiobook 1 : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. 
Audiobook 2 : My Social Distancing and Naked Spa in Japan by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. 
Apple Books, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total. 

Podcast: just clearing your eyes

Episode from The Family in Kyoto: One Japanese Girl Got Freedom by Hidemi Woods 

HidemiWoods.com 

Audiobook 1 : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. 

Audiobook 2 : My Social Distancing and Naked Spa in Japan by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. 

Apple Books, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total. 

just clearing your eyes

My father was an attentive father. He treated me so nicely throughout my childhood. My mother didn’t like how he treated me because she believed he was just spoiling me. Every time he did a nice thing to me, she got angry. To avoid her anger, he had learned to give me a treat without her presence.

Near my home was a temple famous for the five-storied pagoda, and a fair was held along the approach to it once a month. A relative of ours had a booth at the fair and my father helped carry merchandise every month. He never forgot to get some toys for me there when his work was done. There was no greater pleasure for me than seeing him entering the house, waving some play house items to me. Of course he was scolded by my mother when she caught it.

I usually slept beside my grandparents and I had suffered from chronic insomnia in my childhood. Once in a while, I had a happy occasion to sleep with my parents when my grandparents were on their trip. On one of those occasions, my mother was taking a bath when my father came to futon next to me. Since my parents didn’t know about my insomnia, he was surprised I was still awake. He thought I couldn’t sleep because I was too hungry. Not to be caught by my mother, he stealthily got out of the room, sneaked into the kitchen, made a rice ball and brought it to me. He told me to finish it before my mother came out of the bathroom. Seeing me devouring it, he said that he had never made a rice ball by himself before and didn’t know how. It was surely the ugliest rice ball, but the most delicious one I had ever had.

My mother also didn’t like to see me cry. She had told me not to cry because crying made me look like an idiot. While my little sister cried all the time, I tried not to as hard as I could. But as a small child, I sometimes couldn’t help it and my mother would get angry with me for crying. In those cases, my father always said to me, “You’re not crying, are you? You’re just clearing your eyes, right?” I hadn’t noticed until recently that there are the exact words in my song ‘Sunrise’. I’ve put his words unconsciously…

Podcast: my first ever appearance

Audiobook 1 : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. 
Audiobook 2 : My Social Distancing and Naked Spa in Japan by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. 
Apple Books, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total. 
 
 
As the school play of the drama club approached, I had prepared for my first role vigorously. Once I remembered all the lines, acting itself actually felt much easier than the backstage work I had done for three years.
The difficult part was timing for some action. In one scene, I threw a bowl at the heroine but she had to show her back to me when it happened. I sat with my back to her and couldn’t see her positions. We made the sound of her knees tapping the stage floor a signal that she had turned her back to me. Because the sound was so subtle, I was afraid of missing it.
Near the end of the play, an evil stepmother, who was played by me, killed a heroine with a poker. It was a custom of the club that the club members would visit a shrine together to pray for safety before the play if it had a murder scene. We did that after school, with me standing right in front of the altar because I was the murderer. Now, I had everything ready for my first play, and the day had come.
Since it was a Japanese period play, I had borrowed kimono from my grandmother as my costume. My role was an old woman and I drew lines on my face and sprinkled talcum powder over my hair. While I was waiting for the play to start in the wings, I got tensed up and my hands began to tremble. There’s an old trick in Japanese show business, that tracing a Chinese character that means ‘human’ on a palm with a finger three times and pretending to swallow it removes tension when you’re nervous. I threw myself on the trick but it didn’t work at all. Suddenly I lost self-confidence and told one of the juniors that I was so nervous. Although she would also appear in the play as a bit part, she was surprisingly calm. She suggested the trick placidly and said that she couldn’t help me because she had never been nervous in her entire life. As I doubted if she was a human being, the play started.
Following a heroine’s monologue, the curtain was raised and I was standing in the center of the stage. The unexpected happened: before I uttered a word, the hall got engulfed in an explosion of laughter. The audience burst out laughing at the scene in which a stumpy girl was standing with old makeup. Although the play was a serious drama, my first ever appearance was laughed away…
 

