how little I could do

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The other night, I had a dream about joining
the military. I was going through various kinds
of training and failed each one of them. As I
couldn’t do any physical activities, the training
officer asked me if I could cook or wash. I
answered honestly I couldn’t do either. The
officer asked my former profession and I told
him that I was a singer-songwriter. He
suggested me to be in the entertainment
division, but I refused because I didn’t like to
perform in front of people. There was nothing I
could do. Then, for some reason, I was
deployed to Afghanistan. And I woke up.
It was a wild dream but the part that I
couldn’t do anything satisfactorily was a fact.
Getting out of bed, I realized again how little I
could do. It’s a wonder I still survive in this
world…

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

dead serious

Our new song ‘Sunrise’ has been completed
and sent out to a distributor. It’s finally
released and available worldwide, that I’d been
hoping for a long time.
The distributor put up the song on online
stores such as iTunes and Amazon MP3. I had
looked forward to seeing ‘Sunrise’ displayed
there.
When I was looking around them, something
caught my eye. They categorize songs
according to genres. ‘Sunrise’ is categorized in
six genres, like pop/general etc. One of them is
miscellaneous/comedy. They felt a sense of
comedy in ‘Sunrise’ when they categorized it.
It’s interesting because I wrote this song being
dead serious with a deep theme…

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

They were hovering right in front of the window

I saw God for the first time in my dream the
other day.
I was preparing for work in my room. I
looked out the window and noticed three small
dots in the cloudy sky. While I was figuring out
whether they were aircraft or UFOs, the three
black dots were getting bigger and bigger as
they were coming closer.
They were flying with tremendous speed
toward my window and I recognized each dot
was in the shape of a human. The two of them
were leading the way for the third one that
was flying a little behind them. I was extremely
frightened and covered my eyes. Even so, I felt
an urge to see them and opened my eyes.
They were hovering right in front of the
window.
As soon as I saw them, I clearly understood,
or was told somehow, that the two human-
shaped things at the front were angels and the
also human-shaped one in the middle behind
was God. In this dream, God was Jesus at the
same time. Their looks were so different from
my imagination. None of them had wings nor
was wearing white. All of them were quite
young with black hair, wearing black hooded
coats. They were flying just by themselves,
with their arms lightly forward and their knees
slightly bent.
I was completely awed and fearful.
God/Jesus was looking straight into my eyes
with a serious gaze while hovering. Then, He
turned and flew away with His angels high up
in the sky. When they disappeared, my mother
came into my room. I told her what had just
happened but she showed no interest. Instead,
she asked me to let her hear our new song.
The moment I pushed a play button, I woke
up.
Later on the same day, totally unexpectedly,
our new song had been finished at long last.

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

It was so funny, ironic, stupid and joyful

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When I decided to go back to the mix down
from the mastering of our new song in order to
boost its overall volume, I prepared to take a
few more months to complete it.
Once I accepted the delay and released
myself from constraint called time, things
presented a new twist. I had compared the
volume of our song to other CDs with the
stereo components. Our song came from the
computer through the line-in of the stereo,
which meant I compared the line-in sound to
CDs. Before going back to the mix down, I
burned the song to a CD as a low-volume
version because except for the volume, the
mastering went perfectly.
It happened when I checked the sound of
the CD. The volume was as high as other CDs!
It had been indeed boosted already during the
mastering. I just compared it in a wrong way
through the line-in. I had been struggling with
the volume for a couple of months based on
my false judgement.
When I heard our song at the right volume, I
found out how silly I was and laughed out loud.
At the same time, I burst into tears for
indescribable joy. The only remaining problem
to complete this song was the volume. Now
that the volume was boosted, the song’s
completion was within my grasp.
Looking up at the ceiling of my room, I was
loudly laughing, crying, then laughing, and
again crying, with tears falling down. It was so
funny, ironic, stupid and joyful…

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

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. 

Time is relative like happiness

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I found that the problem I’ve been tackling,
which is to boost the volume of our new song,
could be solved by redoing the mixdown. But
it’ll take a few more months to complete.
Also, I feel reluctant to tell my partner that I
need more time to complete the song. I
thought about an extreme.
What if I were the only human on this
planet? If there were no one else besides me, I
would redo by taking as much time as I want
until I reach my satisfaction. Time is relative
like happiness and bears meaning simply in
relation to others. Come to think of it, our new
song is written just about it. While I’ve been
working on it, I ignored what I had written
myself. So, I decided to go back to the
mixdown. Considering the song’s theme, it was
destined to take time…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

