The Turning Point hr648

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I was nervously looking at a passing view of houses and factories from the window of the express train that ran between Kyoto and Osaka in Japan. On that day, I headed for Osaka to meet for the first time the person who had posted a recruitment ad for the band in a music magazine. I was tense not only because I wasn’t good at meeting people, but also because my demo tape to be exchanged at the meeting had sounded terrible. When I recorded it, I couldn’t manage to make it as I hoped it to be. In the end, I was so frustrated that I aborted recording in the middle of one of my songs. And I was carrying that tape as the finished product for the first meeting. I was easily able to imagine the dumbfounded expression of the person who would have listened to this tape.
It had been three months since I started college life that had turned out to be a waste of time and I began to look for a band. Although I had determined to pursue music as my lifelong career, my band searching hadn’t been going well. I had felt I was at a deadlock. If I had failed to form a band again with this meeting, futile days would have gone on. I couldn’t stand it any longer. The train arrived at Osaka and I came to the meeting place 10 minutes late.
The young man was standing where the railway track ended as Osaka was the terminus. When I passed him by on purpose, he called me to stop though he didn’t know my face. We greeted and entered the cafe. He introduced himself along with his music career so far. Although he was younger than I was and still a high school student, he had a wealth of experience in music under his belt. He had formed several bands with which he had won quite a few competitions and awards. I wondered why he hadn’t mentioned them in his recruitment ad on the magazine. He of course had written much more songs than I had. Compared to his experience, a few gigs and my own songs were nothing. Inevitably however, he asked about me and my turn to talk about myself came.
After I heard about his glorious career, I didn’t feel like telling him mine. I just gave him snippets of information such as I started to play the piano when I was four years old since I had applied to his ad as a keyboardist/singer. And instead of my experience, I ranted and raved about my passion. I didn’t have anything else for self-promotion but showing how committed I was to make a career as a musician. I did so also because I had my poor demo tape waiting to appear. As I remembered the last line of his ad was ‘A band member with passion wanted’, I thought my passion was the best defense as well as selling point. I even told him how hurriedly I had pedaled my bicycle when I went to get a double postcard to contact him prior to this meeting. After he listened to me half amusedly, he told me that his band would start with me as the keyboardist.
As it turned out, we exchanged demo tapes not to listen there but just to make sure later. All he needed to find out at the meeting was passion for music. Through his rich experience in forming a band, he had been sick of Japanese musicians’ common attitudes that they wanted to be professional only if they were lucky. They would play in a band until they got a steady job at the office and quit. No matter how skillful they were, they would decisively lack intention to become a professional musician whatever it took. I happened to have that kind of intention more than anybody and got to show him. I joined a band and the meeting was over. When we were about to leave the cafe, I said to him “Don’t bother about my coffee,” because it was still a common practice back then in Japan that a man should pay for a woman. He answered, “I wouldn’t do such a thing.” He was a rare progressive person for a Japanese of those days. Along with the cool cafe in the big city and the new band, I felt like I opened the door to the future at the meeting.
I was relieved to have found the band and have broken a deadlock finally when I headed home. I took the train back to Kyoto again, which was running toward the future this time. In the train, I listened to his demo tape on my Walkman. On the tape were three songs he wrote and sang with his own guitar playing. I was astounded. His songs, singing, playing were all excellent. Even the recording quality sounded as if it were of a professional musician. I couldn’t believe what I had just found. I was convinced I had hit the jackpot. With this talent, the band would become professional and be a big hit in no time. Success was assured. For the first time in my life, I felt hope enormous enough to tremble. All at once, everything I saw looked different. The same somber houses and factories that I had seen out of the train window the way there were beautiful now. The regular train was gorgeous and all the passengers seemed happy. Among those happy passengers, a shaft of sunlight beamed only on me and shone me. I saw my wretched life with too many failures ending at last. A successful life that I should have was about to start instead.
I listened to the tape repeatedly on my way home feeling literally over the moon. The thing I couldn’t see was that this was the entrance to my adult life filled with sufferings and miseries that I would have endured as a musician to this day.

she broke my loneliness completely

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 : I stopped acting a class clown

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: an ordinary ping-pong table

 
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. 
 
