I met him in person

Jacques Villeneuve is my favorite racing driver alive. I saw him racing for the first time on my first ever visit to a circuit in Suzuka, Japan. Before the Formula One race, there was a Formula Three race as a pre-race event. Jacques was racing in it. I hadn’t known him until then, but when I saw his driving, I predicted that he would be a Formula One driver someday. After that, he went on racing in North America, and won Indy 500. Four years after I first saw his race, he came to Formula One just as I had predicted. Because he realized my prediction, I became a big fan of his and cheered him ardently every race. He eventually became the world champion.

Seven years ago today, I met him in person. I was in Montreal and happened to drop by a restaurant for lunch while running an errand. He was there. What are the odds that you bump into someone whom you have wished to meet so badly for a long time? It was a pure miracle to me. I knew he wouldn’t like to be bothered his private time but I couldn’t help approaching him. He listened to me kindly, patiently, smiling, while I was spouting about how much I admired him. We shook hands. I usually wear nice clothes to eat out but on that particular day, I didn’t expect to go into a restaurant. At the happiest moment of my life, of all the clothes, I met him in a $5 jacket, a $7 skirt and with a necklace I had picked up on the street…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Rainbow Town

I like to spend my free time at a shopping mall. The first mall I had ever visited as a small child was called Rainbow Town. When it was built, people made noise about it because it was the first underground mall in western Japan -probably the first mall either on the ground or underground. The neighbors and the relatives of my family asked, “Did you go to Rainbow Town yet?” as daily greetings. My grandfather was fascinated by the concept of a mall. He often talked with wonder about what an artificial town was like and how it could exist underground.

 Since the mall was located in the city next to ours, my grandparents and I finally went there one day by train. Although the destination was a mall, our purpose was sightseeing rather than shopping. My grandfather kept talking about his concern over sufficient air in the underground mall, while my grandmother got up early in the morning to fix lunch for all of us. We were headed for a mall as if we were going to NASA. The mall was crowded with cool, urban shoppers, and had a stream and a big fountain along the walk. I had never seen so many shops and restaurants gathering in one place. My grandparents were amazed that the mall was so bright with full electricity and decorative with water. They also couldn’t believe that there were restaurants, which used the fire to cook, though it was underground. My grandfather reminded me over and over that people and cars were passing through above us.

 Because all the benches were taken, we sat on the rim of the fountain for lunch. We had my grandmother’s handmade rice balls and Japanese tea from our canteen there. Right in front of us was a nice restaurant where many customers had their decent lunch and a good time. My grandfather said to me triumphantly, “Do you know how much they have to pay in there? They’re stupid!” We left for home without eating or buying anything at the mall. My first mall experience wasn’t so good, but I love a shopping mall so much still…

episode from An Old Tree in Kyoto / Hidemi Woods

handmade party

My late grandfather liked to go out and often wanted to take me with him when I was little. Although I didn’t like to go out with him, I couldn’t say so because he was a tycoon in my family.

 There were two reasons why going out with him wasn’t fun. One was because I was tense all the time being with him who used to be very strict. The other was because he sometimes took me to weird places such as the porn movies or a betting ticket office. So, when he said to me “Let’s go to a Christmas party together!” one day before Christmas, I sighed and felt dismal. It wasn’t common in Japan to have a Christmas party back then and I couldn’t imagine what it was like. It sounded shady enough since the offer came out from my grandfather. Of course I didn’t say no and left for the party with him.

 The site was a small place looking like a community center. Several men were busy working in and out of the place. One of them spotted my grandfather in front of the building and greeted joyfully. He seemed so happy to have us. My grandfather was a head of a local senior citizen club and it turned out to be the club party. We arrived before the party officially started, but he led us inside. We were handed party hats and told to put on. The small hall was dark and had pretty Christmas decorations and music. There were a few snack stands and we were given tickets for the snack. Just for two of us, they worked in a hurry and let us know when the snack was ready one by one.

