My parents bought me a piano and I started learning to play at the age of four. It was my mother who wanted it, not me. Although she disliked music so much, a piano was a must-have item for her to satisfy her vanity. At first, a neighbor came to teach me at home, then I began to go to a pianist’s house to take lessons when I got a little older. The pianist had about 100 students and I was probably the laziest student of all. I really hated practicing. I took a lesson once a week, and sometimes didn’t play at all for the whole week between the lessons. A wonder was, I was his favorite student for some reason. He was quite strict with his students but to me, he regularly said that I had a feeling for music somehow. No matter how poorly I played, he kept admiring me for what he called my natural ability. He seemed to believe that I was talented and had the makings of a pianist, but unfortunately, that never motivated me. I didn’t practice anyway and remained an unwilling student all along…
Episode from My School Days in Kyoto: A Japanese Girl Found Her Own Way by Hidemi Woods
Audiobook 1 : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps.
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When I was a ninth-grader and a leader of the ninth-grade play team for the homecoming at school, I devoted myself to dramatization and direction in the run-up to the homecoming. The teacher in charge of our team praised my first dramatization. He said it was a good script and I had a talent. While I was motivated, other members of the team didn’t have a whit of interest or enthusiasm. They tried to make me decide everything. I took care of the set, the props and the costumes while teaching the lighting and acting. Above all, their acting was terrible. They were just reading their lines in a monotone. No matter how strenuously I explained, they simply couldn’t act. I acted every role for them and asked them to mimic me. As I needed to tell every member what to do and how to do, I felt like I was working with a bunch of robots in the team. At last, they started suggesting that I would be better off if I did everything in the play alone by myself, instead of giving them each and every single instruction. Maybe it was true, but there was one exception among the cast members. The girl whom I cast as a leading roll tackled her acting earnestly and seriously. She followed every instruction and advice from me. Other members were still sardonic for my casting of a non-pretty, unpopular girl as a leading role, but her acting got better and better. It seemed she felt an obligation to me for the casting. She even brought a present for me on my birthday although we had never been close and had hardly talked with each other at school until the play team got going. With her and my effort, our team successfully put on the play at the homecoming and it was much better than I had expected. This curriculum play was part of a school competition. The faculty would vote to decide the best play among the seventh, eighth, and ninth-grade team’s plays. It was a school’s tradition that a ninth-grade team won every year. As a ninth-grade team leader, I was sitting at the auditorium, preparing myself for receiving the prize out on the stage when the winner was announced. “The eighth-grade team!” the announcement filled the air.
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 drama club to which I belonged when I was a junior high school student had two school plays a year, for the homecoming entertainment and for the welcoming-new-students assembly. The casting would be done by a seniority system. A handful of senior members appeared on the stage and other members worked backstage.
New members usually started from the stage props staff, then were promoted to the scene shifter, the spotlighting, the curtain drawer/prompter, the stage lighting, and finally, the cast member. My fellow five new comers had quit within a year because they couldn’t take this slow promotion toward cast members, and I was the only one left among those who joined that year. Since there were so many members who were one year my senior, it seemed the day I would be cast in a play would never come in this seniority system. But once I begin something, I don’t quit easily.
When the twice-a-year school play came near, I would work eagerly backstage while seeing some senior cast members whose acting were much worse than mine rehearse on the stage. I started as the stage props staff. The first play I took part in was a Japanese drama. Some cast members had trouble putting on Japanese sandals very quickly when they stormed out of the room in one scene and complained to us. From then on I had stretched their sandals carefully before the scene for the cast members to put them on quickly. As the spotlighting, I learned to move a spotlight just as the cast member moved on stage and to keep the light above her chest all the time. Every once in a while in rehearsal, I made a mistake to follow the cast’s quick movement and my light missed the position slightly. In that case, the play would come to an instant halt and everyone turned to me. I would stand straight beside the spotlight and yell “I’m so sorry!” to the whole production.
Since I became the class clown at school, I was quite popular back then, not only among the students but also among the teachers. When I needed to see a teacher at the hallway in front of the teachers’ office, other teachers would come out of the office to talk with me. They would stand in a circle around me and laugh at my jokes and stories. Inevitably, it was always noisy wherever I showed up.
The vice-principal was a stern, rigid teacher called Sister Maris Stella. She was the oldest sister at school and dressed in a traditional, old-fashioned Catholic gown. She was strict to students and teachers alike. Everybody tried to keep away from her because she always reproved someone for something. She would appear wherever people were buzzing, to shut them up.
She had recognized that I was often a seismic center of the buzz and given me a look of ‘You again’. Every time the teachers were cracking up with me in front of the teachers’ office, she poked her long-veiled head out of the office. That was a signal for the end of the show. Teachers would disperse quickly while I stopped talking. Sometimes we failed to notice her and she stood behind the circle listening to me. The moment someone spotted her, they would walk away. In those cases, she would ask me what I was talking about. I would apologize and leave.
And one thought occurred to me. She didn’t come out to reprove us. She might want to join us. Even after I realized that, I had no way to keep talking once other teachers ran away. As a result, we just kept leaving when she came up. And one day, when we were scattering at the sight of her as usual, she grabbed my arm. She said to me, “That’s it! You hate me, don’t you? I know you hate me! I know, because I hate you too!” Over her shoulder was a statue of the Virgin Mary with a plaque saying ‘Love and Humanity’. It was the most inconsistent scene I had ever experienced.
Months later, there came a general-school-cleaning day. I was unlucky enough to be assigned to the school cafeteria of which Sister Maris Stella took charge. As if she got a golden opportunity, she made a slave of me. She chose the dirtiest floor just for me and made me crawl to clean up thoroughly, yelling “Not enough! Do it over!” repeatedly. I felt her revenge so strongly. Given the hatred and now the revenge, I deepened the mystery of Catholic sisters…