Episode from My Social Distancing and Naked Spa in Japan by Hidemi Woods
Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods
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Despite the ceaseless agitation that Japan’s population has been decreasing and its birthrate has critically dropped, a population explosion has been happening in my neighborhood in particular.
People keep moving in, kids keep being born, and houses and stores keep being built. Only the space around me is the exception of a Japanese trend. The more the people, the higher the odds of crazy ones.
I introduced here my neighbors who used the street as their own yard and let their kids shoot hoops from the busy street to their house. The noise of a bouncing ball was so annoying and I dropped a note to stop in their mailbox one day. It worked and I had retrieved peaceful sleep for a couple of weeks as I usually sleep in the daytime. A sad fact is that crazy people don’t learn. They resumed playing basketball on the street last Sunday and I had to drop the note again. This neighborhood was once quiet and sparse, but now, it’s close to the limit of my patience…
Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods
Next to my apartment is a parking lot. A loud noise of a car engine without a muffler woke me up early in the morning today. Sick people who enjoy driving a car without an engine muffler and with a booming car stereo are increasing here. I was able to go back to sleep but then the neighbor kids’ voice disturbed my sleep again.
The window of my room looks out on the front yard of a neighbor’s house. Kids and idle housewives were playing and talking loudly. Kids are my archenemies. They relentlessly attack me with their evil, highpitched voices and shrieks. When I first moved in here, there were few houses around. But soon, more and more houses were built, more families were moving in, and I got surrounded by kids.
Every time I move somewhere quiet, the area quickly gets booming and kids are running everywhere destroying my cozy living environment. Now that I’ve decided to move, the destination should be someplace quiet, kids-free, bugs free, and hopefully, people-free…
Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods
On my way to do the holiday shopping, I dropped by McDonald’s for breakfast. Although the place was huge, it was crammed with people and I gave up eating there. I usually eat in a thrifty way at home with food at the sale price or half price. But since it was the holiday season, I decided to eat out luxuriously for once. There was a hotel near McDonald’s and I had all-you-can-eat breakfast at a restaurant there. I hadn’t been there for a couple of years and noticed things had changed. Most of the customers having breakfast there are the ones who stay at the hotel. Last time I had breakfast there, all the customers were Japanese. But now, most of them were Chinese and South Korean. They traveled by package tours and left almost all at once. After their big buses departed the hotel, only a few tables were occupied by Japanese. And I found out that Chinese and South Korean travelers’ manners have become better than Japanese ones. Japanese customers’ kids were shouting and running around the restaurant. Young couples were eating with the room slippers of the hotel on. Japan has been in a long economic downturn for years. In these years, Japanese people have lost money and also manners. Thinking about the transition of times, I spent two hours for the breakfast while having as mush as I could to the verge of a burst of my stomach, in order to make the most of money I paid…
After work, I dined out. I haven’t done that as often as I used to, because restaurants are filled with noisy kids and housewives. Kids are my regular enemies. Today, the place was empty as it had just opened for the day. But as the time went on, more and more kids came in, and soon I got besieged by them. Only move I could take was to retreat, as usual. I sincerely wish kids-free environment would prevail someday…
Here, I make an embarrassing confession. I hadn’t been able to ride a bicycle without training wheels until the fifth grade. I always believe that riding a bicycle successfully for the first time should be like the one in the movie ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ where a father played by Dustin Hoffman jumps for joy and takes a picture of his son’s first ride. Sadly, parents in real life are too defective. My parents used to be farmers who worked out on the field from dawn to night. They hardly took a day off and when they did, it was a rainy day. During winter when their work was a little less hectic, they would bring crops from the field to a communal wash place by the small park near our home. They spent the rest of the day washing the crops by hand with their long booted feet soaked in freezing water. My father used a short interval between the field and the wash place to teach me to ride a bicycle. He couldn’t spare more time and I wasn’t a fast learner. After a few unsuccessful attempts, I became the only one among the kids of around the same age in the neighborhood who couldn’t ride a bike.
One day, my mother took me to the park with my sister on her way to work. Because she told us to bring our bicycles, I thought she would teach me this time. But she spotted a couple of older kids in the park, asked them to teach me and rushed into the wash place. With the kids’ help, my younger sister by four years got to ride a bike without training wheels, while I couldn’t. The kids laughed at me. When my mother poked her head around the door of the wash place and asked them how it went, they said, “She’s no good! Her sister rode it first!”
Much later, I was already close to my then-best friend Junko and took courage to ask her to teach me. She helped me in the park earnestly until it went dark. As it was time to go home, I tried one last time under the dim light of a mercury lamp. And I finally made it. Behind me, I heard Junko shouting for joy, “She’s riding! She made it! Hooray!” When I stopped and looked back, I saw her face flush with happiness. I miss her. More than I miss my parents…
When it comes to an
election, I always remember Mr. Goyude. He was a local politician in my
hometown. I often saw him outside the elementary school I went to,
waving and talking to kids. He would hand out his cards to kids, saying
‘Say hello to your parents for me!’ Some foolish kids boasted about
getting his autograph or shaking his hand. Every time I saw Mr. Goyude, I
felt pitiful for him. Japanese people say ‘A doctor or a minister,
which will you become?’ when they admire a promising child. Our family’s
next-door neighbor used to say it to me and each time, I hoped not to
be a minister because to become one, the process seemed so sad and
miserable. Now I’ve grown up and I became neither a doctor nor a
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