My great-grandmother was a geisha

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My great-grandmother was a geisha. She grew up in a remote village surrounded by the mountains and left home for a big city to become a geisha. She had a daughter by a patron and died right after she gave birth. The daughter was my grandmother on my mother’s side. She didn’t remember her mother at all and didn’t know her father, either. No one still knows who her father is, except that he was a rich and powerful name.

 She was taken in and raised by her mother’s parents at their home in the mountains, but for various reasons, she was soon handed over to one relative to another. She lived in countless different homes of her relatives and changed her school for innumerable times in her childhood. At every school she attended, she was the smartest honor student and had never dropped to second.

 One of her relative’s homes where she lived for a while was my grandfather’s. Years after she left, he told his parents that he wanted to marry her. She got married with him at the age of sixteen and moved in his house again as his wife. She settled down and got her family at long last. But only five years later, my grandfather was drafted for World War II and she was left with her two daughters, one of which is my mother, and her in-laws.

 A former prodigy with no home and no parents found herself working hard as a farmer everyday in the fields with her in-laws…

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

Podcast: arranged marriage

Photo by Eva Elijas 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
 
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…

An eel is an expensive treat in Japan

One summer in my childhood, my grandfather on my mother’s side invited my mother and me to lunch. The restaurant’s specialty was eels. An eel is an expensive treat in Japan. We arrived at an awfully old-fashioned Japanese restaurant where we took off our shoes and sat on the floor at the low table. Except for us, only one table was occupied by a woman with a small child, who was busily stuffing the leftovers into a tin box she had brought. Every time my grandfather needed a server to come to our table, he clapped his hands twice and called out, “Hey, sister!” It was an obsolete manner no longer practiced, which embarrassed my mother and me.

 When our house was rebuilt, I had my own room for the first time. That time, my grandfather took my mother and me to a furniture store to buy me a bed and a wardrobe. After we chose the items, a young salesperson calculated the total. My grandfather naturally asked for a discount but the salesperson’s offer didn’t satisfy him at all. He was an old patron of the store and had bought every piece of furniture there for my mother when she got married. He was used to special treatment and assumed he would get one there. But the salesperson declined the further discount, as he was new and didn’t know my grandfather. Even so, my grandfather persisted and decided the total amount of his own. He handed bills to the salesperson, and told him how much the change to be brought back should be. My grandfather’s way apparently perplexed the salesperson. Standing next to my grandfather, I was so embarrassed again.

 Eventually, a long tug-of-war was over and the salesperson brought back what my grandfather had told him. My bed and wardrobe were successfully discounted, but I learned my grandfather’s style was outdated in the modern world…

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

My new Kindle has been published! ‘Living in The Rural Town of Japan: The Country Life of Japanese-style / Hidemi Woods’

Marriage in Japan
I went out for lunch with my partner at a cafe the other day that stood across the train station in a Japanese desolate rural town where I live. To call it a cafe is a bit too fancy. It’s not the likes of Starbucks but rather a small old mom-and-pop diner that was built well over 30 years ago and remained as it was, which perfectly matched this old town itself.
We sat at the table and overheard a conversation from the table next to us. Three old women in their eighties sat around the table by the window. “She has passed away, too.” “This could be the last time we get together.” Although they were exchanging a downright sad conversation, they were talking in a matter-of-fact way and their chats were lively.
While we were eating a salad with watermelon that came with our main dishes of curry and rice with a fried pork cutlet, a family of three came in. A boy about ten years old and his parents in their thirties sat at the table near ours. As soon as their orders were taken, the boy started reading one of comic books that the diner placed for customers, and his father went outside to smoke. His mother was staring into space.The father came back in when their dishes arrived on the table but they didn’t talk while they were eating. Except that the parents occasionally said something to the boy separately, there was no conversation between the parents. After they finished eating, the father went out again to make a phone call, the boy played with diner’s puzzle toys, and the mother stared into space again. I saw through the window the father talk with someone over his phone pleasantly while smoking and laughing. He came back in and also began to play with a puzzle toy. I thought it was much more fun for him to have lunch with a person on his phone.
Quite too often, I see a married couple having almost no conversation at a restaurant. I wonder if people stop talking each other when they get married. While they must have clicked each other enough to get married in the first place, what makes them fall silent? Since I have never been married, I have no idea whether it’s because they have changed or they have lost interest in each other after marriage.
The closest married couple I know is my parents, which means my knowledge about marriage is a generation old. My parents are from farming villages in Kyoto that is the oldest city in Japan. According to the old custom, their marriage was arranged by their families’ intention not their own. Inevitably, they were strangers with no affection whatsoever. In my childhood, my mother used to say, “I wouldn’t have married such an ugly guy like your father unless he had money.” Times have changed, and people get married by their own will in Japan. Nevertheless, if a couple who liked each other finds it difficult to talk once they marry, I don’t understand what marriage is for. The mystery deepens still more.
The family of three left hastily after they were done with the toys and staring. The party of three old women ordered refills of their soft drinks repeatedly and lingered at the table with their conversations, as if they were reluctant to leave the diner.

