My Travel hr662

A trip can require an enormous effort. In my case, it starts by making time to plan in a hectic daily life which consumes me with work. Once I manage to find time for planning a trip, a long way to finish it awaits. I search all over the Internet for the best possible deal for a hotel and transportation that suits what I want to do during the trip. I narrow selections, choose the most saving plans, combine them into an itinerary, book everything, adjust my work schedule, and pack. The latest trip I took after that lengthy process was by plane. I could have taken the bullet train since the time that would be  taken to the destination was almost the same because the airport was much further than the train station from my home. But that particular airline carried a limited-time sale so that the fare was lower. My choice was decided on a plane for that reason.

No matter how many times I have flown, I feel nervous each time. Although I know that the chances of a car accident are much higher than a plane crash, that kind of logic doesn’t help me. I see many people drink alcohol before the flight and that shows I am not the only person who is nervous of flying. A long time ago, I took a flight to Dallas. Before landing, the plane was sucked into nasty turbulence. It repeated steep dives several times that gave some passengers screams and vomits. I was in a window seat and seeing the wing in the midst of a thick cloud that told me the plane tilted sharply. I heard something fall and break everywhere. Above all, I was most terrified when I saw the flight attendants panic, who were supposed to get used to and be trained for this situation. The plane finally got out of the thick cloud and I thought I would see out of the window broad highways or the edge of the runway that were common views after the plane descended that much. Instead, what came into my sight were tips of green trees. Because I had never seen trees so closely from the airplane, I was convinced that we were going to crash. I vaguely thought it was least expected that my end was Dallas. Then, the plane stopped descending and flew ahead horizontally. It made turns above trees with a move that was more like a bus’s rather than a plane’s. It seemed to spot the runway by doing so, and we landed safely.

For the latest trip I took, I checked in at the airport and was informed that my flight was delayed for two hours due to machine maintenance. I wasn’t sure if the airplane I was going on board would need further maintenance or a backup plane would fly in from somewhere, but either way, it made me uneasy since it came on top of the existing nervous factor that it was a low cost carrier. After I went through the security check and waited at the gate, the further delay was announced. I finally got on board a few hours behind schedule and the door of the plane was closed. Yet, it remained stationary, and wouldn’t move. The captain announced it was waiting for takeoff permission from the control tower. It sounded absurd because it was a small local airport where the runway was empty and only few flights a day came in and out. Forty minutes passed while many things crossed my mind. Why can’t a takeoff be permitted? Is there any problem? Is that the true reason? Does this plane still have some sort of machine troubles? The cabin was dead silent and tense as other passengers sat quiet and strained for the whole forty minutes. I thought this was the very time when we needed alcohol most. By the time the plane took off and safely finished its 90-minute flight, it was already night and I was exhausted. My elaborate travel itinerary got messed up on the first day though I had made it with full of leeway. The massive delay ate up the time for a meal at the restaurant. The express train I had booked from the airport to the city had long gone.

Flights are always accompanied with troubles. Other than delays, I have had my fair share of troubles regarding baggage, other passengers or attendants. Even so, I don’t hate flying. I don’t know why exactly, but I feel like I become a different person each time I take off and land on the destination. It is as if I jumped into a different dimension where a better version of my life exists. I like that feeling so much that I feel stuck circling at the same spot over and over without any changes when I haven’t flown for a long time. That’s why I need to take a plane to a different place once in a while in order to become a better self even if it’s nervous, risky and troublesome. I might as well stay home just to relax as to travel. It would be peaceful, calm and tranquil for me. But I know I couldn’t enjoy that because staying at the same place without traveling feels like being dead. Travel lets me keep changing so that I stay alive.

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Living in Japan: The Girl’s Days with Desire

A Rich World Requiring No Wealth

The most luxurious hotel in my small, rustic town is not far from my apartment. I visited there again the other day, not to stay the night but to use the club lounge.

The club lounge is exclusive to a member of the hotel’s loyalty program. The members can use it free of charge. The hotel has a regular lounge for its guests which menu has heart-stopping prices. Nonetheless, it was alive with customers who came to ski on the skiing slopes adjacent to the hotel. At the entrance, just by telling the server that I am a club member and flickering my membership card, she ushered me to the back of the regular lounge. Behind the glass door was the club lounge.

