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

Photo by Ruca Souza on Pexels.com
 
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.
 

Podcast: A Japanese Girl in The Catholic School of Kyoto 2 by 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.
 
Since I became the class clown at school, I was quite popular back then, not only among the students but also among the teachers. When I needed to see a teacher at the hallway in front of the teachers’ office, other teachers would come out of the office to talk with me. They would stand in a circle around me and laugh at my jokes and stories. Inevitably, it was always noisy wherever I showed up.
The vice-principal was a stern, rigid teacher called Sister Maris Stella. She was the oldest sister at school and dressed in a traditional, old-fashioned Catholic gown. She was strict to students and teachers alike. Everybody tried to keep away from her because she always reproved someone for something. She would appear wherever people were buzzing, to shut them up.
She had recognized that I was often a seismic center of the buzz and given me a look of ‘You again’. Every time the teachers were cracking up with me in front of the teachers’ office, she poked her long-veiled head out of the office. That was a signal for the end of the show. Teachers would disperse quickly while I stopped talking. Sometimes we failed to notice her and she stood behind the circle listening to me. The moment someone spotted her, they would walk away. In those cases, she would ask me what I was talking about. I would apologize and leave.
And one thought occurred to me. She didn’t come out to reprove us. She might want to join us. Even after I realized that, I had no way to keep talking once other teachers ran away. As a result, we just kept leaving when she came up. And one day, when we were scattering at the sight of her as usual, she grabbed my arm. She said to me, “That’s it! You hate me, don’t you? I know you hate me! I know, because I hate you too!” Over her shoulder was a statue of the Virgin Mary with a plaque saying ‘Love and Humanity’. It was the most inconsistent scene I had ever experienced.
Months later, there came a general-school-cleaning day. I was unlucky enough to be assigned to the school cafeteria of which Sister Maris Stella took charge. As if she got a golden opportunity, she made a slave of me. She chose the dirtiest floor just for me and made me crawl to clean up thoroughly, yelling “Not enough! Do it over!” repeatedly. I felt her revenge so strongly. Given the hatred and now the revenge, I deepened the mystery of Catholic sisters…

Regret and Decision hr639

If I could go back in time by a time machine, I would most certainly choose one summer day in my senior year of high school and redo that day.
In the summer of my senior year, I had been in the final stage of study for the entrance exam to the leading university in Japan. My love for music was the biggest obstacle for study and I tended to lapse into listening to rock and pop records on the stereo easily. Since I spent too much time in music instead of study, I determined to stop listening music until the entrance exam was over. I pulled the plug of my stereo off the outlet, paste it on the wall of my room along with a handmade poster that said ‘Patience!’ in capital letters. I tried to devote everything for a life at the best university in Japan.
I was an avid fan of a Japanese band called Tulip. Most albums and tapes I had were theirs. I frequently went to their concert that would give me a heavenly time. I had had to stop going there as well in that summer. So ironically, or almost fatefully I should say, Tulip was having the 1000th concert that coincided that particular summer of that particular year, of all summers and years in the calendar. It was a milestone big enough for them and their fans to be held at an amusement park that was reserved specifically for the event for the whole day. The amusement park was operated as ‘Tulip Land’ for the day, where paper cups and plates donned Tulip Land’s special logos and designs that were available on that day only, commemorative goods were sold, games and events connected with Tulip were held during the daytime, and the 1000th special open-air concert was held in the evening. As you can imagine, it was a dream event in which fans would drool all over. For me, it would be the day with Woodstock, Comic-Con and Disneyland combined all together at one place. It would be actually a dream. There was no way to miss it.
Back then in Japan, it was an era of so-called ‘Entrance Exam War’. Students with four-hour sleep pass, and with five-hour fail, that was a general rule for the war. Not individual ability but a name of the school one was graduated from decided later income and social rank in Japan. It still does. I think a social structure like that has brought this long economic decline to today’s Japan. In a whirlpool of the relentless era, I was an immature, foolish high school senior who was willingly sucked into the war to get a name of the university. In the depth of it, I had looked for any possible way to spare time for the dream event. It would be held in Tokyo that was over 300 miles away from Kyoto where I lived. It couldn’t be a matter of a couple of hours but a two-day trip. It would be crazy to waste two days in the middle of fierce competition like ‘Entrance Exam War’. I reached a heartbroken decision. I chose to study in my room instead of going to Tulip Land.
I had had gloomy days for a few months until the day of the event came. My dismal feeling culminated on the day. For the entire day, all I thought of was what was going on in Tulip Land. I glanced at the clock every hour and imagined what game was held by now. Is it a trivia quiz about Tulip? Or a lottery game for Tulip goods? Are fans sipping soda out of a paper cup that has ‘Tulip Land’ printed on the side? Has the concert started? By which song is it kicked off? Which song are they playing now? Are the fireworks showing? Is it done? Is it over now? I couldn’t focus on anything all day long. I spent the whole day in my room without studying at all.
At the end of the day, I realized I could have been there. I just might as well have gone to Tulip Land as wasted the whole day. I intensely regretted it and literally gnashed my teeth. I blamed myself for my stupidity. The size of regret appalled me so that I sincerely hoped never to feel this way.
I hopefully expected time would heal the regret. On the contrary, it had tortured me at length for months. The regret hadn’t been eased but deepened. It continued to ask me what I was doing, and the question had evolved gradually into why I was studying for the entrance exam, what going to the best university meant, whether it would bring happiness, and eventually, it began to ask me what I lived for. As I had grappled with those questions, I studied less and less. By the time of the entrance exam, I had lost interest in the university. Instead, I got a grip on what I really wanted to do.
I failed the exam not only to the leading university but to all the other famed ones I had chosen as a safety measure. Only one college of my worst-case scenario accepted me but I didn’t feel like going there. I decided to do what I want however society works or whatever people say because I simply didn’t want to experience that kind of regret again. All what I went through in that six-month period after one regret of Tulip Land set the course to take. I chose to live as a singer-songwriter.
Decades have passed, and yet Tulip’s 1000th concert pops up in my mind every time I think about regret. Tulip Land had never been held again. Since the band broke up and the guitarist passed away, it never will. I passed up the once in a lifetime event for sure. Time neither solved the problem nor eased the pain. I still agonize over how foolish I was not to go. In me, a word ‘regret’ stands for Tulip Land.

