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

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.