The unprecedented has happened.
The prefecture where I reside in Japan has rolled out its travel stimulus benefit to help the struggling tourism industry that covers almost all the travel costs. Although I had given up going on a trip since my income decreased tremendously, the benefit allowed me to book a gorgeous hotel in the city for practically free by clearing some small detailed conditions. I was overjoyed by this unexpected luck and preparing for the trip.
A few days before the trip, I noticed my clothespin was missing at the locker room of the communal spa in my apartment building. I used it to close my bag every evening there and it seemed I had dropped it somewhere between my apartment and the communal spa. I thought of returning to look for it but I was already naked. I didn’t want to put on clothes all over again just for a clothespin. As it was too cheap for someone to keep for themselves, I guessed I would find it where I had dropped it on my way back to my apartment, and took a bath. Nevertheless, all that I could think of was the clothespin while I was in the spa. I seemed attached to it more than I had thought. Also, losing something wasn’t a pleasant feeling no matter how petty the thing was. By the time I hurried out of the spa and back to my apartment while looking for the clothespin, what I wanted most in the world was that clothespin. Sadly, I couldn’t find it. I entered my apartment, disheartened by the loss. And my partner said from the back of the apartment, “Something of yours was left there.” I saw the clothespin on the floor of the hallway. I picked it up as if it were a gem, feeling so happy. On top of that, some of the items that I had put up on the online flea market were sold on the same evening. It was a relief for me because they hadn’t been sold for some time and I had been worried. The day turned out to be wonderful, I thought. But it didn’t end there.
I have hypersensitivity to sound and hear high-pitched sounds boosted. While I get almost no income as a musician, I ironically have a full-fledged occupational hazard as one. I am especially sensitive to children’s shrieking and I reflectively shush them when I hear it. My partner has been recently watching a musical TV show before going to bed. Inevitably the sound has reached my ears every night. The female singing voices from the show have annoyed me immensely. I had wished the series would end soon, but it has gone on and on. On the night of that wonderful day, the female singers were hollering and blaring my favorite song ‘That’s Life’ on the show. It sounded awful and I felt their performance was a disgrace to that supreme piece. I couldn’t take it any more and snapped. I yelled at my partner and we quarreled, which was the first fight with him in a long time. With such a small thing, the whole day was ruined. To be precise, I ruined the day with it.
I am not an atheist, but not so religious either. I simply can’t help feeling that something with great power is watching over me. Although it gave me a grandly wonderful day, I didn’t appreciate it, not to mention I ruined it. I was sure that it would take away what it had given me as a punishment for such an arrogant, faithless reaction of mine. In light of what happened today, the punishment would be losing my possession of much more importance than a clothespin and be no more sales at the flea market. I was convinced those two matters would happen to me soon anyway though I regretted bitterly and apologized to that something for what I did.
A couple of days later, I set off for a two-day trip to the city. I dashed out of my apartment by jamming my accessories into my bag as the bus to catch was coming and there was no time to put them on. At the bus stop, two women were chatting loudly while I was taking a mask out of my bag to wear it. I shushed them as usual and got on the bus. I was putting my accessories in my seat and saw my pendant missing. I rummaged through my bag where I had put it, but it didn’t appear. On the bus, in the train, and at the hotel, I kept searching for it by turning out all my belongings, but couldn’t find it. I lost my favorite, most cherished pendant. And I knew it was coming. The punishment. It did happen.
I tried to see how I had lost it, and recalled taking out a mask at the bus stop. That was the only time I took something out of my bag before getting on the bus and the only chance something else could be out with it. I also remembered I was shushing others at that time. I realized again how unappreciative I had been. I was given a practically free trip and still got discontented. Come to think of it, I had managed to live despite financial difficulties and other problems. I had been constantly rescued by something but never appreciated but disregarded because of dissatisfaction. Now I found myself having been so perverse. I asked for forgiveness and determined to be grateful for everything from now on. During the short trip, I learned that much by the punishment and came home the next day with the firm determination to be a better person.
I came into my apartment and turned on the light. On the floor of the entrance, I found the pendant. It had never been in my bag. But it was apparent to me that something returned it to me. Soon after that, another sale was made on the flea market. I was awed by the mercy I received. I was forgiven. A financial crunch that assaulted me had often made me doubt that something. Yet, it still surely watches over me. Since the trip, I have kept my determination and appreciated everything. I haven’t shushed people but smiled. Then, it seems people have become nicer to me and days fuller.
A Slipper Battle
About ten months ago, a middle-aged woman complained to me about my slippers at the communal spa of my apartment building. She wanted me to take them off and stay barefoot in the locker room because everyone except for me was barefooted there as a custom.
I refused as being barefoot wasn’t an official rule and I felt much more comfortable and more hygienic with slippers on. I was kind enough to explain to her that wearing slippers was more hygienic on the public floor than barefoot. It’s totally logical, but she didn’t accept anyway because her point was to keep up the custom.
