Podcast: the homecoming event

 
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. 
 
Back in my schooldays, there were required curricula specifically for  the homecoming event. Students must participate in either an exhibition,  retail, or a play. I chose a play every homecoming when I was a junior  high school student. When the homecoming’s preparation began in my ninth  grade, my passion for the theater was at its peak since I had been  regularly cast for a major role in the drama club at school. Other  students knew that and I was appointed as the ninth-grade play team  leader almost automatically. Everyone had no interest in a required  curriculum and I had to put together a play by leading fifty unwilling,  reluctant team members. From the first meeting, I encountered  foreseeable difficulties. No one brought up any suggestion of what play  we would show at the homecoming. When I uttered a Japanese classic  novel, they unanimously shouted, “That’s it! That’ll be our play!” in  order to finish the meeting quickly. Our play was decided like this and I  dramatized the novel for the first time in my life. I had thought it  would be difficult, but it was unexpectedly so much fun. I finished the  script quite fast. And then, the casting. I had decided not to be cast  in the play myself because I had been already cast in a play of the  drama club for the homecoming. I didn’t want to appear in every play at  school like an attention freak. I thought it was cool that I produced,  dramatized and directed for this curriculum play. But in the team,  everyone had neither experience nor skill in acting and they didn’t want  to be cast. It was again left to my sole decision. While I was choosing  some students who seemed to like appearing on the stage, a girl timidly  raised her hand. She said she wanted to act. Although I finally got a  volunteer, I hesitated to cast her for a moment. She was not pretty.  Other students started giggling at her brave attempt. Instantly I came  to myself and remembered the fact that I was also regarded as an ugly  girl at school. My bad looks contributed to continuous typecasting as an  old, wicked woman in drama club’s plays. As I had been weary of  disadvantage of appearance, I cast her as a leading role. My decision  made other students gape. Thus, I had trying three months for the play  with totally amateur actors and backstage staff…

Podcast: my first ever appearance

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. 
 
 
As the school play of the drama club approached, I had prepared for my first role vigorously. Once I remembered all the lines, acting itself actually felt much easier than the backstage work I had done for three years.
The difficult part was timing for some action. In one scene, I threw a bowl at the heroine but she had to show her back to me when it happened. I sat with my back to her and couldn’t see her positions. We made the sound of her knees tapping the stage floor a signal that she had turned her back to me. Because the sound was so subtle, I was afraid of missing it.
Near the end of the play, an evil stepmother, who was played by me, killed a heroine with a poker. It was a custom of the club that the club members would visit a shrine together to pray for safety before the play if it had a murder scene. We did that after school, with me standing right in front of the altar because I was the murderer. Now, I had everything ready for my first play, and the day had come.
Since it was a Japanese period play, I had borrowed kimono from my grandmother as my costume. My role was an old woman and I drew lines on my face and sprinkled talcum powder over my hair. While I was waiting for the play to start in the wings, I got tensed up and my hands began to tremble. There’s an old trick in Japanese show business, that tracing a Chinese character that means ‘human’ on a palm with a finger three times and pretending to swallow it removes tension when you’re nervous. I threw myself on the trick but it didn’t work at all. Suddenly I lost self-confidence and told one of the juniors that I was so nervous. Although she would also appear in the play as a bit part, she was surprisingly calm. She suggested the trick placidly and said that she couldn’t help me because she had never been nervous in her entire life. As I doubted if she was a human being, the play started.
Following a heroine’s monologue, the curtain was raised and I was standing in the center of the stage. The unexpected happened: before I uttered a word, the hall got engulfed in an explosion of laughter. The audience burst out laughing at the scene in which a stumpy girl was standing with old makeup. Although the play was a serious drama, my first ever appearance was laughed away…
 

Podcast: I nearly screamed

 
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 nearly screamed
The decisive reason I chose music as my career is Tulip. It’s a Japanese pop and rock band. They literally changed my life and have still had influence on my songs.
They broke up years ago but over the past decade, they were sporadically reunited and on tour for a limited time. Those occasions are extremely precious to me since I constantly crave their concert. In late January, I happened to see a poster of them at a convenience store. It told about their reunion and the limited time tour. I was so excited that I nearly screamed there.
It was then that my long torment of an allergy has begun. Besides a pollen allergy, I had never had an allergy in my life. But I found a reddish rash at the lower part of my both cheeks one morning, which seemed some allergic reaction. During the days when I arranged the tickets for Tulip’s concerts, the rash had gotten worse. It was red and itchy and covered the lower half of my face that was swollen.
I looked terrible. I walked drooping my head to hide my face with my hair every day. I selected three concerts of Tulip’s tour since I couldn’t afford all venues much as I wanted, and they were held monthly between April and June. Each venue I got the ticket for was far from my home and I needed to book the hotel and the train.
I doubt if words can convey how embarrassing it was to make three trips wearing the red rash on my face. I had dreamed of Tulip’s another reunion for five and a half years and when it finally became a reality, I went to their three concerts looking awful with a red, swollen face…
 