 

Living in The Rural Town of Japan: The Country Life of Japanese-style / Hidemi Woods

an awkward atmosphere

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
trick again.
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

Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total

Podcast: 100 years old

Audiobook 1 : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. 
Apple Books, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total. 
 
Audiobook 2 : My Social Distancing and Naked Spa in Japan by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. 
 
100 years old 
My grandfather used to say that he would live until 100 years old. When I was a child and lived with him, I hated him. He was a dictator of my family. My grandmother, my parents, my younger sister and I lived with him cowering and flattering him because we were afraid of him. He wielded absolute power over us and nobody could oppose him.
We needed his permission for anything. For instance, when I wanted a puppy, my plea was rejected because he said, “This is my house.” As a child, I thought his existence immensely violated my freedom and was hoping that he would not live so long.
He liked going out and sometimes took me to a department store. It had never been a pleasant outing. He was stingy. He would go to a department store just for browsing without buying anything, wearing a ragged jacket and worn-out shoes. For lunch, he would order the lowest priced dish and share it with me. And he would tell me to fill my stomach with tea because tea was free there. He couldn’t make it to 100 and passed away at the age of 96. My family agrees that I’m the one who have the character just like him…

[ Podcast ] an old Japanese custom

 
On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total 
 
 There’s an old Japanese custom called ‘Age of Thirteen Visit’. A child who reaches thirteen years old by the traditional system of age reckoning visits a specific local shrine to receive wisdom. The important event has one critical rule. The thirteen-year-old visitor should never look back until they pass through the shrine’s gate after the visit. If it happens, wisdom they’ve just gotten is returned. Every time a topic of the visit was brought up by some chance in my childhood, my mother would strictly instruct me not to look back when my visit came. It had become a repeated threat for me. After those years, I reached eleven years old, which is thirteen by the traditional system, and the day for the visit arrived. I was so tensed and nervous because of years of my mother’s threat. I got dressed up with kimono and my mother put a wig on my hair to make me look grown-up. While I was greedy enough to look forward to getting wisdom, I was anxious about looking back as much. From the moment we left home, my mother kept reminding me not to look back at the shrine. As the pressure had accumulated, a sense of panic had been built inside me. By the time we prayed at the altar in the shrine and started leaving, I was panicky. On the spot about only several yards to the exit gate, I couldn’t stop myself and looked over my shoulder. I blundered away my once-in-a-lifetime visit. My mother made sure I didn’t look back when we passed the gate. I lied and said no. On our way home, we dropped by my aunt’s house. She noticed that I was wearing a wig. But when she pointed it out, my mother instantly denied it. I didn’t understand why she had to lie about such a small thing like a wig, but she just insisted it was my real hair. My aunt slipped beside me when we were about to leave and asked me if it was a wig. Although I said yes indifferently, she triumphantly uttered, “I knew it!” She sounded as if she had beaten me and I felt annoyed. I hated my mother’s totally unnecessary lie. And as for me, I went through a terrible teenage life with my own trifling lies. I believe that was because I had returned wisdom at the shrine on my Age of Thirteen Visit…