When I was a ninth-grader and a leader of the ninth-grade play team for  the homecoming at school, I devoted myself to dramatization and  direction in the run-up to the homecoming. The teacher in charge of our  team praised my first dramatization. He said it was a good script and I  had a talent. While I was motivated, other members of the team didn’t  have a whit of interest or enthusiasm. They tried to make me decide  everything. I took care of the set, the props and the costumes while  teaching the lighting and acting. Above all, their acting was terrible.  They were just reading their lines in a monotone. No matter how  strenuously I explained, they simply couldn’t act. I acted every role  for them and asked them to mimic me. As I needed to tell every member  what to do and how to do, I felt like I was working with a bunch of  robots in the team. At last, they started suggesting that I would be  better off if I did everything in the play alone by myself, instead of  giving them each and every single instruction. Maybe it was true, but  there was one exception among the cast members. The girl whom I cast as a  leading roll tackled her acting earnestly and seriously. She followed  every instruction and advice from me. Other members were still sardonic  for my casting of a non-pretty, unpopular girl as a leading role, but  her acting got better and better. It seemed she felt an obligation to me  for the casting. She even brought a present for me on my birthday  although we had never been close and had hardly talked with each other  at school until the play team got going. With her and my effort, our  team successfully put on the play at the homecoming and it was much  better than I had expected. This curriculum play was part of a school  competition. The faculty would vote to decide the best play among the  seventh, eighth, and ninth-grade team’s plays. It was a school’s  tradition that a ninth-grade team won every year. As a ninth-grade team  leader, I was sitting at the auditorium, preparing myself for receiving  the prize out on the stage when the winner was announced. “The  eighth-grade team!” the announcement filled the air. 

Podcast: summer camp when I was a freshman

 
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. 
 
The high school I attended held a mandatory summer camp when I was a  freshman. The students chose activities such as swimming, hiking,  cycling and so on beforehand. To spend the time in the camp together, my  group of close friends at school decided to choose the same activities.  We considered carefully which ones were the easiest and mildest, and  chose archery and cycling. A couple of months later the cycling day in  the camp arrived. We set off on each rental bicycle. Right after that,  one of my friends, called Yone, fell. She quickly got back on her bike  and we started again. Immediately, she fell again. We stopped to wait  for her. She caught up with us by pushing her bike and said, ‘Sorry. Now  let’s go!” But the same thing was repeated for the third time, her  falling down, us waiting. We finally asked her what was going on and  heard her astonishing confession. She said, “I can’t ride a bike.” We  gaped. Being unable to ride a bike was nothing, but why did she choose  cycling among all activities then? And telling us now? We pressed her  for an explanation why she didn’t just say so when we decided on  cycling. She told us that she couldn’t because we were joyfully talking  about how easy cycling would be. In our group, she was the tenderest  one, but also a pushover. She always had no opinion of her own and  conformed to others. That was a given, but I never thought this much. We  were talking about pushing our bikes and going all the way on foot with  her when she said, “I’m ruining your plan for an easy activity. I can’t  make you walk all the way because of me. Please ride on. I think I can  manage along the way. I’m sorry. Sorry.” We mounted on the bike, not  pedaling but walking while Yone kept falling and saying sorry for a  million times. Her indecisive, weak-minded attitude has gradually gotten  on my nerves. A girl of other group whom I had barely talked before  pedaled back toward us. She had something to ask me. I answered and  chatted, and we hit it off instantly. When I realized, I pedaled with  her separating from my group. I stopped to wait at the foot of the  downward slope and heard a scream. It was Yone flying down the slope on  her bike and tumbling into a rice paddy.

Podcast: When I killed her

 
Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps.  Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total 
 
My long-awaited first appearance on the stage drew unwelcome laughter in the school play but I had been absorbed in my role as an evil stepmother too much to care about the audience’s wrong response. A hush fell over them quickly and tension of the play was conveyed to them as the play went on. They even screamed in the scene that I slapped hard the heroine on the cheek. When I killed her near the end, I heard them raise an outcry. The play was a big success.
It was part of entertainment in a welcome assembly for new students. Since the school had both the junior high and the high school, the drama club had two performances on that day for each school. While I was cast in both performances, the heroine was double-cast. My favorite senior member of the club played it in the first performance and every scene with her went so well probably because chemistry between us was right. Especially when I slapped her, it produced an ideal loud whack. Miss Fujiwara, who had snatched a role away from me months before, was the heroine for the second performance. She asked me to slap her just as I did to another heroine. She was envious of the dramatic scene we had created. Unfortunately, she overacted the scene and my slapping made a dull thud. I knew it would go that way considering our bad chemistry. Or maybe my hand hit her too hard by carrying my bad feelings toward her.
After the play, the teacher in charge of the drama club ran up to me and proudly proclaimed, “A star is born!” He introduced me to his colleagues as a new star in the drama club. I gained a weird celebrity status at school. Every time students spotted me, they would shout abuse at me for what I had done in the play, or they would try to avoid me because they were scared of me. It seemed I acted the role so well that they believed I was a naturally vicious person off the stage.