Once I stepped inside, I was in a heavenly place. Despite the hurly-burly of the regular lounge, I had this secluded section to myself. A cartridge coffee machine brewed freshly each cup. Bottles of sparkling wine and club soda stood in the ice-filled silver cooler. Kiss chocolates in silver wrappers, Hershey’s almond chocolates in gold wrappers and packs of a specialty cookie were arrayed. The place used up two-story-high vertical space and the wall-wide window reached to the second floor ceiling. Out of it was a side of the snow-covered mountain. I enjoyed sparkling wine in a flute glass as much as I wanted, sitting in a cozy sofa.

The thing is, I didn’t pay a dime for this service since the membership fee is free. Other occasions I use my membership card except for this lounge are when I travel to the city a couple of times a year and stay at one of the same hotel chain to happiness seems to be enlarged 10 times when a gorgeous experience costs none. I don’t think that the wealthy feel happy when they pay a lot of money to use a luxurious hotel lounge because it’s how things usually go. I’ve seen many rich people who don’t have a good time with a frown no matter how expensive the place they are at is. My parents used to be rich, but they were always unhappy and pulled a long face. The schools I went to were exclusive Catholic schools, but the students and their parents alike didn’t seem happy at all from any angles I could have ever taken to observe them.

It’s an illusion that money brings happiness. I have just finished my second book that I wrote disregarding big sales. Since I didn’t bother about how many copies would sell, I had fun in all the processes such as writing, an enormous amount of editing work and publishing. My happiness is 100 times as much as the one that I felt when I was desperate to be famous and rich.

A long time ago, I got in a facility of a soft drink company when I visited Walt Disney World. The visitors there were allowed to drink a various kinds of soft drink from the dispensers as much as they wanted for free. The minute I entered the place, I noticed a strange atmosphere. It was crowded, but people were all smiling. Each of them was laughing, talking, jesting, and having fun with a small paper cup in their hand. While I lived in U.S., it was the only place where I saw people look joyful and relaxed without influences of alcohol or drugs.

Does wealth really make people happy? We can be happy without it if we overcome fear and create the world where money doesn’t work on us. I know, though, the way to happiness is of course long and hard…

The Survivor hr661

A small plane was landing on a runway. Beyond it was a blue ocean with white wave crests beneath a cloudy sky that was beginning to be cracked and show a glimpse of the blue sky with a ray of sunlight. That was what I was gazing blankly at through a glass wall of the lounge over coffee and vegetable juice at the small local airport in Japan. Then a thick rainbow appeared from the sea surface toward the sky. It didn’t arc but stretched upright like a big pillar. I hoped it was a good omen.

When I faced financial difficulty and my income decreased sharply last year, I was resigned not to be able to afford a trip ever again. But as it turned out, I have taken a trip much more than I had ever done before in a year because the Japanese government subsidized to save the struggling travel industry so that I could enjoy a hotel stay with a minimal amount of money by using the benefit. I am such an unprincipled person who willingly make use of a bill when it comes to benefits while I usually criticize the government. And here, I was having a good time at the exclusive lounge for holders of a credit card with a premium status that I obtained by the credit card company’s promotion for first-year-free membership. Of course I am going to cancel the card within the first year during which I make the most of it by taking advantage of free stuff as much as possible. My decreased income hasn’t improved at all, yet I manage to hang onto my life persistently although it seemed all over one year ago.

I used to be sulky all the time when I was a child. I would constantly grumble and complain to my parents and they frequently asked me why I couldn’t be thankful for anything even a little bit. I still don’t know why I behaved like that, but I certainly had been discontent with pretty much everything as far as I can remember. It could have been nasty meals, could have been a tense atmosphere living with my grandparents, or could have been pressure from an unspoken rule to become a successor of the family as a firstborn. In any case, I was simply surrounded by what I didn’t like. Although my family was wealthy in those days, I didn’t find anything to be thankful for as a child.

I remained the same in my twenties. I was filled with anger everyday though I managed to leave home and live on my own as a musician instead of succeeding the family. I had craved for fame that I couldn’t get no matter how hard I tried. I bore a strong grudge against major record labels and the Japanese society as a whole that wouldn’t appreciate me. I couldn’t see one single thing that I should be thankful for. Everything in the world looked hostile to me.

