An artist who has a contract with a major record company generally has a deadline for work. Due to the cost of studio use and the promotion schedule, they often need to finish recording in a couple of weeks. Sometimes, it requires compromise and the work results in what they didn’t want.
I, on the other hand, have no contract, no obligation, no bind. I’ve been working on the current song for seven years now, including two years of recording. These years have been the happiest time in my life, with contentment from work. I’m in an ideal position to pursue my music as much as I want, so to speak. I always wonder why people don’t live like this.
Of course, if they do, fame and money is almost certainly hopeless as is my case. I have no contract, no fame, no money, and call it ideal. Maybe I’m beginning to become a nutcase…
Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods
There is no formal casino in Japan. Instead, there are innumerable pachinko parlors all over Japan. A pachinko is a very popular Japanese gambling game that is partly like pinball and partly like slot. They buy small silver balls to play with, and the machine brings out the balls if they win. They exchange the balls for money or items like cigarettes and chocolates. For some reason, it’s not allowed to exchange directly for money. They get a certain strange item with their balls once, and exchange it for money at a small dark hut behind the building. A pachinko parlor is sort of a mix of a casino and a game arcade. It has a large number of pachinko machines side by side in aisles and exists around almost everywhere people live.
Sadly, it doesn’t make people a millionaire. By playing all day, they win a few hundred dollars at most. As for me, I’ve never played a pachinko in my life. My life itself is awfully like gambling and I’m bogged down with it completely…
Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods
It happened a long time ago when I lived in Tokyo. My partner and I had dinner at a restaurant one night after we hung around the mall. We came back to our apartment that we had rented on the top floor of the building as our home and the office for our record label.
When I tried to turn my key on the front door, I noticed the door had remained unlocked. It was weird. I may have forgotten to lock the door when I left, which was highly unlikely since I was fussy about locking and couldn’t leave without making sure that the door wouldn’t open by trying the knob for a couple of times. I got in feeling dubious, but our apartment didn’t look unusual. Then my partner suddenly said, “Why is the cabinet open?” My heart began to beat fast with overwhelming uneasiness and I hurried into the bedroom that had a balcony. The tall window to the balcony had been smashed broken. It was a burglary.
I called the police right away while my partner was gingerly looking into the bathroom, the closet, and behind the drapes to see if the burglar wasn’t still hiding. Those minutes were the scariest as too many movie scenes flashed back to me. Thankfully, there was nobody. The police arrived quickly since the station was ironically only a block away from my apartment. Such a location apparently wasn’t safe enough to prevent burglary.
The policemen came in and looked around. As they saw the messy rooms, they showed sympathy saying, “It’s played havoc, huh?” It was funny because my apartment had been messy as it was long before burglary. But probably thanks to it, the burglar didn’t notice an envelope that held a few thousand dollars for the bills and was mingled with scraps of paper on the table. Instead of cash, a dozen of Disney wrist watches that was my collection, a cheap wrist watch that was my partner’s memento of his late mother, an Omega wrist watch that I received from my grandparents as a souvenir of their trip to Europe decades ago, and one game software were missing. Actually, those items had been the only valuables in my office apartment. Other than those and litter, my apartment had been quite empty. The reason was simple. I was near bankrupt at that time.
I had started up my music label with my partner and it had grown steadily as business. A person I had trusted offered substantial financial support and I took it. I rented this apartment and hired staff with that money. Then the financial supporter tried to take over my label and threatened to suspend further finance if I refused. Amid horrible disgusting negotiations, money stopped being wired into my account. The label came to a standstill for lack of funds. I laid off all staff and saw what took eight years for my partner and I to build from a scratch crumbling down. The blow was amplified by anger and self-loathing from the fact that I was deceived by a person I had trusted. Despair and emptiness led to apathy. I stopped doing or thinking anything and had played a game every day.
In hindsight, if there hadn’t been burglary, my partner and I would have kept paying the costly rent for the apartment and playing a game until we spent all the money that was left. But something clicked when I saw the very game software I had played every day picked among other many games to be stolen, and the glass window of my dream penthouse apartment smashed. It marked the point where I hit the bottom but also was a wake-up call. We moved out the luxurious apartment immediately and rented a cheap studio apartment in a small two-storied building.
That move left some money in my bank account. The deposit of the penthouse apartment was returned, too. Also, I received an unexpected insurance payout. The expensive rent of my former apartment included a damage insurance. The insurance company assessed the damage based on the report I submitted to the police. For some reason, they calculated the payout more than the total price of what were stolen. I discussed with my partner about what to do with the money. We decided to go to California. A new start form zero. And that was to be the beginning of all these, everything that I do at present. My works have been taken to the world by that decision, made by the burglary.
Because I’m cheap, I’m always careful about money. So much so, it penetrates into my dreams. I had a dream about visiting NY the other night. I joined a bus tour for sightseeing. The bus stopped for a break and there was a drink vendor. It had freshly squeezed fruit juice along with soft drinks. Everyone from the tour enjoyed the juice. I was thirsty and tired, and the fresh juice seemed perfect. But it cost $3 more than soft drinks. I really wanted the juice, knowing that would be full of vitamins and good for health, but I also needed to save money for my uncertain future. I was torn by a mere $3. Eventually, I gave up the juice and ordered a soft drink, feeling envious of others who were having juice.
I woke up and found that I had missed a golden opportunity to spend money extravagantly. Being in a dream is the only time that I can spend as much money as I want. One of the worst dreams for me is to save money in it. I pounded my bed from regret. I could have had delicious juice…
Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods
I found an auction website where successful bidders get about 90% off on electronics or gift certificates. They were amazing prices and appealed to me so much, as I’m cheap. A bidder needs to buy the bidding coins beforehand. I’d never seen those low prices even after adding the cost of the bidding coins. I started to bid, and the price was going up steeply. It went well past the average price of the site, and yet, I couldn’t stop because I’d already invested too much. When I won the bid, the price soared to an auction record for the item. I didn’t get 90% off but rather lost money. Finally I understood. Yes, it was a scam. I was quite confident to have the discerning eye for it and never thought I would fall for it. The time when I was young and stupid should have long gone. I, who is more careful for money than anybody, lost it by a scam. Am I a fool after all…?
I usually get prepared foods at half price at a supermarket after they give up on selling them at the list prices as the store’s closing time draws near. I know very well the exact times when they put half-off stickers on the leftover items for several supermarkets near my apartment. As I’ve been shopping this way for years, some of the shoppers have become familiar to me. At several different supermarkets, the people jostling for half-off items are usually the same line-up, including me. They sometimes get acquainted with each other and exchange information. Although I am, without doubt, one of them, I don’t feel like joining the half-off circle. When I find familiar faces, I always pretend not to notice and try to look away from them. It seems my last pride while enjoying shopping at half price more than anybody else. I saw one of familiar half-off shoppers at a supermarket the other day. She’s the one I see almost every time I shop during the half-off time. That evening, she was returning some half-off items to the shelf, looking into her wallet carefully. I thought I saw what I should not see because it was one of the saddest sights to me that someone was calculating the rest of money for what they wanted to buy. As soon as she left the shelf though, I picked the items she had unwillingly returned into my basket, as they were goodies. While buying them were completely legal and nothing unethical, I couldn’t help feeling guilty somehow…
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…