I had an interesting dream the other night. In it, I was at my parents’ house in my hometown. My father set a bomb in my purse to blow up the house. I ran out to escape and found that the house was placed at the bottom of a deep pit. The only way to survive was to climb up a steep slope to the edge of the pit. While climbing it desperately with all my force, I saw a rainbow on the edge. Finally I reached to the edge. There was nobody else except me who was out of the pit. I looked up at the sky and saw a gigantic red dragon. When I was awed by the beautiful sight, fireworks began.
And I woke up. I thought something very good might happen to me because I saw several items which are regarded as of good omen, such as a rainbow, a dragon, and fireworks. But then again, I know nothing will happen from my experience. I once saw a dream of picking up a large coin of $10 million and yet nothing has happened…
Episode From An Old Tree in Kyoto /Hodemi Woods
I was a fan of a local country band called Bugs
Bunny when I was in junior high school and
they were going to give a performance at an
open-air municipal auditorium. Their
performance was one of the series of the local
traditional musical event. It would start at 6:30
p.m. while my curfew was 7:00 p.m., which
meant I needed an exceptional permission
from my parents.
My father readily gave it, telling me that he
used to go to the event himself when he was
young. He guaranteed it would be so much
fun. I was changing my clothes before leaving
for the auditorium on that day when my
mother asked what I was doing. I told her
about the event, and she said madly, “ Are you
out of your mind? Your curfew is seven
o’clock!” I explained that my father had
allowed me to go, but she kept saying, “No
way! You can’t go!” I called out to my father
for help and she demanded to him angrily,
“Did you allow this? Did you, really?” He said
yes in a faint voice and got under her fiery
anger. I begged him to persuade her, but her
definite noes drowned out his “It’s rather an educational event.”
At last, he said to me, “You
can’t go because your mother says so.” That
was the last straw. I screamed at him, “You
wimp! You can’t decide anything by yourself! I
hate you!” I called my friend crying, to tell her
that I couldn’t make it because my father was
my mother’s servant, and stopped speaking to
On the next evening, he came into my room
hesitantly. As I ignored, he put a bag on my
desk and said “Sorry.” After he left, I opened
the bag and inside was a book of poems, which
I had wanted for some time. I had talked
about it casually at dinner and he
remembered. He gave me a gift instead of
confronting my mother.
A few years later though, his character
changed completely for an unexpected reason.
It happened when I decided to be a musician
after high school. Until then, he was a gentle
father who liked music so much that he
recorded my singing for practice when I was
little and bought me records, a stereo and a
guitar. But since I chose music as my career,
he has been mean and spiteful to me and been
opposed to my decision to date. Who would
think one career choice reverses someone’s
That my mother wouldn’t want my father to do
a nice thing to me meant that he constantly
did what she didn’t like. The junior high school
and the high school I attended were far from
home and it took me an hour and a half to get
there by bus. My parents were farmers and
they would leave home at dawn in summer.
But the wintertime was the low season and
they didn’t have to leave so early in the
morning. My father sometimes drove me to
school so that I could have breakfast for which
I often didn’t have time and had to skip on a
busy morning to catch the bus. My mother
would keep nagging and saying, “You’re being
spoiled!” all the while I enjoyed my breakfast.
And to my father, “You’re spoiling her! She will
come to no good!” until we got into the car.
One morning, my father and I found quite a
few bags of bean sprouts scattered on the road
on our way to my school by his car. It was too
early in the morning for other cars to run, and
the bags seemed to have just fallen from a
delivery truck. We got out of the car and
picked up the fresh bean sprouts. We were so
happy to get them for free. But it made my
mother furious. When I came home from
school, she was still in a bad temper and yelled
at my father repeatedly all day long, “What
should we do with so many bean sprouts? They
will go bad quickly! Do we eat them for each
meal everyday? Everything goes wrong when
you drive her to school!”