Now I got old and thankful for being able to continue to do what I want to do for my life while I still have neither money nor fame. I have learned that one can find a way to live somehow unless one loses oneself. I finished my last glass of free drinks after so many glasses of it at the lounge while seeing a small plane blasting down the runway and taking off. I left the lounge with my partner and headed down to the airport lobby with the escalator. There, I found a gigantic Christmas tree against the backdrop of a beautiful twilight sky out of the window. Watching the glittering Christmas tree, I felt blessed, and thankful as well. 

I stay alive without giving up

These days, I’ve had nightmares about living in
a deserted, out-of-the-way place repeatedly. In
them, I was forced to join a dreary folk festival
in deep snow with a handful of local people, or
I was surrounded by uncivilized people whose
language I didn’t understand, or I lived in an
ancient, old-fashioned building. Those dreams
seem to represent my vague unease for
moving to my new place that is located in a
remote, mountainous, snowy region.
I’ve completed a song I’d been working on
for seven years, and I’m about to move out the
apartment I’ve lived for nine years. I’m moving
to a whole new town where I have no
acquaintances, and I’ll start promoting our
latest song and recording a new song. From
then onward, I don’t know how my life goes. I
believe it will be wonderful as long as I stay
alive without giving up. I will enjoy and cherish
every process to a new step, which hopefully
would be the better one…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi 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

Tokyo hr659

The tiny close community of a small village used to be the whole world for me who was born to a farming family living in a rural area of Japan. The sole window to the outside world was TV through which I had encountered what I had never seen in my daily life.

Back in those days, Japanese TV dramas were made and shot in the capital city of Japan, Tokyo. The city view and the people’s way of living in Tokyo looked so cool. Everything from fashion to lifestyle was completely different from things in Kyoto where I lived. On TV, Tokyo seemed like a future world decades ahead to me. I was hooked by one particular weekly crime drama which was shot on location all around Tokyo. Every location looked as if it had been in a Western country and the detectives in the drama were extremely stylish. I was absorbed in seeing that exotic world every week and had spent the other six days of the week waiting for the drama. As soon as I finished watching that show, I would rush into my room and write out the entire show in the notebook. I reproduced all the lines of characters and all the settings by depending on my memory. Since there was no way to record a TV program as a video cassette recorder was yet to come, I read my notebook over and over again to watch it inside my head until the next show was on air. In hindsight, the world of TV dramas was fictional which didn’t exist even in Tokyo, but I was too young to realize that.

Years went by and I became a musician. By the time two years have passed since I joined my first band, the band not only had played gigs around Kyoto but also had made guest appearances and had our songs played on local radio shows from time to time. We had made some connections with music producers who came down to the western part of Japan from Tokyo as judges for some live contests. However, our progress was limited because all the major music labels of Japan were based in Tokyo. My partner and I began to consider moving our base to Tokyo as we were geographically too far off to make a career in music.

Moving to Tokyo was a big deal to me. While I seldom attended, it meant I would quit college once and for all. As a much more serious matter, an old Japanese custom didn’t allow a successor of the family, that was me, to leave home. For me, leaving home meant abandoning my family and all the privileges. Although it seemed crazy to throw away everything when I had no idea how to live on as a musician in Tokyo, I felt living there would be better than staying in my family’s home for the rest of my life. I preferred eating hamburgers and french fries from McDonald’s to eating home-grown vegetables from my family’s fields every single day. I knew it wouldn’t be healthy, but at least I would be able to eat what I chose, when I wanted. To sum up, moving to Tokyo was all about freedom. I was more than willing to jump into the free world where I would make all choices by myself instead of the old fixed rules and customs. 

Oddly enough, things went unexpectedly smoothly once I made up my mind to move to Tokyo. Various kinds of obstructions that had been seemingly difficult to be cleared resolved themselves almost magically. The moving day arrived sooner than I had imagined.

I was waiting for the bullet train bound for Tokyo on the platform in Kyoto Station. A friend of mine came to see me off. She was surprised that she was the only one for me there. “Even your parents don’t see you off?” she sounded bewildered. I wondered what awaited me in the outside world of my window. I was both looking forward to it and afraid. 

The Katsura River hr658

Back in those days of my childhood, a person who was going to commit suicide always took his or her shoes off and put them together neatly before jumping from the top of the building on Japanese TV dramas. It seemed Japanese people wanted to take off their shoes even when they tried to kill themselves just as they took them off at the entrance of the house. I somehow feel convinced.