my yukata

My hometown is in Kyoto, which is a popular
tourist destination in Japan. There is a big
historic festival called Gion Festival in summer.
Because it attracts visitors all over the world
and the venue is too crowded, my family had
never gone out to see it.
When I was in high school, my friend
suggested hanging around the venue on the
eve of the festival. The evening of the eve is
also a popular attraction with the parade floats
parked on the street. To go there, it was
common to wear a yukata, which is a casual
kimono for the summer season. I didn’t have
one of those and asked my mother to get one.
Before the festival, she bought a yukata for me
so that I could go. I liked its design very much.
Usually, a yukata had a pattern of morning
glories or goldfish, but mine was unique and
fancy with a fireworks pattern. It became my
treasure as I wore it again a couple of years
later for the festival with my first boy friend.
Meanwhile, after my younger sister failed the
TV talent show audition, she hadn’t stopped
learning Japanese dancing against my wish. My
mother convinced her that she failed because
we were late for the audition that day.
According to my mother, the judges weren’t
taking enough time to see how talented my
sister was. So, she had still taken lessons in
Japanese dancing. It’s danced with wearing a
kimono and for practice, with a yukata. My
sister had some yukatas as her casual practice
wear for the lesson.
One evening, when I was left at home as
usual, my sister came home with my parents
from a lesson. She was wearing my yukata.
She used my treasured fireworks yukata as
her casual practice wear. I cried, “It’s mine!”
My mother explained she was out of fresh
yukatas and made her borrow mine for that
evening only. They were too insensitive to care
about my feelings toward her Japanese
dancing lessons and my yukata. I’ve never
worn it since then…

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

Free download of Kindle ebook! Mar25th-29th, ”Dreaming Japanese Girl and Reality in Kyoto / Hidemi Woods”

There’s an old Japanese custom called ‘Age of Thirteen Visit’. A child who reaches thirteen years old by the traditional system of age reckoning visits a specific local shrine to receive wisdom.
The important event has one critical rule. The thirteen-year-old visitor should never look back until they pass through the shrine’s gate after the visit. If it happens, wisdom they’ve just gotten is returned. Every time a topic of the visit was brought up by some chance in my childhood, my mother would strictly instruct me not to look back when my visit came. It had become a repeated threat for me. After those years, I reached eleven years old, which is thirteen by the traditional system, and the day for the visit arrived.
I was so tensed and nervous because of years of my mother’s threat. I got dressed up with kimono and my mother put a wig on my hair to make me look grown-up. While I was greedy enough to look forward to getting wisdom, I was anxious about looking back as much. From the moment we left home, my mother kept reminding me not to look back at the shrine. As the pressure had accumulated, a sense of panic had been built inside me. By the time we prayed at the altar in the shrine and started leaving, I was panicky. On the spot about only several yards to the exit gate, I couldn’t stop myself and looked over my shoulder. I blundered away my once-in-a-lifetime visit. My mother made sure I didn’t look back when we passed the gate. I lied and said no.
On our way home, we dropped by my aunt’s house. She noticed that I was wearing a wig. But when she pointed it out, my mother instantly denied it. I didn’t understand why she had to lie about such a small thing like a wig, but she just insisted it was my real hair. My aunt slipped beside me when we were about to leave and asked me if it was a wig. Although I said yes indifferently, she triumphantly uttered, “I knew it!” She sounded as if she had beaten me and I felt annoyed. I hated my mother’s totally unnecessary lie. And as for me, I went through a terrible teenage life with my own trifling lies. I believe that was because I had returned wisdom at the shrine on my Age of Thirteen Visit…

Free download of Kindle ebook! Mar25th-29th, ”Dreaming Japanese Girl and Reality in Kyoto / Hidemi Woods”

TV talent show

When my younger sister had learned Japanese
dancing for a couple of years, my mother
decided to get her on a local TV talent show.
Unlike me, my sister was always my mother’s
pride for her prettiness.
To be on the show, there was an audition in
a city, about 20 miles away from our home. My
father was going to drive them there. I
assumed they would go with just three of
them, leaving me behind as usual. For this
particular occasion though, I felt rather happy
not to join them because I had borne a grudge
against Japanese dancing since my mother let
my sister take lessons not me. But my mother
had the nerve to demand me to come with
them to the audition, saying that it was a huge
event for my sister and I should show support
for her.
I got in the car, not for her audition but for a
possibility to eat out at a restaurant on our
way back, which we hardly did and the three of
them might do without me. My mother was
never punctual and we were already late by
the time we left home. From then, things were
just like the movie, ‘Little Miss Sunshine’.
When we got there, the registration was
closing and the judges were leaving. My
mother desperately begged for the audition.
They reluctantly allowed it with the obvious
intention of making it finish quickly. After my
sister danced for a few seconds, they stopped
the music and said thank-you. I kept asking
my mother if it meant she passed or not while
my sister gloomily undressed.
When my mother admitted my sister failed, I
felt over the moon. I thought justice had been
served. I was in an utterly good mood and was
saying, “Let’s eat out! Which restaurant shall
we go?” all the way in the dismal car. My
parents and my sister were too depressed to
respond to me and we ended up going straight
home. I couldn’t get to eat out after all…

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