In my hometown, there used to be a night for
a test of courage for kids in summer when I
was a child. It was a small neighborhood event
that an adult volunteer set up a sign saying ‘A
Test of Courage’ at the entrance to a narrow
lane between the neighbor houses. Except for
the entrance, the rest of the lane was left as it
was, without any special scary decorations or
surprising effects. Enough nature still remained
in my neighborhood back then though, and a
ditch, bushes and shrubs along the lane had
sufficient effects in darkness to scare kids.
One summer dusk, I heard my grandmother
call me urgently when I was playing in the
yard. She grabbed me and ran into the house,
escaping from something. It was a ball of fire
drifting above us. That was the first time I’d
ever seen a will-o’-the-wisp, and I haven’t
seen one since. But to my family, seeing a
willo’-the-wisp wasn’t so rare. My grandmother
once saw it perch on a side mirror of a parked
car in front of our house. Scientifically, it’s said
that a will-o’-the-wisp is some phosphorusrelated
phenomenon. Near our house, there
was a graveyard where we had buried the
deceased from generation to generation, which
is now banned by law requiring cremation, and
we believed it had to do with a will-o’-the-wisp.
I had plenty of natural scary materials in my
Episode From An Old Tree in Kyoto /Hodemi 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
As long as I could remember, my family members had told me that I was a successor of the family and I was to live with my family all my life as my father, my grandfather, my great-grandfather and on and on and on did, by taking a husband into our family to bear our family name. They kept saying that as a usual chant so repeatedly that I was sort of under the spell that I would be stuck in the house as a successor until the day I die.
So, I was an outsider when other girls chatted giggly about what last name they would bear after their marriage or where they would live in the future. I knew what my last name and what my future address would be because they wouldn’t be changed. My whole life was so predictable for that matter. Since I knew my future, I had no interest in my life, and days were so boring.
I changed my future completely by abandoning my family, my friends, my hometown and the old tradition. Now, I’m free from my once-arranged future. Instead, I dread my uncertain future everyday…
The Return to Anaheim/ Hidemi Woods
I got on the plane to Los Angeles and was taking breath in my seat when a flight attendant spilled orange juice all over my partner’s brand-new pants. They were his favorite pants that he would wear all the way to the end of this trip. His face looked both crying and laughing.
The plane approached Los Angeles and the familiar sight of brownish, scorched-looking land came into my view. Good and bad memories flooded into my mind. Right before the touchdown, I saw the signature structure of two arches and the control tower of LAX.
Totally unexpectedly and suddenly, a surprising feeling seized me. I felt I was home. I felt as if I had returned from a long trip of ten years to my hometown that I had given up coming back again. It was a warm feeling that I had never had before. My eyes were filled with tears. I had never understood those who talked about how wonderful homecoming was. I didn’t know what they were talking about though I was born in Kyoto and have lived away from it. I have never felt anything special every time I go back to Kyoto. I just feel indifferent or rather disgusting. Coming back to Los Angeles, I understood what homecoming is all about for the first time in my life. If I had been traveling alone, I would have cried out loud. I was stunned at the discovery of my hometown. The plane landed and a tear of joy was on my face as I finally came home…
The elders of old families in the hamlet where I grew up had regularly practiced a Buddhist chant when I was little. My grandfather was one of them. He didn’t come home from the practice one night by the time he was supposed to. When we were worried and about to go look for him, he turned up at our doorstep sweating and getting muddy. He was shaken by fear and said, “It was a fox! A fox got me!”
Usually, he would come home by passing through the narrow unpaved alley that led to a wider street near our house. According to him, he was walking home on the familiar dirt alley as usual after he left the elder’s house where the chanting practice was held. But on that particular night, the alley he had walked hundreds of times didn’t come to the wider street. It didn’t end. When he reached the end of the alley, the entrance of the same alley started again instead of the street. The alley continued endlessly and he couldn’t get out of it. He began to panic, ran, tumbled, repeated countless trips through the alley and finally landed onto the street.
In my hometown, people believed that an inexplicable incident like this was caused by a fox that bewitched them. A fox sometimes pulled mischief around us, and my mother had a similar experience. Because it had been a common knowledge throughout the neighborhood, everybody in my family was fully convinced that my grandfather’s story was true – except I inwardly suspected that a fox might mean drunkenness. By the way, we call a shower when the sun is shining a fox’s wedding…
episode from An Old Tree in Kyoto / Hidemi Woods
I had a dream about my grandparents last night and couldn’t go back to sleep because I missed them so badly. Both of them have passed away, but they raised me when I was a child in place of my parents who were too busy working out in the field as farmers. When I lived with my grandparents, I didn’t appreciate being with them, as they were strict, quiet and boring, and I constantly missed my parents. But after I grew up and left my hometown, I realized how my grandparents regarded me and felt about me. Until they passed away, I had returned home once or twice a year. My grandfather would wait for me with an envelope that had some money for me inside, and my grandmother with my favorite food that she would have prepared and cooked from morning. She would wear particularly for the day something I had given to her before, to show me her gratitude. Those things were what I could never expect from my parents. My parents would be seldom at home when I returned although my homecoming was only yearly and informed well beforehand. That was not because they were working. They would be out for shopping or, at one time, they were even gone on a trip to Hawaii. They seemed to lack the sense of pining for and anticipating someone. Or, they may have simply avoided me. Parental affection doesn’t necessarily come from parents. In my case, it was my grandparents who gave it to me…
It was my birthday and my parents sent me presents. The gifts from my mother were exactly the same necklace as the one she had sent me a couple of years ago, a vinyl bag which she apparently had got as a freebie, and some towels she didn’t use anymore. She also enclosed a bag of rice crackers. My hometown is in Kyoto that is a Japanese historic city with a lot of old temples and shrines. Many stores there take advantage of the location and use the historic sites and events as their signature design for wrapping. The store my mother bought rice crackers used a Japanese classic card game. It’s played with 100 cards on each of which an ancient poem is written. For some reason, I was very good at the game when I was a teenager. I haven’t played it for a long time. Some of the 100 poems were printed on the wrapping of the rice crackers and I remembered how good I was. The best present from my mother this year was a wrapper of a snack…
As long as I could remember, my family members had told me that I was a successor of the family and I was to live with my family all my life as my father, my grandfather, my great-grandfather and on and on and on did, by taking a husband into our family to bear our family name. They kept saying that as a usual chant so repeatedly that I was sort of under the spell that I would be stuck to the house as a successor until the day I died. So, I was an outsider when other girls chatted giggly about what last name they would bear after their marriage or where they would live in the future. I knew what my last name and what my future address would be because they wouldn’t be changed. My whole life was so predictable for that matter. Since I knew my future, I had no interest in my life, and days were so boring. I changed my future completely by abandoning my family, my friends, my hometown and the old tradition. Now, I’m free from my once-arranged future. Instead, I dread my uncertain future everyday…