There is a bridge called Katsura-ohashi Bridge over the Katsura River about a twenty-minute walk away from my family’s house that used to stand in Kyoto where I was born and grew up. The bridge is about 400-feet long as the river under it is quite big and wide. On one summer day in the fourth grade, I went to the bridge with seven or eight friends of mine to play by the Katsura River. Because it was probably the first time each of us played at the riverside without a grown-up chaperon, the outing was felt like an adventure and we were having so much fun by the river.

After a little while, one of my friends seemed to have enough spree to suggest we walk in the river along the bridge piers  toward the opposite bank. It was midsummer and the river banks had widened with less water. To us, the river looked shallow and easy to walk in and go further. Since we were all feeling adventurous, we persuaded ourselves that a fourth grader was a big, old kid for whom crossing the river on foot was a cinch. We started splashing across the current with a war cry.

In the beginning we were only ankle-deep in water, but soon water reached to our knees. Our walking speed dropped tremendously. By the time our thighs dipped in water, the stream got fast. It was hard just to stand still without holding onto a bridge pier although we had trod across merely one third of the river. The fast stream crushed against the bridge pier and my thighs, splashing big waves. Suddenly, fear sprang out from the bottom of my guts and yelled at me, “You’re in real trouble! You can’t possibly move ahead. What if you get swept away? Not to mention the opposite bank, you’ll drown to death right here!” Panic engulfed me. I looked back to return, but I was too scared to move, feeling that with this one step I was going to be carried away by the current. There was no way either to go forward or to go backward. I was stuck in the middle of the strong current. Thinking that wasn’t what was supposed to go, I looked around other kids. They also had stopped walking with a scared face just as I did. As if a tacit agreement, we slowly tried and managed to move backwards. When we finally returned to the riverbank where we had set off, our spree had thoroughly gone. Dejected in heart, without talking, we plodded our way home.

About ten years later, I was looking at the Katsura River again from the edge of Katsura-ohashi Bridge after taking off my shoes and putting them together neatly. It was when over a year had passed since I started my career as a musician despite dissent from my parents and friends. Although I had tried harder than I had ever done before, nothing had worked. On the other hand, I didn’t want to live doing what I didn’t want to do. I was stuck without either way to go forward or to go backward, again. I leaned over the parapet and stared at the surface of the river, seriously intending to jump into it. Then, something came into view. I saw three ducks swimming out from under the bridge. They stopped right down below me and just floated there. I vaguely thought I might strike and kill them when I jumped and hit the surface. All of a sudden, that thought drove me out of a daze. I came to my senses and pulled myself back away from the railing. Until that point, the world around me had been completely silent, but noises came back to my ears all at once. I noticed some cars honked at me while passing by. I hurriedly put back on my shoes.

You should challenge at the risk of your life if you wish to fulfill your dreams. Only after you brace yourself for death, can you live your own life. To attain that understanding, I had had to do a few more suicidal attempts in the course of my life. I understood after all and keep challenging, thankfully. 

Lost and Found hr654

The unprecedented has happened.

Photo by TheOther Kev on Pexels.com

The prefecture where I reside in Japan has rolled out its travel stimulus benefit to help the struggling tourism industry that covers almost all the travel costs. Although I had given up going on a trip since my income decreased tremendously, the benefit allowed me to book a gorgeous hotel in the city for practically free by clearing some small detailed conditions. I was overjoyed by this unexpected luck and preparing for the trip.

A few days before the trip, I noticed my clothespin was missing at the locker room of the communal spa in my apartment building. I used it to close my bag every evening there and it seemed I had dropped it somewhere between my apartment and the communal spa. I thought of returning to look for it but I was already naked. I didn’t want to put on clothes all over again just for a clothespin. As it was too cheap for someone to keep for themselves, I guessed I would find it where I had dropped it on my way back to my apartment, and took a bath. Nevertheless, all that I could think of was the clothespin while I was in the spa. I seemed attached to it more than I had thought. Also, losing something wasn’t a pleasant feeling no matter how petty the thing was. By the time I hurried out of the spa and back to my apartment while looking for the clothespin, what I wanted most in the world was that clothespin. Sadly, I couldn’t find it. I entered my apartment, disheartened by the loss. And my partner said from the back of the apartment, “Something of yours was left there.” I saw the clothespin on the floor of the hallway. I picked it up as if it were a gem, feeling so happy. On top of that, some of the items that I had put up on the online flea market were sold on the same evening. It was a relief for me because they hadn’t been sold for some time and I had been worried. The day turned out to be wonderful, I thought. But it didn’t end there.

I have hypersensitivity to sound and hear high-pitched sounds boosted. While I get almost no income as a musician, I ironically have a full-fledged occupational hazard as one. I am especially sensitive to children’s shrieking and I reflectively shush them when I hear it. My partner has been recently watching a musical TV show before going to bed. Inevitably the sound has reached my ears every night. The female singing voices from the show have annoyed me immensely. I had wished the series would end soon, but it has gone on and on. On the night of that wonderful day, the female singers were hollering and blaring my favorite song ‘That’s Life’ on the show. It sounded awful and I felt their performance was a disgrace to that supreme piece. I couldn’t take it any more and snapped. I yelled at my partner and we quarreled, which was the first fight with him in a long time. With such a small thing, the whole day was ruined. To be precise, I ruined the day with it.

I am not an atheist, but not so religious either. I simply can’t help feeling that something with great power is watching over me. Although it gave me a grandly wonderful day, I didn’t appreciate it, not to mention I ruined it. I was sure that it would take away what it had given me as a punishment for such an arrogant, faithless reaction of mine. In light of what happened today, the punishment would be losing my possession of much more importance than a clothespin and be no more sales at the flea market. I was convinced those two matters would happen to me soon anyway though I regretted bitterly and apologized to that something for what I did.

A couple of days later, I set off for a two-day trip to the city. I dashed out of my apartment by jamming my accessories into my bag as the bus to catch was coming and there was no time to put them on. At the bus stop, two women were chatting loudly while I was taking a mask out of my bag to wear it. I shushed them as usual and got on the bus. I was putting my accessories in my seat and saw my pendant missing. I rummaged through my bag where I had put it, but it didn’t appear. On the bus, in the train, and at the hotel, I kept searching for it by turning out all my belongings, but couldn’t find it. I lost my favorite, most cherished pendant. And I knew it was coming. The punishment. It did happen.

I tried to see how I had lost it, and recalled taking out a mask at the bus stop. That was the only time I took something out of my bag before getting on the bus and the only chance something else could be out with it. I also remembered I was shushing others at that time. I realized again how unappreciative I had been. I was given a practically free trip and still got discontented. Come to think of it, I had managed to live despite financial difficulties and other problems. I had been constantly rescued by something but never appreciated but disregarded because of dissatisfaction. Now I found myself having been so perverse. I asked for forgiveness and determined to be grateful for everything from now on. During the short trip, I learned that much by the punishment and came home the next day with the firm determination to be a better person.

I came into my apartment and turned on the light. On the floor of the entrance, I found the pendant. It had never been in my bag. But it was apparent to me that something returned it to me. Soon after that, another sale was made on the flea market. I was awed by the mercy I received. I was forgiven. A financial crunch that assaulted me had often made me doubt that something. Yet, it still surely watches over me. Since the trip, I have kept my determination and appreciated everything. I haven’t shushed people but smiled. Then, it seems people have become nicer to me and days fuller. 

Talking and Reading from Japan by Hidemi Woods : end

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

A monk declared

Photo by Amy Chandra on Pexels.com

You must be weary of reading about my dreams by now, but, I had an absolutely shocking dream just last night and have to write about it.

I had a gathering with my relatives in a temple. A monk declared to hand out an envelope to the ones whose remaining days of life are 25 years. He handed it to my uncle. He received it cheerfully, saying that it was longer than he had thought. Then, the monk handed the envelope to ME! I choked with shock. I got pronounced that the rest of my life was only 25 years! For some reason, I’d always felt that I would live long and that short life never crossed my mind. I felt devastated and woke up.

I can shrug it off as one of scary dreams, but as I’ve written, some of my dreams do tell the future. None of them has related to me so far, but what if this dream is the first future-telling one that concerns me…?

Episode From Surviving in Japan by Hidemi Woods

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

Postscript

Photo by Thunyarat Klaiklang on Pexels.com

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…

Episode From An Old Tree in Kyoto /Hodemi Woods

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