I’ve kept wearing my slippers in the locker room everyday to this day even though sometimes there were other middle-aged women who grumbled to me or darted an angry look at me. Three months after I got the first complaint, I saw a woman wearing slippers in the locker room and I was no longer the only one that wasn’t barefooted. Then, since last month, a mother and her child have been wearing slippers. As I predicted, people began to imitate me and adopt my way.
And the other day, this slipper battle developed a new twist. I entered the locker room with my slippers on as usual, and there was a woman who had gotten out of the spa and been putting on her clothes. She was putting on her socks when I walked past her. Thinking I found the third example of non-barefoot, I said hello to her with a smile as I usually did. She turned to me and our eyes met. I was astounded. It was none other than that middle-aged woman who told me to be barefoot here ten months ago. She herself was wearing socks! She looked startled to see me and her face got filled with embarrassment at once. She returned hello to me in a faint voice. She lost her battle.
Slowly but steadily, a wrong custom such as nothing should change is disappearing. I was shown a proof that to keep doing the right thing can change the world in a better way. For me, though, it’s an extremely trivial thing like wearing slippers…
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Episode from My School Days in Kyoto: A Japanese Girl Found Her Own Way by Hidemi Woods
As all the people around me professed Buddhism and Shintoism, I had never been exposed to Christianity until I entered junior high school. The junior high I attended was a private Catholic convent school and most teachers were nuns. Since I had never had any contact with nuns before, they were nothing but mysterious to me. They lived together in a convent next to the school and wore a veil. They were called like Sister Catherine or Sister Patricia although they were Japanese. Until I got used to them, I had always wondered about the small basics. Do they have an ordinary Japanese name? Do they really stay single for life? Are they bold under a veil? Yes, yes, and no, I gradually learned the answers.
I had studied English quite hard to catch up with other students who came from the same convent’s elementary school that gave them a head start in English education. One teacher, called Sister Judith, happened to know that and kindly found a pen pal for me. While students mostly didn’t like sisters, she was an exception. She was popular because she was friendly and beautiful. Students also respected her since she graduated from one of the most renowned universities in Japan and was the smartest sister at school.
The school had the very rigid rules for uniform. If an irregular bag was spotted, it would be confiscated. I carried my personal small bag into school one day in addition to the big uniform bag, and Sister Judith caught me. She said she had to confiscate it and I begged her not to. I promised her I wouldn’t use it for school ever again. She decided to overlook my breach for once out of consideration for my emotional plea. As a stupid teenager, I was defiant to pretty much everything. I believed nothing good existed in this world. So I took my irregular bag out of my uniform bag again as soon as I passed through the school gate after school that day. I was walking toward the bus stop with the bag dangling. Someone called out my name from behind. It was Sister Judith. She didn’t return to the convent as usual and left for an errand on that particular day.
She didn’t confiscate my bag, though. Instead, she was crying. “I trusted you and that was why I let you go. But you betrayed my trust. I’m bitterly disappointed in you,” she said quietly and walked away. I felt it was much better that she yelled at me and took away my bag…
From January of last year to October, I’d had terrible skin trouble on my face. I had eczema mainly on my cheeks that were itchy and peeling. The condition was too bad to be covered up with makeup and I was in a mess. Since I’d never had that kind of problem before, I couldn’t figure out the cause. Eventually I attributed it to an allergy to basil pasta sauce. But I recently ascertained the true culprit and need to clear the basil sauce’s name.
My apartment building has a spa which fee is included in the monthly maintenance fee from the resident. The privilege of using it with no holds barred and the fact I’m cheap send me to the spa every morning and evening. Not using it is a big waste of money for me. At the spa, a hot tub, a Jacuzzi, a sauna and a cold water tub are regularly available. And during the busy time such as the summer holidays and the winter skiing season, an extra hot tub is operated.
When I looked for the solution for my skin trouble, I tried everything including shortening my spa time a little. After the trouble went away in October, it reappeared as soon as I started taking an extra hot tub at the spa in December. The cause wasn’t the basil sauce. I took a bath too much and too long every day. Sweating too excessively and having too much metabolism seemed to cause skin trouble. I knew moderation in all things, but had never known it was also true for a spa and metabolism. I thought they were good for health and the more the better. I’ve read or heard everywhere that metabolism is essential to health, and had never thought it also required moderation. It amounts to this, that I was too healthy.
I reduced time and the frequency for the spa drastically and my skin trouble quickly disappeared. The free spa was my favorite relaxation. Now spending less time at the spa every day, I feel as if I leave an all-you-can-eat buffet after only a few bites each time. My good old days of sweating in a sauna as much as I want and relaxing in a Jacuzzi as long as I want are over. And to make matters worse, now that I’m careful not to sweat too much, I’ve gained a few pounds…