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…

ideal place for me to live in doesn’t exist

Eight years ago today, I moved into this apartment. There are things that I like about it such as the utilities-included rent, the unique design, and the view. It has the flip side though. Every time the wind blows, TV is down. The roof is so thin that raindrops sound like the percussion. The walls are also thin and even subtle sounds I make trigger the neighbor’s banging. Those things keep me looking for a better place constantly. Each and every place has a flaw. Too dense, too rural. At least one side of the place borders the nextdoor neighbor. It seems that an ideal place for me to live in doesn’t exist. Well, to begin with, is there such thing as an ideal place to live in on this planet…?

I lost my hope and purpose entirely…

Hiring specifically new graduates is a Japanese companies’ custom. If you fail to enter a university after finishing high school and spend another year to take an entrance examination again a year later, you would be one year older than other new graduates, and that is a big disadvantage to be hired at a Japanese company. When I failed all universities I applied for, my hope to work at a big company as a super career woman was crushed. The college I passed belonged to the same school as the high school I went to, and wasn’t effective to open a gate for a big company upon graduation. Come to think of it, the dream of my youth was purely based on my vanity because I don’t think I’m cut out for a nine-to-five job nor I don’t want to be a business person. I can’t even wake up in the morning to begin with. But I was young and stupid enough then, and totally at a loss for what to do for life, as I lost my hope and purpose entirely…

Congratulations!

February is the time that most universities and colleges hold an entrance examination in Japan. When I was a senior at high school, I applied for five universities and one college. I failed all five universities. They send the result by mail and put it up on the campus too. An applicant is allotted a number and the numbers of passed applicants are put up on a big bulletin board there. For one of the universities I applied, I was fairly confident about passing after the examination, and I went to see the result at the campus alone before receiving it by mail. There were lots of numbers on the big board and I was quite sure mine was among them. But it wasn’t. I failed the exam. And there, I discovered a human reaction to totally huge despair: laugh. To my surprise, completely unaware, I laughed. Besides the applicants, around the board were students who were recruiting those who passed to their clubs and circles, and people at local businesses who were looking for part-timers. Because I laughed, they thought I passed and they flooded around me at once. They handed numerous fliers to me, saying ‘Congratulations!’ I came home by subway. At the station, I dropped to a trash bin a big bundle of fliers that were meant for only those who passed. Tears also fell. During the subway ride, I felt like my life was going in a long endless tunnel instead of a train. I remember how dark my future seemed that day…

closing sale

I went shopping for a closing sale of a store, which was going out of business after over 30 years. The store usually has sparse customers but its closing sale changed it completely. The floor was filled with people who waited in a long line at the checkout with a basketful of clothing. I had never seen so many shoppers in that store. I bought knitted caps at $3 each marked down from $20 and scarfs at $2 from $20. And I noticed there were only few younger people in the store. They were all elderly people around me. A large number of aged people were shopping around so vigorously. I don’t see such lively old people so often. Was the store aimed at elderly people? If so, my taste for clothing is similar to them…

I felt delighted and embarrassed at the same time

I check the TV listings online everyday. I found a TV show that featured the town I was moving to. I was looking forward to it in front of the TV. When the show started, I realized it was about how to live inexpensively after retiring. The town was introduced as the area that had many budget apartments where retirees with a drastic income drop could afford and save money. The show chose a couple of apartments as super money-saver ones of all others. To my surprise, my new apartment was one of them! Seeing the exact building I was about to move in on TV, I felt delighted and embarrassed at the same time. To sum up, the apartment I selected is one of the best bargain apartments located in the least expensive area in Japan. It proved my discerning eye as a bargain hunter, but also declared my new place was the cheapest in the country on national television. I have a low income, all right, but I’m not retiring…

mountain of potato tempura

At the end of the last year, I won a prize drawing of a snack company and got a boxful of potatoes. I was very pleased to receive it but I had forgotten that I wasn’t a frequent cook. I finally found time to cook potatoes yesterday. The potatoes have already begun to bud. I’ve heard that a potato’s bud is poisonous and I was afraid enough to decide to eat them as soon as possible. I cooked them into tempura. The whole dinner was potato tempura. It was delicious, but eating from a mountain of potato tempura, it looked more and more like a confrontation. The leftovers still sit in the fridge and there are a lot more potatoes in the box waiting for me. They should have been a prize, not a punishment…

His big secret was out.

While I was packing my stuff to move to my new place, I inadvertently dropped a scale model of a Formula One car yesterday. It’s a McLaren MP4/6 with Ayrton Senna in it, and handmade by my American friend who made it for me and gave me as a gift a long time ago. A rear wing, a front flap, a mirror and a steering wheel came off. The model is so elaborate and the repair seems to require delicate work. I’m not so confident of repairing it as good as it was, and felt depressed. I talked about it to my partner later, and he hinted it had been already broken before I dropped it. When I asked him what he meant, he guiltily confessed that he had once dropped it by himself a few years before. Because the damage was on the opposite side of the display, he hadn’t told me that to this date. His big secret was out. I felt a little easier to find out that I was not to blame. But it remains broken all the same…

It’s a wonder I still survive in this world.

The other night, I had a dream about joining the military. I was going through various kinds of training and failed each one of them. As I couldn’t do any physical activities, the training officer asked me if I could cook or wash. I answered honestly I couldn’t do either. The officer asked my former profession and I told him that I was a singer-songwriter. He suggested me to be in the entertainment division, but I refused because I didn’t like to perform in front of people. There was nothing I could do. Then, for some reason, I was deployed to Afghanistan. And I woke up. It was a wild dream but the part that I couldn’t do anything satisfactorily was a fact. Getting out of bed, I realized again how little I could do. It’s a wonder I still survive in this world…

I often get a surprisingly discounted item

A clothing store in the mall is going to close for good and I went there today for the closing sale. I often get a surprisingly discounted item when a store is closing. It has helped me save much money. Recently, more and more stores have gone
out of business in the area where I live, and the mall I went today has also had less and less shops. As a new shop hasn’t opened, they put tables and chairs for customers to rest where the old store used to be. Now the mall has the break areas everywhere. While I enjoy a sale, I lose a store to shop one after another around me…