Podcast: I nearly screamed

 
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 nearly screamed
The decisive reason I chose music as my career is Tulip. It’s a Japanese pop and rock band. They literally changed my life and have still had influence on my songs.
They broke up years ago but over the past decade, they were sporadically reunited and on tour for a limited time. Those occasions are extremely precious to me since I constantly crave their concert. In late January, I happened to see a poster of them at a convenience store. It told about their reunion and the limited time tour. I was so excited that I nearly screamed there.
It was then that my long torment of an allergy has begun. Besides a pollen allergy, I had never had an allergy in my life. But I found a reddish rash at the lower part of my both cheeks one morning, which seemed some allergic reaction. During the days when I arranged the tickets for Tulip’s concerts, the rash had gotten worse. It was red and itchy and covered the lower half of my face that was swollen.
I looked terrible. I walked drooping my head to hide my face with my hair every day. I selected three concerts of Tulip’s tour since I couldn’t afford all venues much as I wanted, and they were held monthly between April and June. Each venue I got the ticket for was far from my home and I needed to book the hotel and the train.
I doubt if words can convey how embarrassing it was to make three trips wearing the red rash on my face. I had dreamed of Tulip’s another reunion for five and a half years and when it finally became a reality, I went to their three concerts looking awful with a red, swollen face…
 

sneaked a kid’s snack

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

It’s common in Japan that a child remains at a parents’ house after going on to college or starting to work at an office, or even after marrying. That had been my family’s tradition for a very long time and as a result, we lived in the exact spot where our ancestors had lived, without moving for hundreds of years, because a firstborn should have stayed in the parents’ house. That had lasted until one particular firstborn broke the tradition by leaving the house; that was me.

 So, my grandparents, my parents, my uncle, my younger sister and I had all lived together when I was little. This uncle of mine is my father’s younger brother and he was such a troublesome man when we lived together. He constantly teased me and stole from me. My biggest pleasure back then was to get a snack at a nearby small candy shop after school with my scarce allowance. But the snack was often gone the moment I put the bag in the house and looked away from it. My uncle would eat it. I never understood why a grown-up like him sneaked a kid’s snack.

 He brought me a toy whenever he went on a trip or out for an errand. Even so, his daily plunder harmed goodwill, and I earnestly wished he would leave the house as soon as possible…

Episode From An Old Tree in Kyoto /Hodemi Woods

Audiobook 1 : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. 
Audiobook 2 : My Social Distancing and Naked Spa in Japan by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. 
Apple Books, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total. 
 

Free download of Kindle ebook! July30th-August3rd ‘Living with Giver and Taker in Kyoto, Japan by Hidemi Woods’

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…

Living with Giver and Taker in Kyoto, Japan by Hidemi Woods

Podcast: Doll’s Festival

 
Audiobook 1 : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. 
Audiobook 2 : My Social Distancing and Naked Spa in Japan by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. 
Apple Books, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total.  
 
Doll’s Festival 
The Doll’s Festival in Japan is for celebrating girls and they decorate old style dolls on stepped shelves. The festival I had when I was 12 years old coincided with the day to know whether I passed or failed the entrance examination for the best private junior high school in the city. In Japan, each candidate is given an applicant number and a school releases the numbers of the passed ones on big boards put up in a school.
After excruciating two years that I attended the supplementary private school for the exam additionally after finishing a whole day at the elementary school, I was reasonably confident. I went to see the announcement boards with my parents and my younger sister. It was a big day for my family, as the result would more or less decide my future.
In front of the boards, I was astounded. My number wasn’t there. I failed. On our way home, we stopped at a bakery for cake for the Doll’s Festival. While my mother and my sister went in the bakery, I was waiting in the car with my father. It started to snow. I still can vividly picture those snowflakes falling and melting on the windshield. I had never felt so devastated before.
In the evening, my mother took a bath with me and she wailed saying “I’m so disappointed!” again and again. Because I wasn’t used to seeing her crying, my despair turned fear. The fear that I made a fatal, catastrophic error. Since then, every year on the Doll’s Festival, I remember that year’s festival…
 

Podcast: only evil people in this world

 
Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps.  Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total 
 
When I was little, my mother constantly said bad things about others. She believed that, even when someone was kind to her, there must have been some plot behind the nice gesture. To sum up what she talked about every day, there are only evil people in this world.
In kindergarten, mothers would fix a lunchbox for their kids and the kids would eat lunch with their classmates and their teacher. At one lunchtime, when I was opening a lid of my lunchbox, I inadvertently dropped it to the floor without having a single bite and it overturned there. I lost my lunch. While other kids laughed at me, my teacher, who had been trying so hard to make me play with other kids because I had ignored them and had hardly talked to anyone, cleaned up the mess for me and took me to a small candy store outside the kindergarten.
She told me to pick any bread I liked. I picked one timidly, feeling afraid what kind of trap this would be, as I didn’t have any money. She suggested one more. I couldn’t figure out what was going on and shook my head. She picked one more piece of bread by herself, took out money from her own wallet, and gave all the bread to me.
I was stunned. She bought me lunch. It was the first time that someone unrelated to me was so kind to me. Since then, I had started talking to her. Even after I finished kindergarten, I had kept exchanging letters with her and I still send her a Christmas card every year.
She was the first person who destroyed my mother’s theory of the evil world and taught me that there were some good people in this world…