 While people working there and my grandfather were all cheerful, I was cautious and sit tight because everything was totally new for me. I had never seen grown-ups having a Christmas party, had never put on a party hat, had never been suggested dancing, and had never seen my strict grandfather in such a good mood. We left when other guests began to show up. It was a sort of handmade party and not a gorgeous one. But unexpectedly, it was the best Christmas party I could remember…

episode from An Old Tree in Kyoto / Hidemi Woods

“It was a fox! A fox got me!”

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

My First Audiobook Published!

Japanese Dream: Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan / Hidemi Woods
On Sale at online stores or apps. Audible is coming soon.
Jackpot

the supermarket turns into heaven

The nearest supermarket to my apartment puts half-off stickers to the prepared foods that are left unsold at 7:30 p.m. And sometimes, they put 75% off stickers to the ones that are still unsold after the half off at 8:30 p.m. But it all depends on the unsold amount and the 75% off sale is rarely fulfilled. When it is, though, the supermarket turns into heaven to me. It’s a risky challenge worth a bet.

I decided to go for it today and convinced myself that the main purpose was not to get the 75% off foods but to take a walk. This is my fail-safe mindset to protect myself from a bitter disappointment in case nothing is left at the store. I went there, and lost the bet. Their shelf for prepared foods was completely emptied. I kept saying to myself that I came here to take a walk, not to shop. But I had to buy some other mildly discounted items to console myself. I couldn’t shake off the frustration in any way. My fail-safe plan didn’t work for my greed…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

‘Lowest price’ is the keyword that always hooks me

Yesterday I happened to see a news program on TV reporting about a discount store, which carries the lowest price soda in Japan. ‘Lowest price’ is the keyword that always hooks me and I watched the report. Astonishingly, the reported store is located near my apartment.

I rushed into the store today. It existed on the site of a supermarket where I used to shop frequently but was closed for good four years ago. The building had been abandoned until the new discount store opened there last July. I can’t believe I had neglected to find it for almost a year as a person who is hunting for the lowest price constantly. While the building was the same as four years ago, the store had been transformed into my taste. The prices are incredibly low, some are the lowest in Japan, and the store opens 24 hours!

I had wanted an around-the-clock discount store for years. Since I decided to move out here, I’ve found fabulous shopping destinations one after another – first Costco, then this place. Is this a sign to stay put? I’m so confused now…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

heartburn again

I successfully got up earlier than usual enough to shop at Costco before it closed for the day yesterday. It was my first time to shop there in the evening and the store was a lot less crowded and easier to move around with its gigantic cart because housewives in large numbers had gone home. I bought huge squares of garlic bread with a coupon, which price was about a quarter of the one at regular bakeries in Japan. After shopping, I had a slice of the delicious pizza outside the store watching the beautiful twilight sky.

To go home, I need to walk for 15 minutes to the bus stop and take the bus to the train station before I take the train. When I was walking along the street toward the bus stop, I was passed by three buses in succession only several yards off to the bus stop. I thought I would have to wait for the next bus for a long time but two buses came in succession right away. This local bus line has the world’s largest services, I guess.

I came home and tried a piece of the garlic bread. It was so delicious but soon, I had heartburn. I had another piece for lunch today and had heartburn again. If it doesn’t suit my digestion, what should I do with the massive rest of the bread…?

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

stick to this mad society

My moving plan is still alive. The most possible property I’ve found and liked so far is the one located in the snowy countryside surrounded by mountains. It stands alone in the woods and there’s no house, building, or shop around it. It takes 50 minutes by bus to get to the closest town. So, it’s like the one in that scary novel, ‘The Shining’ by Stephen King. It’s completely secluded and away from people. Because of how it’s located, it meets my low price range.

If I moved in that place, I could finally get rid of this crazy society and concentrate on writing songs. Sounds ideal for me. There, only one road leads to the town, weaving through the mountains. If a landslide or a snowslide occurred and blocked the road, I would lose the way to get food and might die there without being found. I’m terrified at the thought of that.

Am I left with no choice but to stick to this mad society and live among people, after all…?

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods