Podcast: An Ugly Girl in The Drama Club 3

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Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total 
 
When my role in a drama club at junior high was still lower backstage work, I was assigned to give the cast members a cue on one school play. I needed to cue them in the dressing room when the show before us was about to end. I counted down from forty minutes before the cue to make their preparation easier by watching the current show in the wings. The stage was far from the dressing room and I had to go back and forth between them to tell them the time left.
For that play, the heroin put on makeup and got dressed so slowly, and I felt sure our play couldn’t start on time. I rushed her while reporting the progress of the show before us by running laps between the stage and the dressing room. But as I had feared, she couldn’t make it. The previous show had ended, the audience was waiting, and she remained wigless. Those who helped her dress got hysterical and began to take it out on me who kept on cueing. Back in the wings, the teacher in charge of the school event stormed at me. We had to start without her and I asked other cast members to prolong the opening scene by improvising. They got panicky and complained to me. Eventually, everyone yelled at me who was just a cue person. While they were desperately improvising the play on the stage, I took her from the dressing room plowing through the people on the crowded hallway for her.
Then I had gradually promoted to the higher backstage work play by play. As the curtain drawer, I needed to learn how to draw the heavy main curtain smoothly by tugging a thick twined rope. If it opened or closed in several separate movements according to my tugging, I would get reproved. The curtain was used frequently to shift scenes and drawing it seamlessly was such a tough job. As a prompter, I was pointed out that my prompts were too loud. Then as the stage lighting, I needed to get the knack to create a blackout on the stage by turning numerous switches off in one quick sweep by my hands. The switches were too many and big, so I had to hold my breath and put my whole weight on my stretched hands to slide them all.
All those years, I didn’t quit because I really wanted to be cast and play on the stage some day. It must have been a strong aspiration as I spent full three years just training and working backstage…

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

I woke up with a slight pain in my neck.

I loved my grandfather on my mother’s side so much. He lived in a small town that was a 20-minute drive from my family’s home. We used to visit him quite often, and occasionally he also came to our house with my grandmother. At times they stayed overnight in which case my sister and I would scramble to sleep next to him. I won the place one night and he offered his arm for my head. I slept with my head on his arm, which wasn’t so comfortable, to be honest. I woke up with a slight pain in my neck.

 After they left, I began to feel sick and skipped school the next day. As my condition worsened with a fever, my mother tried to find the cause. I told her I had been sick since I slept with my head on my grandfather’s arm. She picked up the phone and reported it to my grandmother for a complaint. It took me a week to get well, but seemed nothing but a cold after all. I concluded my grandfather’s arm didn’t cause my illness.

 When I met him again, he told me he would never sleep beside me. He explained how relentless verbal attacks from my grandmother had been. She had blamed him for causing my illness everyday although he knew his arm had nothing to do with it. For him, it was an exact situation of biting the hand that feeds you. True to his word, he had never let me sleep beside him ever since no matter how much I pestered. I wondered how severely my grandmother ranted him…

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: a gold-rimmed glasses

 
Audiobook 1 : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. 
Audiobook 2 : My Social Distancing and Naked Spa in Japan by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. 
Apple Books, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total. 
 
a gold-rimmed glasses
I was raised by my grandmother on my father’s side. She was a very strict and unsociable woman. She led a secluded life and spent most of the time retreating into her room. She would take a trip or go to the theater with my grandfather only once or twice a year.
On those rare occasions, she always wore glasses that she usually didn’t at home. A pair of glasses was a must for her to dress up. She had only one pair with gold rims. Although they were an essential item of her best clothes, she looked terrible with them. She had a stern face by nature but the pair made her look fearsome. Everyone in my family knew that she looked much better without them, and yet, none of us had the courage to say so to her.
Consequently, on every important, memorable event in her later life, she had an awful look by putting them on. She did it not just outside. When there was a guest or I took my friends from school to our house, she always greeted with the glasses on. She had great confidence in glasses. Shortly before her death, she even urged my father to wear glasses because she believed they would help him look grand and dignified. Her treasured gold-rimmed glasses were put into her casket when she passed away. The unpopular pair went to heaven with her. I know she’s wearing them up there still…

Podcast: An Ugly Girl in The Drama Club 1

Photo by Monica Silvestre 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 
 
 I was a member of the drama club at junior high school. There were almost 100 new comers when I first joined it in the seventh grade, but only six remained including me after a month because of sober training that was far from the stage glamor. We did voice and physical exercises every day to develop our abdominal muscles.
In the end of the exercises, the members would stand side by side and utter a loud and long tone one by one in front of the club captain. While we were squeezing ‘Ahhhh’, a senior member would put a hand on our shoulder to see if it rose. If we were doing abdominal breathing, our shoulders didn’t rise. The club captain would time the length of the tone and check whether it wavered or not. A loud, long, steady voice was good and I was the one who always uttered the loudest, longest, steadiest ‘Ahhhh’ without raising my shoulders. While the club captain corrected each member, in my turn she would say “Nothing to be corrected” to me. That made me so happy and I practiced diligently back at home too, to hear her say that every time.
Gradually, I had tougher training at the club such as tongue twisters, short dialogues and pantomime. For some reason, I was good at those and had a good word from the captain each time. I began to think I might have a talent for acting. Secretly I took pleasure in picturing myself on the stage of a school play. A sad fact was, I was a fat and short girl. Even with the ability to act well, things wouldn’t go so smoothly for an ugly girl like me in the theater. But back then, I was too young and innocent to realize that. I just kept on striving and improving only my acting without caring about my bad looks…

because I was able to monopolize him

My grandfather on my mother’s side was a quiet, generous and kind person. Because I lived with my grandfather on my father’s side, whose character was completely opposite to him, I liked him all the more.

 One day, when I was little, I was left in the backseat of the car with him while my parents were out for an errand. He suggested playing ‘rock-paper-scissors’. He took his notebook out of his pocket, and started drawing a score table. He had an honorable position in the local society, and there were many important notes and appointments in his notebook. But he was drawing the table for his granddaughter next to them without any hesitation. And the rock-paper-scissors match of my grandfather vs. me began. It had a lot of rounds and continued long after my parents came back to the car and we got going. He looked so merry, and I was absorbed in the game.

 It was my happiest time with him not because the game was fun but because I was able to monopolize him. There were only two of us without my younger sister around. The match ended with his great victory by a wide margin…

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: Family Casino in Kyoto, Japan

 
 
On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total.
 
This incident happened one New Year’s at the end of the card game called ‘kabu’, in which my uncle acted as dealer for the yearly family casino at my grandparents’ house. He had lost quite a lot to my cousin, who was his son, as usual that night and my cousin had left the table as the morning dawned.
My uncle, my mother and I were left at the table and the game was about to close. My mother asked for a few more deals because she had also lost a large sum and wanted to get it back. To recover her loss quickly, she bet by the $100. The game was played for high stakes every year, but I had never seen the stakes this high. She lost in succession and her loss swelled to $500 in a flash.
“This is the last bet,” she claimed in desperation and put $500 on the table. She tried to offset her total loss on the last deal of the game. All at once the tension skyrocketed and strange silence filled the room. I held my breath and withdrew my usual small bet. The cards were dealt tensely and my mother and my uncle showed their hands of fate. Both hands were ridiculously bad but my mother’s was even worse. She lost $1000. Burying her head in her hands, she repeatedly uttered, “It can’t be! Can’t be true!” I saw tears in her widely opened bloodshot eyes. Then she repeated “Oh, my… Oh, my…” in a faint voice for ten times and staggered away. I clearly remember her state of stupor.
A couple of days later back in our home, I enticed her into playing ‘kabu’ with me since I learned how poorly she played it and I knew I would win. I used to receive cash as a New Year’s gift from my relatives during New Year’s and it would amount to $1000. I dangled it in front of her and said that it would be her chance to get back her loss. She took it and we played for $1000. As I had thought, she lost another $1000 to me. She said she couldn’t pay, and I offered her the installment plan. I got $100 more to my monthly allowance of $30 for the next ten months. That was the richest year in my early teens.
Many years later, she failed in real estate investment and lost most of our family fortune that had been inherited for generations. The amount she lost that time was well over $1 million. And that was the money I was supposed to inherit…

Podcast: A Japanese Girl in The Catholic School of Kyoto 3

 
Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps.
Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total.
 
Back in my Catholic school days, a teacher for home economics was Sister Carmela. I was in her cooking class. I had no interest in cooking at all and all I did during the class was giggling with my friends and washing the dishes. I simply couldn’t take anything in the class seriously. Home making seemed ridiculous to me, and to begin with, I could laugh endlessly when I thought about a sister called Carmela teaching how to make caramel.
As I was lazy all the time chatting and giggling, Sister Carmela often had to call my name in front of the class and shush me. She also noticed I hadn’t participated in any cooking but just been doing the dishes. No matter how hard and often she scolded me for my bad attitude, I didn’t obey and kept making other students laugh. Her patience snapped at last and she called me before the principal.
In my school, bad students were close to zero and a student was hardly ever called to the principal’s office. The principal was Sister Mary Catherine who reasonably believed I had done something extraordinarily wrong. But she was taken aback when Sister Carmela told her that I had fooled around during the class. She looked at her face with an impression of ‘That’s it?’ After mildly telling me to behave myself, she let me go. Sister Carmela’s punishment didn’t work and my bad behavior continued.
I was in her sewing class next year. Again, I slacked and asked my friend to make a skirt for me. Sister Carmela found that out when I turned in the skirt pretending I had sewn it. That snapped her completely. She decided to appeal directly to my parents and called up my mother that evening. Over the phone, she told her at length how bad I had been in her class. She blamed my bad attitude on my mother’s lack of discipline. My mother kept apologizing for a long time, but her tone gradually changed. As Sister Carmela strongly criticized my mother’s way of raising a child, my mother suddenly yelled, “I have no reason to listen to someone who has never married nor had a child!” and hung up violently.
I was stunned because it sounded to me the most insulting remark about a sister. She said to me, “Who does she think she is? She has never raised a child herself, and yet looks down on me who did raise a child. You don’t have to obey such a stuck-up person!” And Sister Carmela stopped complaining about my behavior ever since…

Podcast: if you don’t want to

 
Audiobook 1 : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. 
Audiobook 2 : My Social Distancing and Naked Spa in Japan by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. 
Apple Books, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total. 
 
if you don’t want to 
From kindergarten to the lower grades, I had suffered from insomnia. I hated going to kindergarten and then to school too strongly to sleep on school nights. As the morning to go there approached, I felt more and more nervous and tense. I would be wide awake in futon no matter how eager I was to fall asleep, watching glittering patterns on the back of my eyelids for hours. Tears ran through my cheeks into my ears during those long nights. When it dawned and the room was filled with the gray of the morning, I could finally doze awhile.
I slept beside my grandparents as my parents were occupied with my little sister in a different room. Before going to sleep, I would try to be near my mother as long as I could because she used to be the last one that retreated to her bedroom at night. But soon I was to be prodded into going to my grandparents’ room to sleep. I once found the courage to confide to my mother that I was having insomnia. She scoffed at it and said anyone could sleep by just closing his or her eyes. Her advice was to close my eyes. I wondered how dumb she thought I was, since I did so to sleep every night. She didn’t take it seriously and so I kept staying awake on weeknights secretly.
Sunday nights were the worst. The thought that a long week at school would start next morning made it undoubtedly impossible for me to sleep. My grandparents used to watch TV in futon before going to sleep. Their favorite drama was on Sunday nights and the end of the drama meant my grandmother fell asleep. I can still hear in my ears the sad tune of the drama’s ending. My grandfather would read a little after that. When the light by his pillow was turned off was a signal that he would also go to sleep and I would be left alone awake in futon.
One night, he noticed I wasn’t asleep in the middle of the night. “You’re still awake,” he was surprised. I confessed that I couldn’t sleep, and he simply said, “Don’t sleep, then.” While I couldn’t believe what I had just heard, he explained, “You don’t have to sleep if you don’t want to.” I had never thought that way. I didn’t have to sleep! Like magic, his words cured my insomnia and I have fallen asleep easily ever since…

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