Podcast: Doll’s Festival

 
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.  
 
Doll’s Festival 
The Doll’s Festival in Japan is for celebrating girls and they decorate old style dolls on stepped shelves. The festival I had when I was 12 years old coincided with the day to know whether I passed or failed the entrance examination for the best private junior high school in the city. In Japan, each candidate is given an applicant number and a school releases the numbers of the passed ones on big boards put up in a school.
After excruciating two years that I attended the supplementary private school for the exam additionally after finishing a whole day at the elementary school, I was reasonably confident. I went to see the announcement boards with my parents and my younger sister. It was a big day for my family, as the result would more or less decide my future.
In front of the boards, I was astounded. My number wasn’t there. I failed. On our way home, we stopped at a bakery for cake for the Doll’s Festival. While my mother and my sister went in the bakery, I was waiting in the car with my father. It started to snow. I still can vividly picture those snowflakes falling and melting on the windshield. I had never felt so devastated before.
In the evening, my mother took a bath with me and she wailed saying “I’m so disappointed!” again and again. Because I wasn’t used to seeing her crying, my despair turned fear. The fear that I made a fatal, catastrophic error. Since then, every year on the Doll’s Festival, I remember that year’s festival…
 

Podcast: only evil people in this world

 
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 I was little, my mother constantly said bad things about others. She believed that, even when someone was kind to her, there must have been some plot behind the nice gesture. To sum up what she talked about every day, there are only evil people in this world.
In kindergarten, mothers would fix a lunchbox for their kids and the kids would eat lunch with their classmates and their teacher. At one lunchtime, when I was opening a lid of my lunchbox, I inadvertently dropped it to the floor without having a single bite and it overturned there. I lost my lunch. While other kids laughed at me, my teacher, who had been trying so hard to make me play with other kids because I had ignored them and had hardly talked to anyone, cleaned up the mess for me and took me to a small candy store outside the kindergarten.
She told me to pick any bread I liked. I picked one timidly, feeling afraid what kind of trap this would be, as I didn’t have any money. She suggested one more. I couldn’t figure out what was going on and shook my head. She picked one more piece of bread by herself, took out money from her own wallet, and gave all the bread to me.
I was stunned. She bought me lunch. It was the first time that someone unrelated to me was so kind to me. Since then, I had started talking to her. Even after I finished kindergarten, I had kept exchanging letters with her and I still send her a Christmas card every year.
She was the first person who destroyed my mother’s theory of the evil world and taught me that there were some good people in this world…

Podcast: my first role

 
Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps.  Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total 
 
At long last, I got my first role in a school play at the drama club when I was a freshman in high school. It took me three years to get it as a member of the club. Since many senior members had quit for some reason and I had been in a higher position by then for casting that had the seniority system, my role was quite big.
It was a villain in a Japanese period drama, who tormented her pretty stepdaughter and killed her. I was the evil stepmother of a heroine, which was played by the same Miss Fujiwara who had taken a role away from me by one vote in the last play. My mistake of not voting for myself made her one step senior to me and yielded bigger consequences as time went on. Now she was a heroine and I was a wicked old woman.
Nonetheless, I was absorbed in interpretation and rehearsals now that I got what I had been craving for three years. I tried to think and live like an evil person for the interpretation every day. Acting evil was easy for me: I’m used to picking on my little sister and besides, an object of my bullying was Miss Fujiwara. Hatred toward her was naturally transfused into my acting and I blew off steam by yelling at her, hitting her and killing her on the stage in every rehearsal.
The retired senior members of the club sometimes came to observe rehearsals. My character went mad in the end of the play and it was going to be told by the narration. They admired my acting and suggested adding the scene for me instead of the narration. I was so honored and acted the madness intensely when they wanted me to try. While I was satisfied with my acting, the scene was cut and back to the narration. Probably I overacted it and was too distasteful to watch…