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: my first role

 
Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps.  Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total 
 
At long last, I got my first role in a school play at the drama club when I was a freshman in high school. It took me three years to get it as a member of the club. Since many senior members had quit for some reason and I had been in a higher position by then for casting that had the seniority system, my role was quite big.
It was a villain in a Japanese period drama, who tormented her pretty stepdaughter and killed her. I was the evil stepmother of a heroine, which was played by the same Miss Fujiwara who had taken a role away from me by one vote in the last play. My mistake of not voting for myself made her one step senior to me and yielded bigger consequences as time went on. Now she was a heroine and I was a wicked old woman.
Nonetheless, I was absorbed in interpretation and rehearsals now that I got what I had been craving for three years. I tried to think and live like an evil person for the interpretation every day. Acting evil was easy for me: I’m used to picking on my little sister and besides, an object of my bullying was Miss Fujiwara. Hatred toward her was naturally transfused into my acting and I blew off steam by yelling at her, hitting her and killing her on the stage in every rehearsal.
The retired senior members of the club sometimes came to observe rehearsals. My character went mad in the end of the play and it was going to be told by the narration. They admired my acting and suggested adding the scene for me instead of the narration. I was so honored and acted the madness intensely when they wanted me to try. While I was satisfied with my acting, the scene was cut and back to the narration. Probably I overacted it and was too distasteful to watch…

Podcast: the casting

 
Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total  
 
After two and a half years of training and backstage work in the drama club at junior high, I was close to getting a role in a school play. Casting was done strictly by seniority, not by acting skill. A leading role automatically went to the club captain and the higher grade at school a member was in, the better role she got. The club was a joint activity of the high school and the junior high. I was already in the ninth grade and many senior members at high school either graduated or quit.
As a result, I rose to a candidate for the last bit part that had only two lines. The part was normally to go to Miss Fujiwara who was a freshman at high school and so one year senior to me. But since she joined the club at the same time as I did and our careers were equal, the bit part came down to either her, or me. It was put to a vote. Everyone knew my acting skill was much better than hers, and the choice was actually between seniority and skill. All members including she and I sat with a face hiding in the arms on the desk and eyes closed. The club captain stood in front of the blackboard on which our names were written. When she read out a name, we raised a hand for the name of our choice, and she counted the vote. Although I craved the role, I raised my hand when Miss Fujiwara’s name was called out for two reasons. While we wouldn’t know who voted whom, the club captain would know. I wanted her to recognize how much I respected seniority and I was thus a good member. And also, I had a trauma that my mother never allowed to vote someone else but myself and people laughed at me when I got one vote by myself in every election at elementary school.
The result was exactly tied. The captain declared the second vote, which meant the part would be mine if I voted for myself this time. Switching a vote seemed so shameless, though. I had never been in a tight corner like that. I raised my trembling hand for Miss Fujiwara. I heard one of the names being erased on the blackboard and when I opened my eyes, I saw my name gone. Miss Fujiwara got the role. Right away, an enormous feeling of regret came over me. I went home shivering, realizing I had made a huge, irretrievable mistake.

Podcast: An Ugly Girl in The Drama Club 2

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Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total 
 
The drama club to which I belonged when I was a junior high school student had two school plays a year, for the homecoming entertainment and for the welcoming-new-students assembly. The casting would be done by a seniority system. A handful of senior members appeared on the stage and other members worked backstage.
New members usually started from the stage props staff, then were promoted to the scene shifter, the spotlighting, the curtain drawer/prompter, the stage lighting, and finally, the cast member. My fellow five new comers had quit within a year because they couldn’t take this slow promotion toward cast members, and I was the only one left among those who joined that year. Since there were so many members who were one year my senior, it seemed the day I would be cast in a play would never come in this seniority system. But once I begin something, I don’t quit easily.
When the twice-a-year school play came near, I would work eagerly backstage while seeing some senior cast members whose acting were much worse than mine rehearse on the stage. I started as the stage props staff. The first play I took part in was a Japanese drama. Some cast members had trouble putting on Japanese sandals very quickly when they stormed out of the room in one scene and complained to us. From then on I had stretched their sandals carefully before the scene for the cast members to put them on quickly. As the spotlighting, I learned to move a spotlight just as the cast member moved on stage and to keep the light above her chest all the time. Every once in a while in rehearsal, I made a mistake to follow the cast’s quick movement and my light missed the position slightly. In that case, the play would come to an instant halt and everyone turned to me. I would stand straight beside the spotlight and yell “I’m so sorry!” to the whole production.