My father was so obedient to my grandfather
and my mother, and basically did whatever
they told him to do. What he did spontaneously
for a change aroused their anger. He was a
pushover for them and I’d never seen him
decide anything by himself. When I saw ‘The
Simpsons’ for the first time, Smithers looked
awfully familiar to me. My father was exactly
like him. I spent my childhood with Smithers in
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
My father’s hair started thinning in his late
twenties and he has become bald by his mid-thirties.
As a child, I knew him only as a bald
man. One day, I came home from school, and
found that my father’s head was full of hair all
of a sudden. I was so surprised that I asked
him what had happened. “Nothing,” he replied.
I rushed to my mother and asked the same
question. She said, “His hair grew back today.”
I wondered how long I had spent at school. My
conclusion was a toupee, except for which
there was no other explanation.
But my mother bluntly denied it. She
reiterated his hair had simply grown back in
one day. From her tone, I sensed that this was
a sore subject I shouldn’t mention further.
Back then, it had been my favorite trick that I
quietly slid the bathroom door open and
startled my father while he was taking a bath.
I played the trick one evening and saw him
covering his removed toupee frantically with a
basin. Unfortunately, the basin rolled down
from the toupee, making it lay bare. His
embarrassed eyes met mine. I closed the door
without saying a word and never played the
I had lived with an unaccustomed-looking
father in an awkward atmosphere for a next
few weeks. Then, his toupee days came to an
abrupt end and he returned to a bald man as if
nothing had happened. We’ve never talked
about it to date.
A couple of years ago, I had a chance to see
my cousin and we talked about our childhood
memories. He said he hardly remembered his
childhood, but did remember one thing vividly.
His only memory was that my father showed
up at his house wearing a toupee…
Episode From An Old Tree in Kyoto /Hodemi Woods
The cab was running through my familiar neighborhood where I spent my entire childhood. It was still shabby as it used to be. The cab drove through old houses of my childhood friends where I used to play with them, and under the overhead train bridge where I ran into perverts so many times. From the car window, I saw the elementary school I went to, and the sidewalk on which my first song came to me while I was walking. The bookstore where my father bought me my first English dictionary and also where he spotted his missing cousin. A place where a milk factory used to be that I waved to its plastic cows beside the gate every time I passed by in my father’s car. The old temple where my late grandparents used to take me and let me feed doves.
Then something struck me and I suddenly realized. It wasn’t just the house I was losing. I was losing my hometown and departing from my childhood. I would never be in this neighborhood again because it was going to be an unrelated, foreign place from now on. Although I had always hated my neighborhood, that thought brought a lump to my throat and soon I found myself crying. I was stunned and overwhelmed by this unexpected feeling. If I hadn’t been inside a cab, I would have wailed.
The cab came near Kyoto Station that was my destination. My late grandfather often took me to this area around the station that used to be undeveloped, decayed and in the miserable condition. But now, after years of intense redevelopment, it has become an urban area with numerous modern buildings of hotels, fashionable shops and huge shopping malls. It was a completely new different place and I found no trace of what I was familiar with the area. The cab stopped at the signal close to the station and there stood a new movie complex by the street. I casually wondered if it showed ‘Tomorrowland’. Then I felt I was actually stepping into it.
Things and places I had been with were all disappearing and a place I had never seen before appeared in front of me. I saw a change more clearly than ever. I was leaving everything old behind and going into a new world. The world I’m walking into is unknown, but therefore there are full of possibilities…
In voice mail, there was a message from my father that said he needed to be called back immediately. I was chilled to the bone. I have never received a single phone call from him that’s not disturbing. When he calls me, he does it to vent his spleen about his daily life and about my career as a musician. What comes out from the receiver is his lengthy verbal abuse. Nevertheless, I mostly return his call because things get worse if I don’t. This time was no exception and I called him back fearfully with trembling hands. Instead of a spurt of anger, he told me to come home as soon as possible and stay for a few days. I asked him what happened and he didn’t answer that. As his request sounded urgent, I repeatedly asked for the reason. He just dodged and kept saying that he wanted me to come home right away. I hung up and felt alarmed. Something must have happened. Since he had never given me good news, that something was most certainly a bad thing.
