low price always has its reasons

I shopped at the discount supermarket that I’d recently noticed its existence again. Their usual prices are at the level of special sale prices at other supermarkets. They also have their private brand at even lower prices for beer, noodles and wine. Meat is cheaper than the half-price one at other stores. I get the meat there with further discounts because of the imminent expiration date, so that the price is unbelievable for meat.

It’s open 24 hours and I can go there any time I want without worrying about its closing time. It’s a perfect place to shop for me if not one particular thing – the music played in the store. They play Japanese hit songs annoyingly loudly. Their problems are they sound like a patchwork of fragments from hit songs of U.S. that were popular ten years ago. Their Japanese lyrics are particularly horrible with childishness. I try not to listen to them but it’s loud enough to beat any defense like earplugs or portable music devices. I don’t want to be contaminated, so I have to leave the store quickly each time. Being unable to enjoy shopping leisurely is the catch of this otherwise great store. The low price always has its reasons…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

lucky or unlucky

When I left for Costco yesterday, it started raining slightly. I thought how unlucky I was. I could have returned home but I didn’t want to waste my time to have prepared for going out and went on. By the time I got off the bus to walk to Costco for the rest of the way, it had stopped raining. There seemed a big downpour during my bus ride. I may have been lucky after all. On my way home, I missed the bus. I thought how unlucky I was, again. But by taking the next bus, my subsequent connections for the train and the buss went incredibly smoothly. I may have been lucky again.

When I went to bed that night, I felt numb in my left arm and I feared that I would die from a stroke during my sleep. Thinking how unlucky I was, I fell asleep…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

I’m a super weak person.

I got up 1 p.m. and when I arrived at Costco after walking to the station and taking a train and a bus, it was already 7 p.m. By the time I finished shopping and started back home, I felt exhausted because of heat, humidity and the long trip.

Platforms of the train station were packed with commuters although it was 9 p.m. They were waiting for the train, standing squeezing each other and almost spilling over from the platform. I was sitting on a bench at the platform to take a rest and watching them get on the train, crammed and holding a strap.

I was impressed by their physical strength. They get up early in the morning, commute all the way, work all day long and still have this energy left, while I get up in the afternoon, go shopping and rest on a bench waiting for the less crowded train. To me, this is a once- or twice-a-month thing, but they are doing this every day! Are they human beings with mighty power? Or, I’m a super weak person. Can I withstand all summer like this…?

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Vegetables, Yogurt, and Pizza hr632

My childhood diet was very healthy. That may be the reason why I was such a skinny kid, contrary to how I am today.
I was born in a farmer’s family in Kyoto, an old city in Japan. My family used to be almost self-sufficient. We mainly ate the leftover vegetables of eggplant and spinach that weren’t fit to be sold at the market because of flaws. We also planted rice and other vegetables such as onions, potatoes, carrots, radishes, burdocks and green peppers, not for sale but exclusively for our daily meals. We kept barnyard fowls that provided fresh eggs every morning. Our breakfasts and lunches were almost always row egg mixed with rice and soy sauce, pickled vegetables and too-weak miso soup.
A natural life may sound beautiful and relaxing, but it’s not in reality. Our fowls would holler screaming crows at dawn every day which would induce the clamorous barking of dogs in the neighborhood. Sometimes, one of our fowls that I named and fed every day like my pets was missing, and we had chicken on the table at dinner that evening. It took time for me to realize I was eating my pet fowl while I was worried about its whereabouts. Sometimes, I did witness my grandfather choked and plucked our fowl.
Since we didn’t have to buy vegetables, we had large servings at meals. Unfortunately, all vegetable meals of ours tasted horrible because we had to pay for seasonings or cooking oil and we were stingy enough to refrain them. Everything on our table was flavorless and bland. It never stimulated my appetite and I stayed skinny. As time passed, shops had been appearing in the rural area around our house. Also, my grandfather began to loosen his tight reign of the household and my mother had been able to have some discretion to go shopping and spend money. Our self-sufficiency was rapidly falling. Foods from outside tasted awesome. My appetite finally came out of its long hibernation. I was hooked by ham and mayonnaise in particular, and became chubby in no time.
Of all the terribly-tasted foods that my grandfather had long eaten, he picked yogurt as the worst. When he saw my sister eat it everyday, he asked for one out of curiosity. He said he had never had such an awful food in his life. After I left home for my music career and started living by myself in Tokyo, he often asked my father to take him to my apartment that was far from Kyoto. He wanted to see what was like to live alone there. My father didn’t feel like taking on such a bother for him and used a clever repelling. He told my grandfather that I was eating pizza everyday in Tokyo.
Of course he knew both that I wasn’t and that my grandfather didn’t know what pizza was. He explained to my grandfather that a food called pizza was oily round bread covered with sour sticky substance called cheese that was stringy and trailed threads to a mouth at every bite. And he added a threat, “You would eat that thing in her small apartment. Can you do that?” My grandfather replied in horror, “Why should I eat such a thing rotten enough to pull threads? I can’t ever go to Tokyo.” That pizza description cleanly stopped my grandfather’s repetitive request.
When I returned home for a visit once, my grandfather asked me a question at dinner time. Pointing the four corners of the dining room and drawing invisible lines in the air with his chopsticks, he said, “Your entire apartment is merely about this size, isn’t it?” As I replied it was about right, he asked, “How come you chose to do all what is necessary to live in such a small space and eat stringy rotten foods with threads although you have a spacious house and nice foods here? Is music worth that much? I don’t understand at all.” He looked unconvinced. As for me, while I had a certain amount of hardship, I had a far better life with tasty foods and freedom compared to the one that I had had in this house. Nevertheless, I didn’t utter those words. I said nothing and pour sake for him into his small empty cup, instead.

