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…
 

My new Kindle has been published! “Leaving Kyoto: I felt as if I had officially become an author / Hidemi Woods”

the new Kyoto
When I spent 40 minutes aboard the bullet train bound for Kyoto from Tokyo, an alarming notion popped into my head. “Did I miss Mt. Fuji?” It’s around this time that Mt. Fuji comes into view closely in the bullet train window. Somehow Mt. Fuji is a special mountain for Japanese people. It’s said that seeing the first sunrise of the year from the top of Mt. Fuji brings a happy new year. Many of them want to climb it once during their lifetime. They regard it as something holy and good luck. I myself try to see it every time I take a bullet train to Kyoto, and pray to it for a good trip. It was cloudy and rain looked imminent on that day of my latest trip to Kyoto. Whether the train already passed Mt. Fuji or it wasn’t visible because of thick clouds was uncertain. The outcome of the trip depended on Mt. Fuji. I felt that this trip might end terribly if I couldn’t see it, and I looked for it frantically. “There it is!” Above the dark clouds, its top section poked out clearly. “I see it! A nice trip is assured!” I was relieved and in high spirits. While I jinx it when I don’t see it, however, I’ve had horrible trips even when I saw a clear Mt. Fuji. Although I duly understand an outcome of a trip doesn’t have to do with whether I see it or not, there’s a reason why I’m nervous enough to pray to the mountain. A trip to Kyoto means homecoming and meeting my parents. Three out of every four visits, they give me a hard time. They insult me, deny me and complain everything about me. I sometimes feel my life is in danger when I’m with them because of their relentless attacks. Not to be strangled by them while I’m sleeping, I avoid spending the night at my parents’ home and stay at a hotel instead. I would rather not visit and see them, but I know it would make things worse. I couldn’t imagine how this particular trip would go especially as it was my first visit since my parents sold their house. They could no longer afford to keep their large house and its land inherited by our ancestors. Their financial crunch made them sell it where my family had lived for over 1000 years. They moved out to a small, old condominium outside Kyoto. Thinking about the situation they were now in, I couldn’t imagine their state of mind other than being nasty. The bullet train slid into Kyoto Station after two and a half hours. I stepped out on the platform for the first time as a complete tourist who didn’t have a house or a family there. To my surprise, Kyoto looked different. I couldn’t tell what and how, but it was decisively different from Kyoto I had known. It used to look grim and gloomy as if it was possessed by an evil spirit. But now it was filled with clean fresh air and looked bright. I would see all but mean people, but they also turned into nice people with smiles. I checked in a hotel and looked out the window. Rows of old gray houses were there. I used to think Kyoto was an ugly city with those somber houses, but I found myself looking at even them as a tasteful view. I’d never thought having the house I grew up in torn down and parting with my ancestor’s land would change the city itself altogether. Or maybe, it was me that changed…

Leaving Kyoto: I felt as if I had officially become an author / Hidemi Woods

Podcast: no place to go

 
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. 
 
no place to go 
My parents married by an arranged marriage. Marriage used to be a knot between two families, not individuals in Japan. A mutual acquaintance introduced my parents to both families with their photographs. Although my parents didn’t like each other, the tie as the family seemed favorable to their parents. My mother agreed with the marriage very unwillingly after the fortuneteller said that she would handle money by the million if she married my father.
As for my father, he reluctantly obeyed his parents’ decision because he had never said ‘no’ to his father in his life. A month after the wedding, my mother decided to leave my father because she couldn’t stand to live with his parents any longer. She went back to her parents’ home but her father didn’t allow her to come back. She had no place to go and gave in to her dismal marriage. And I was born. I wasn’t the result of a happy marriage, but I embodied my mother’s resignation… 

Podcast: arranged marriage

Photo by Eva Elijas 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
 
My parents married by an arranged marriage. Marriage used to be a knot between two families, not individuals in Japan. A mutual acquaintance introduced my parents to both families with their photographs. Although my parents didn’t like each other, the tie as the family seemed favorable to their parents. My mother agreed with the marriage very unwillingly after the fortuneteller said that she would handle money by the million if she married my father.
As for my father, he reluctantly obeyed his parents’ decision because he had never said ‘no’ to his father in his life. A month after the wedding, my mother decided to leave my father because she couldn’t stand to live with his parents any longer. She went back to her parents’ home but her father didn’t allow her to come back. She had no place to go and gave in to her dismal marriage. And I was born. I wasn’t the result of a happy marriage, but I embodied my mother’s resignation…

I looked up at the sky and saw a gigantic red dragon.