My parents’ home is located in Kyoto that is 500 miles away from where I live. It takes me over five hours to get there by bullet train. I don’t have so much free time to take that long trip without the reason. Besides, such an unusual request requires extra caution. I called my mother’s cell phone and asked her what was all about. She told me that they had decided to sell their house and move out. They were looking for a condominium to buy and moving in as soon as the house was sold. The house could be sold next month at the fastest, and they wanted me to sort out my stuff and spend time together under this house’s roof for the last time.
The house was built when I was nine years old at the place where our old house was torn down because it was too old to live in. That old house was built about 100 years ago. My ancestors lived at exactly the same spot generation after generation for over 1000 years since my family used to be a landlord of the area. We are here for around 63 generations. My father succeeded the family from my grandfather, and I would have been the next successor if I hadn’t left home to be a musician. Because my father failed the family business and didn’t have the next successor for help, he had sold pieces of our ancestor’s land one by one. Now his money has finally dried up and he can’t afford to keep the last land where the house stands.
When my grandfather passed away nine years ago, he complained to me again about financial help I wouldn’t lend. I promptly suggested that he should sell the house and its land. He got furious at my suggestion. He shouted, “How could you say something like that? Do you really think it’s possible? All ancestors of ours lived here! I live to continue our lineage right here for my entire life! Selling the house means ending our family lineage! It’s impossible!!” He bawled me out like a crazy man while banging the floor repeatedly with a DVD that I had brought for him as a Father’s Day gift.
But nine years later, the time inevitably came. Considering his mad fury about selling the house back then, it was easy for me to imagine that he planned to set fire on the house during the night I would stay and kill my mother and me along with himself. That seemed the true reason why he wanted me to come back. Those murder-suicide cases sometimes happen in Japan, especially among families with long history.
But the first thing that I felt at the news was not fear but relief. As I had known my father wouldn’t sell the house, I had thought that I would end up reaping the harvest of his mistakes as his daughter even though I didn’t succeed the family. I would have to liquidate everything in the house to pay his debts and sell the house and the land by myself after I would argue with all my relatives in the family’s branches who would most certainly oppose strongly. That picture of my dismal future had been long hanging low in my mind. But now, completely out of the blue, my father was taking up everything and I was discharged…
The house where I spent my childhood was very old. Half the floor in it was bare earth and my family lived like in the way of the Wild West. With our shoes on, we walked around the house and ate meals. It was all right to throw away the rest of a drink from a cup directly onto the floor.
My father used to smoke. When he smoked, he would light a cigarette with a match and toss the match to the dirt floor. It burned itself out. That is probably my earliest memory. I remember a thrown match was burning out on the floor and I said “Ah…” According to my parents, I uttered “Ah…” every time my father threw away a match as if I didn’t approve it. And my tone was always tinged with disappointment. I guess I was already cheap as a child and couldn’t bear a thing to be thrown away after just one-time use. I was nagging at my parents about everything all my childhood, and even my earliest memory is something critical about my parents. No wonder we’ve been on bad terms for such a long time…
Episode From An Old Tree in Kyoto / Hodemi Woods
My parents married by an arranged marriage.
Marriage used to be a knot between two
families, not individuals in Japan. A mutual
acquaintance introduced my parents to both
families with their photographs. Although my
parents didn’t like each other, the tie as the
family seemed favorable to their parents. My
mother agreed with the marriage very
unwillingly after the fortuneteller said that she
would handle money by the million if she
married my father.
As for my father, he reluctantly obeyed his
parents’ decision because he had never said
‘no’ to his father in his life. A month after the
wedding, my mother decided to leave my
father because she couldn’t stand to live with
his parents any longer. She went back to her
parents’ home but her father didn’t allow her
to come back. She had no place to go and
gave in to her dismal marriage. And I was
born. I wasn’t the result of a happy marriage,
but I embodied my mother’s resignation…
Episode From An Old Tree in Kyoto /Hodemi Woods