Let me tell you how my driving school days ended up.
After a few classes of lectures, the day that I drove a real car finally came. Beside me was an instructor. He taught me how to shift up engaging higher gears, while I was driving on an oval course built in the school site. I had forgotten that I was afraid of speed. Although I was driving slowly, to me, it was a roller coaster ride with the view passing by so fast. I panicked completely, being unable to remember how to brake, thus just accelerating. The tires squealed at the curves and I kept screaming. Eventually, the instructor stopped the car with the auxiliary brake.
It was one of the scariest rides in my life. But, the instructor was even more afraid than I was. He was afraid of me. He asked, “Are you OK?“ meaning mentally. And he advised me not to drive a car. I sort of agreed with him. Against the school’s policy, they returned all the money I’d paid. I bought an electronic instrument with that money. Things must push me to music in every way…
I was born and grew up in a small village of Kyoto, Japan. My family made a living by farming, which contributed to my even more old-fashioned childhood than usual that was nothing like a current ordinary life. Food on the table was almost self-sufficient that came form our fields or the front yard and the chicken coops of the house. We had only one tiny refrigerator without a freezer that was more than enough as beer or watermelons were chilled by pumping well water. The bathtub was round and made of wood. Its floor was a round iron plate on which a round wooden board was put in to sit. Beneath the iron plate was a small furnace that my grandmother put wood, straw or used paper in the fire to heat water in the bathtub. Our toilet was a wooden bucket placed in the garage. My grandfather would carry it on a wooden pole to our fields as manure. Not only the way of living was old-fashioned, but also the way of thinking was. All the family members obeyed submissively my grandfather who was a patriarch of my family. Women were deemed to be inferior to men and treated unfairly. Families were giving and receiving them through marriage as if they were commodities. But the changes of the world can’t be stopped. In the year I was born, a bullet train started running between two major cities in Japan, Tokyo and Osaka. It was dubbed ‘a dream super express’ because of a high speed. The city of Kyoto where I lived was close to Osaka and on the line of the bullet train. A new special railroad and its platforms were built above the existing ones. The railway near my home accordingly had the new overhead railroad above it. When I was an elementary school student, I crossed the local train railroad and the big, tall, splendid bullet train railroad by an underpass beneath the tracks on my way to school on foot every day. In the middle of the passage, when a local train or a freight train passed above my head, I would cringe at an enormously thunderous noise. But the bullet train sounded like a whistling wind, almost soothing. The number of children had been increasing as the economy was picking up. The elementary school I went to burst with students and a new school was built when I was in the fifth grade. I was sent to the new one that stood right next to the railroad. Out of the windows, the bullet train was running. From a brand new school building, I had never get bored to see the bullet train zipping past at incredibly high speed through the countryside where time went by so slowly. Thanks to the bullet train, my new school had the air conditioner since the building had soundproofing windows that can’t be opened because of train noises. My former four years in the old school with wooden buildings and coal stoves were felt like ancient. I loved the bullet train so much. To me, it seemed alive with a soul like Thomas the Tank Engine as its headlights looked like eyes and its coupler cover looked like a nose. Since I had difficulty in getting along with others back then, I felt more attached and closer to the bullet train than other human beings. Every time I saw it passing by, I sensed it glanced at me and was running toward the future, carrying hope and dreams. Years later, I left home of an old village and moved to Tokyo by bullet train to become a musician. Sometimes there is a day when we feel that this world has come to an impasse and been headed just for destruction. But if we adapt ourselves to new ways of living or thinking, we may be able to see more of something bright and exciting. In 2027, Japan is going to have a new railway on which magnetic levitation bullet trains called Linear Bullet Trains run at the highest speed of 320 miles per hour. I wonder how their faces look like. I can’t wait to see them.
The classic card game is usually played during New Year’s in Japan.
There used to be a family gathering in New Year’s in my house every
year. On one New Year gathering after I won the tournament of the game
at school, I suggested to play it because I had become extremely good at
it. I played with my relatives and my grandfather. I won dominantly by
getting most of the cards. Then, my grandfather began to be angry with
me, saying I was unfair. In 100 poems the cards hold, a player often has
his or her favorite poem. It’s considered that person’s specialty,
called ‘my eighteenth’ in Japan. No player other than that person can
take the card on which his or her favorite poem is written, even if the
card is right in front of you. Other players concede it by letting the
person pick the card on purpose. They say it’s an unspoken rule of the
game. I ignored it and just kept taking as many cards as I could whether
it was somebody’s eighteenth or not, because to me, the game was a
matter of memory and speed. With my grandfather, my relatives also began
to complain. Although the game was one of very few things I was good
at, nobody had played it with me ever since…