Podcast: are you one of us

 
Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods  On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total. 
are you one of us 
The first dream of the year is quite a big deal in Japan. It’s believed that the dream they have in the night of New Year’s Day tells what the new year will turn out to be for them.
It’s commonly said there are three items that bode well if they appear in a dream; Mt. Fuji, a hawk, and an eggplant. Japanese people get the holidays between the end of December and the beginning of January, and what they saw in their first dream is often brought up in friendly conversation when the holidays are over.
I feel pressured every year to have an auspicious dream because it likely decides my new year’s fortunes. In my dream of the night of New Year’s Day, I was standing by a pond, flanked by two strangers. The pond had filthy dark green water with dirty algae floating. The strangers on both sides of me looked degenerate and had wicked smiles. They asked me, “Are you one of us?” I hesitated, considered my answer carefully, and said, “Yes.” They exulted and forced me into the pond by gripping my arms. I was submerged up to my neck in foul water with them. That was my first dream of this year. No matter how hard I try, I can’t interpret this dream as a good omen for the new year… 
 

Podcast: judge themselves

 
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. 
 
judge themselves
When my grandfather was young, his father wanted him to be a schoolteacher. He had been visiting schools to have his son hired. Behind his back, my grandfather, who didn’t want to be a teacher, secretly applied to the biggest department store in the city and got accepted for the job there without any connections.
It was a famous, long-standing department store and before he started his job there was a three-way interview, the company personnel, my grandfather and his father. Now he came to a point to tell the truth to his father. Because he knew how much his father wanted to see him as a teacher, he braced himself for a stormy opposition. Instead, his father came to the interview, suggested to eat out on their way home, and ordered unusually expensive dishes for both of them, saying, “This is the best day of my life. I’ve never been this happy.”
My grandfather was quickly regarded as an executive candidate at the department store for his earnest and diligent work. But only a few months later, his father suddenly died. He was a farmer and the family lost its breadwinner and the master of the house. My grandfather had no choice other than quitting his job to take care of the family as a successor. He gave up his dream, became a farmer and dedicated his life solely to succeed the family, which I left although I was supposed to succeed…
It seems that people look back and judge themselves when they are nearing their ends. Not long before his death, my grandfather suddenly told my parents that he wanted to go to the department store where he once worked vigorously but had to leave to succeed the family.
My parents thought his consciousness grew dim because they assumed that he meant shopping, which he was too frail to do. I know what he really meant. He realized that he should not have given up what he wanted to do for his life. On his deathbed, he pointed at my mother and said, “You’re next.” I wonder if she would end up like him. Surely she looks a strong candidate for that matter…

Podcast: dreaming

 
Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total 
 
Inside a cabinet in the old house where I grew up and spent much of my childhood, there was a beautiful music box. It stood out by its glamour and westernized style among other articles of Japanese folk art in the cabinet. My mother took it out once or twice a year for me, solemnly and carefully as a special occasion. She would wind up, open the lid slowly and let me listen to its heavenly melody. It was a gift she received from my father when they were young. The tune was ‘Traumerei’ by Schumann. I asked my father what the title meant and he told me it meant ‘A pleasant feeling beyond description’ although I later learned it actually meant ‘dreaming’. I imagined that he felt dreamy when he married her. Since the music box was expensive, my mother strictly forbade me to touch it. I wasn’t allowed to play it on my own. My parents were usually out for work and I was suffering from autointoxication when I was little. I often fainted while I was playing alone at home and my grandmother had to call a doctor each time. In those days, my secret remedy was sneak open the cabinet and take out the music box. While my mother believed it was a onceor-twice-a-year occasion, I listened to it almost every day. Although by then I had already known that my parents got married by an arranged marriage for each family’s convenience and my mother especially married money, it helped me delude myself that my parents loved each other. By listening to the tune, I felt hopeful and had fewer blackouts from auto intoxication. Decades later, when I lived in the city before moving in here, I had an idea that I would play ‘Traumerei’ on the piano for my parents on their wedding anniversary. I practiced playing it by listening to a Schumann’s CD. But my rare respectable attempt never materialized after all for a strange reason. Every time I practiced ‘Traumerei’, a cockroach appeared from somewhere as if it was a cue. It was impossible to continue practicing because I have a strong phobia about roaches…

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…