money pit

I’ve been working for mastering of our new
song for some time now. I still can’t get it up
to my satisfaction though, after using
everything I’ve got. I successfully made the
sound itself exactly what I’d wanted. The only
problem is the volume. I tried countless
compressors and limiters, read a book on the
subject and looked it up around on the
Internet with no luck. Our song stays in low
volume compared to other CDs.
The other day, I found mastering software
that many engineers regard as an ultimate
volume booster. It looked attractive, but it was
quite pricey. It was my decision whether I
bought it or took our song to a studio engineer.
I just wanted to try the software and go
through with the mastering so badly. I decided
to try to the best of my ability and then, after
it became certain that I couldn’t, turn to a
professional. I bought the software.
Now, the road to a goal is one, only the
ending will be either the software or the studio.
I’ve known that completing a song takes time,
but music also can be a money pit…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

the happiest time in my life

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

matter of a little more volume

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I’ve been mastering our new song on my new computer, which has an updated version of Cubase. I’m more than satisfied with its effect line-up but sound itself was better on my old computer. In a timely manner, the sound card on my new computer got disconnected from the software suddenly and I installed the old physical one to replace it. Sound became much better but I found out that the overall volume of the new song wasn’t as high as it was supposed to be.

I had set some effects to boost the volume and it sounded on a par with audio CDs. As it turned out, the former sound card didn’t support the direct monitoring and I had listened to amplified sound by the computer. It’s the matter of a little more volume now that I’ve gained most of it with a variety of effects. From this point on, it has come down to my idea. The question is, do I still have any ideas left…?

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Kyoto: The Last Successor to One Japanese Family ” The Best Book of Hidemi Woods “

Passion hr656

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What I had been doing before I decided to become a musician was studying to enter one of Japanese first-rate universities, which was ostensibly believed so. That was when I was a high school student in the early 80’s.

To tell you the truth, I had in fact, not been studying in those days, which I had never told anyone. I just had been pretending to study every day. While I had acted in front of my family and friends as if I had been preparing for fiercely competitive entrance examinations and studying desperately to succeed in them, I hadn’t been able to find any sort of motivation to study once I sat at my desk in my room. To stimulate myself, I would listen to the records of my favorite band, but then gaze blankly at empty space or take a nap instead of being stimulated. I had tried to study in the middle of the night, which was supposed to be quieter and easier to concentrate, but I would listen to late night radio shows at which I would laugh until dawn.

After I had spent months in those routines while arrogantly declaring to people around me that I would get in the leading university, I came to my senses and began to wonder how I could succeed without studying. Now I had trembled every day with a fear that I would have failed the entrance examination of all first-rate universities. Even though I was grasped with the fear, I still couldn’t feel like studying. And in the end, that fear did materialize.

Am I a born sluggard? Am I a loser? In the depths of despair, I made up my mind to be a musician. Then in an instant my attitude changed completely. I earnestly searched for and joined a professional-oriented band, spent all the savings I had on a synthesizer, and practiced every day at the far-off rental studio to which I took a train and brought the synthesizer weighing fifty pounds and carried by me who is merely five feet. I would sweat all over even in winter just carrying it from and to the platform at the train station.

On one occasion at the station, as though he couldn’t stand to watch me struggling with the synthesizer any more, a man approached me silently and lifted it on his shoulder. He went down the stairs from the platform carrying it for me. While he staggered along the way and slowed down  probably because it was heavier than he had thought, he brought it to the bottom of the stairs and disappeared without a word. I felt like a hero came to rescue me.

But a villain also appeared as well. On another occasion, I was walking over the bridge carrying it in addition to other instruments. Because it was impossible for me to walk continuously with all that heavy stuff, I posed and put down all the instruments every few yards. And a vulgar man yelled at me from behind, “Get out of my way, you slow-walking ugly!” I snapped at the word ‘ugly’, put down the instruments, and stopped him by saying, “What did you say?” Then I seized him by the neck, squeezed it and pushed him to the bridge-rail. I was wringing his neck seriously and intended to push him down to the river. The man gasped for air and screamed “Call the police! Please, someone!” By that time, passersby had gathered, and a woman untangled my hands on his neck and broke us up. It seemed I turned into a villain there.

When I wasn’t in the studio, I had practiced playing the keyboard at home and worked at a part-time job to pay for the rental studio. Although my new routine had totally exhausted me, I was willing to take the ordeal. I never lost my passion as if I were possessed by something. And I haven’t lost it to this day after decades have passed.

To keep going can lead to many setbacks. Sometimes there are those nights when I want to give up and throw everything away. Still, when it dawns, I get motivated again gradually. Not vanity nor prosperity but passion keeps me alive. I don’t want to quit staying alive just yet.