I had an interesting dream the other night. In it, I was at my parents’ house in my hometown. My father set a bomb in my purse to blow up the house. I ran out to escape and found that the house was placed at the bottom of a deep pit. The only way to survive was to climb up a steep slope to the edge of the pit. While climbing it desperately with all my force, I saw a rainbow on the edge. Finally I reached to the edge. There was nobody else except me who was out of the pit. I looked up at the sky and saw a gigantic red dragon. When I was awed by the beautiful sight, fireworks began.

 And I woke up. I thought something very good might happen to me because I saw several items which are regarded as of good omen, such as a rainbow, a dragon, and fireworks. But then again, I know nothing will happen from my experience. I once saw a dream of picking up a large coin of $10 million and yet nothing has happened…

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: 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…

You wimp! You can’t decide anything by yourself!

I was a fan of a local country band called Bugs
Bunny when I was in junior high school and
they were going to give a performance at an
open-air municipal auditorium. Their
performance was one of the series of the local
traditional musical event. It would start at 6:30
p.m. while my curfew was 7:00 p.m., which
meant I needed an exceptional permission
from my parents.
My father readily gave it, telling me that he
used to go to the event himself when he was
young. He guaranteed it would be so much
fun. I was changing my clothes before leaving
for the auditorium on that day when my
mother asked what I was doing. I told her
about the event, and she said madly, “ Are you
out of your mind? Your curfew is seven
o’clock!” I explained that my father had
allowed me to go, but she kept saying, “No
way! You can’t go!” I called out to my father
for help and she demanded to him angrily,
“Did you allow this? Did you, really?” He said
yes in a faint voice and got under her fiery
anger. I begged him to persuade her, but her
definite noes drowned out his “It’s rather an educational event.”

At last, he said to me, “You
can’t go because your mother says so.” That
was the last straw. I screamed at him, “You
wimp! You can’t decide anything by yourself! I
hate you!” I called my friend crying, to tell her
that I couldn’t make it because my father was
my mother’s servant, and stopped speaking to
him.
On the next evening, he came into my room
hesitantly. As I ignored, he put a bag on my
desk and said “Sorry.” After he left, I opened
the bag and inside was a book of poems, which
I had wanted for some time. I had talked
about it casually at dinner and he
remembered. He gave me a gift instead of
confronting my mother.
A few years later though, his character
changed completely for an unexpected reason.
It happened when I decided to be a musician
after high school. Until then, he was a gentle
father who liked music so much that he
recorded my singing for practice when I was
little and bought me records, a stereo and a
guitar. But since I chose music as my career,
he has been mean and spiteful to me and been
opposed to my decision to date. Who would
think one career choice reverses someone’s
personality?…

Everything goes wrong when you drive her to school!

That my mother wouldn’t want my father to do
a nice thing to me meant that he constantly
did what she didn’t like. The junior high school
and the high school I attended were far from
home and it took me an hour and a half to get
there by bus. My parents were farmers and
they would leave home at dawn in summer.
But the wintertime was the low season and
they didn’t have to leave so early in the
morning. My father sometimes drove me to
school so that I could have breakfast for which

I often didn’t have time and had to skip on a
busy morning to catch the bus. My mother
would keep nagging and saying, “You’re being
spoiled!” all the while I enjoyed my breakfast.
And to my father, “You’re spoiling her! She will
come to no good!” until we got into the car.
One morning, my father and I found quite a
few bags of bean sprouts scattered on the road
on our way to my school by his car. It was too
early in the morning for other cars to run, and
the bags seemed to have just fallen from a
delivery truck. We got out of the car and
picked up the fresh bean sprouts. We were so
happy to get them for free. But it made my
mother furious. When I came home from
school, she was still in a bad temper and yelled
at my father repeatedly all day long, “What
should we do with so many bean sprouts? They
will go bad quickly! Do we eat them for each
meal everyday? Everything goes wrong when
you drive her to school!”
My father was so obedient to my grandfather
and my mother, and basically did whatever
they told him to do. What he did spontaneously
for a change aroused their anger. He was a
pushover for them and I’d never seen him
decide anything by himself. When I saw ‘The
Simpsons’ for the first time, Smithers looked
awfully familiar to me. My father was exactly
like him. I spent my childhood with Smithers in
my house…