The Beginning of My Life hr638

After I was graduated from a Catholic high school in Kyoto, Japan, I went overseas for the first time in my life as a family trip around Europe during spring break right before starting college. The culture shock I experienced there seemed to alter my brain. It took control of me and began to inflict cracks everywhere on common practice of the small hamlet of Kyoto that I was born and grew up in.
One of the things I realized in Europe was that so many different people lived by so many different ways of their own. It had been always that way and not worth mentioning, but that kind of notion blurred in my home town where everybody knew everybody who lived in the same way. As a firstborn, I was destined to succeed my family that had lasted over 1000 years, which meant I should live with my family in the same house, on the same location, for my entire life until I die. Although that had been fixed according to the hamlet’s long-standing common practice, what I saw and felt in Europe told me that shouldn’t be the only way to live.
Another thing Europe showed me was better understanding of my parents. Through numerous happenings during the trip, I learned their true self. They weren’t wise, weren’t respectable and didn’t even love each other. It became questionable whether I should follow the fixed life that was demanded by my parents now that I found they didn’t deserve trust.
The first day of college came in only a couple of days after I returned from Europe. It was an orientation day on which we had a physical checkup. I didn’t understand why it was necessary in the first place. For a few-minute-long checkup, all the freshmen had to stand in line waiting for their turns. We waited for three to four hours doing nothing, just standing. I couldn’t leave the line for lunch. A friend from the same high school as I had been in spotted me and went to get a cookie. While I was munching it standing in an everlasting long line, I felt dreadful for my college life that had just started. I had been fed up with my school days that were inefficient, wasteful, full of totalitarian practice. I thought I finally got out of it but it turned out to be started all over again. Everybody did the same ineffective thing at the same time here in college too.
The college had a compulsory two year’s curriculum claimed ‘general education’ and one of the subjects was physical education. About 30 students of the same class gathered at the ground wearing the college gym uniform. We played catch in pairs in one class, and danced odd moves to music all together in another. To me, it wasn’t college at all. I was sent back to kindergarten.
I asked myself what I was doing day after day. The world was infinitely vast yet life was too short. There was no time for doing what I was told to like others did. Time had to be spent on what I wanted to do even though others didn’t do. Three months later, I stopped attending all the classes other than an English conversation class. I knew I would neither graduate college nor get a degree as a result, but I didn’t care. There, I chose what to do by myself, and my own life has begun.

In Japan, St. Valentine’s Day

In Japan, St. Valentine’s Day is the day that women give chocolate to men. When I was a freshman at high school, I had a big crush on my math teacher and gave him a handmade chocolate cake on Valentine’s Day. I wasn’t interested in cooking at all and never helped my grandmother and my mother in the kitchen. Although cooking was an unknown territory for me, I decided to make a chocolate cake on a whim. It turned out to be way harder and more time-consuming than I thought. I made two cakes and chose the better-looking one for the teacher and the other to be stored in the fridge for my family and myself. I handed the cake to the teacher at school and was so happy because he seemed pleased. I came home in a good mood and tried the other cake in the fridge myself. My good mood was extinguished on the spot. It tasted horrible. I’d never had such a terrible cake before, and haven’t since. Of course I tasted it to make sure while cooking, but I did so for chocolate icing, not for sponge cake. As you know, chocolate can’t go wrong, but sponge cake possibly can. I felt awful imagining the teacher was having the vicious cake with his colleagues or his family on Valentine’s Day…