I was an outcast in my family

My mother used to take lessons in Japanese
dancing. A woman in the neighborhood taught
it in the evening to the neighbor housewives at
her house. They held an annual public
performance and my mother would practice
earnestly at home when it came closer. My
sister and I used to imitate her and dance
alongside her.
I liked it and danced quite well. I was in
junior high school and my sister was still in
elementary school. Since my sister came home
from school much earlier than I did, my
mother would take her to the lessons and let
her wait and watch there. My father gave my
mother a ride for every lesson. So, my parents
and my sister would go out together once a
week while I was left in the house with my
strict grandparents.
Soon, my sister began to take lessons as
well. I felt it extremely unfair because it was I
who danced well and should take lessons. I
complained to my mother as hard as I could,
but she never paid attention. The junior high I
attended was so far from my home and I
couldn’t come home by the time they left for
lessons. My mother made no effort for me to
ask for a late lesson to the teacher. It seemed
she simply wanted to go out with just three of
them once a week. Even in an instance of
Japanese dancing, I was again an outcast in
my family. I wonder why it kept happening to
me all the time…

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

My new Kindle has been published! ‘Living in Kyoto: My Early Life with Japanese Traditions / Hidemi Woods’

In voice mail, there was a message from my father that said he needed to be called back immediately. I was chilled to the bone. I have never received a single phone call from him that’s not disturbing. When he calls me, he does it to vent his spleen about his daily life and about my career as a musician. What comes out from the receiver is his lengthy verbal abuse. Nevertheless, I mostly return his call because things get worse if I don’t. This time was no exception and I called him back fearfully with trembling hands. Instead of a spurt of anger, he told me to come home as soon as possible and stay for a few days. I asked him what happened and he didn’t answer that. As his request sounded urgent, I repeatedly asked for the reason. He just dodged and kept saying that he wanted me to come home right away. I hung up and felt alarmed. Something must have happened. Since he had never given me good news, that something was most certainly a bad thing.

My parents’ home is located in Kyoto that is 500 miles away from where I live. It takes me over five hours to get there by bullet train. I don’t have so much free time to take that long trip without the reason. Besides, such an unusual request requires extra caution. I called my mother’s cell phone and asked her what was all about. She told me that they had decided to sell their house and move out. They were looking for a condominium to buy and moving in as soon as the house was sold. The house could be sold next month at the fastest, and they wanted me to sort out my stuff and spend time together under this house’s roof for the last time.

The house was built when I was nine years old at the place where our old house was torn down because it was too old to live in. That old house was built about 100 years ago. My ancestors lived at exactly the same spot generation after generation for over 1000 years since my family used to be a landlord of the area. We are here for around 63 generations. My father succeeded the family from my grandfather, and I would have been the next successor if I hadn’t left home to be a musician. Because my father failed the family business and didn’t have the next successor for help, he had sold pieces of our ancestor’s land one by one. Now his money has finally dried up and he can’t afford to keep the last land where the house stands.

When my grandfather passed away nine years ago, he complained to me again about financial help I wouldn’t lend. I promptly suggested that he should sell the house and its land. He got furious at my suggestion. He shouted, “How could you say something like that? Do you really think it’s possible? All ancestors of ours lived here! I live to continue our lineage right here for my entire life! Selling the house means ending our family lineage! It’s impossible!!” He bawled me out like a crazy man while banging the floor repeatedly with a DVD that I had brought for him as a Father’s Day gift.

But nine years later, the time inevitably came. Considering his mad fury about selling the house back then, it was easy for me to imagine that he planned to set fire on the house during the night I would stay and kill my mother and me along with himself. That seemed the true reason why he wanted me to come back. Those murder-suicide cases sometimes happen in Japan, especially among families with long history.

But the first thing that I felt at the news was not fear but relief. As I had known my father wouldn’t sell the house, I had thought that I would end up reaping the harvest of his mistakes as his daughter even though I didn’t succeed the family. I would have to liquidate everything in the house to pay his debts and sell the house and the land by myself after I would argue with all my relatives in the family’s branches who would most certainly oppose strongly. That picture of my dismal future had been long hanging low in my mind. But now, completely out of the blue, my father was taking up everything and I was discharged…

Living in Kyoto: My Early Life with Japanese Traditions / Hidemi Woods