My First Audiobook Published!

Japanese Dream: Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan / Hidemi Woods
On Sale at online stores or apps. Audible is coming soon.
Jackpot

the supermarket turns into heaven

The nearest supermarket to my apartment puts half-off stickers to the prepared foods that are left unsold at 7:30 p.m. And sometimes, they put 75% off stickers to the ones that are still unsold after the half off at 8:30 p.m. But it all depends on the unsold amount and the 75% off sale is rarely fulfilled. When it is, though, the supermarket turns into heaven to me. It’s a risky challenge worth a bet.

I decided to go for it today and convinced myself that the main purpose was not to get the 75% off foods but to take a walk. This is my fail-safe mindset to protect myself from a bitter disappointment in case nothing is left at the store. I went there, and lost the bet. Their shelf for prepared foods was completely emptied. I kept saying to myself that I came here to take a walk, not to shop. But I had to buy some other mildly discounted items to console myself. I couldn’t shake off the frustration in any way. My fail-safe plan didn’t work for my greed…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

‘Lowest price’ is the keyword that always hooks me

Yesterday I happened to see a news program on TV reporting about a discount store, which carries the lowest price soda in Japan. ‘Lowest price’ is the keyword that always hooks me and I watched the report. Astonishingly, the reported store is located near my apartment.

I rushed into the store today. It existed on the site of a supermarket where I used to shop frequently but was closed for good four years ago. The building had been abandoned until the new discount store opened there last July. I can’t believe I had neglected to find it for almost a year as a person who is hunting for the lowest price constantly. While the building was the same as four years ago, the store had been transformed into my taste. The prices are incredibly low, some are the lowest in Japan, and the store opens 24 hours!

I had wanted an around-the-clock discount store for years. Since I decided to move out here, I’ve found fabulous shopping destinations one after another – first Costco, then this place. Is this a sign to stay put? I’m so confused now…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Despair and Hope hr631

It happened a long time ago when I lived in Tokyo. My partner and I had dinner at a restaurant one night after we hung around the mall. We came back to our apartment that we had rented on the top floor of the building as our home and the office for our record label.
When I tried to turn my key on the front door, I noticed the door had remained unlocked. It was weird. I may have forgotten to lock the door when I left, which was highly unlikely since I was fussy about locking and couldn’t leave without making sure that the door wouldn’t open by trying the knob for a couple of times. I got in feeling dubious, but our apartment didn’t look unusual. Then my partner suddenly said, “Why is the cabinet open?” My heart began to beat fast with overwhelming uneasiness and I hurried into the bedroom that had a balcony. The tall window to the balcony had been smashed broken. It was a burglary.
I called the police right away while my partner was gingerly looking into the bathroom, the closet, and behind the drapes to see if the burglar wasn’t still hiding. Those minutes were the scariest as too many movie scenes flashed back to me. Thankfully, there was nobody. The police arrived quickly since the station was ironically only a block away from my apartment. Such a location apparently wasn’t safe enough to prevent burglary.
The policemen came in and looked around. As they saw the messy rooms, they showed sympathy saying, “It’s played havoc, huh?” It was funny because my apartment had been messy as it was long before burglary. But probably thanks to it, the burglar didn’t notice an envelope that held a few thousand dollars for the bills and was mingled with scraps of paper on the table. Instead of cash, a dozen of Disney wrist watches that was my collection, a cheap wrist watch that was my partner’s memento of his late mother, an Omega wrist watch that I received from my grandparents as a souvenir of their trip to Europe decades ago, and one game software were missing. Actually, those items had been the only valuables in my office apartment. Other than those and litter, my apartment had been quite empty. The reason was simple. I was near bankrupt at that time.
I had started up my music label with my partner and it had grown steadily as business. A person I had trusted offered substantial financial support and I took it. I rented this apartment and hired staff with that money. Then the financial supporter tried to take over my label and threatened to suspend further finance if I refused. Amid horrible disgusting negotiations, money stopped being wired into my account. The label came to a standstill for lack of funds. I laid off all staff and saw what took eight years for my partner and I to build from a scratch crumbling down. The blow was amplified by anger and self-loathing from the fact that I was deceived by a person I had trusted. Despair and emptiness led to apathy. I stopped doing or thinking anything and had played a game every day.
In hindsight, if there hadn’t been burglary, my partner and I would have kept paying the costly rent for the apartment and playing a game until we spent all the money that was left. But something clicked when I saw the very game software I had played every day picked among other many games to be stolen, and the glass window of my dream penthouse apartment smashed. It marked the point where I hit the bottom but also was a wake-up call. We moved out the luxurious apartment immediately and rented a cheap studio apartment in a small two-storied building.
That move left some money in my bank account. The deposit of the penthouse apartment was returned, too. Also, I received an unexpected insurance payout. The expensive rent of my former apartment included a damage insurance. The insurance company assessed the damage based on the report I submitted to the police. For some reason, they calculated the payout more than the total price of what were stolen. I discussed with my partner about what to do with the money. We decided to go to California. A new start form zero. And that was to be the beginning of all these, everything that I do at present. My works have been taken to the world by that decision, made by the burglary.

things in Tokyo 6/22

Moving to a new place reminds me about the time when I first left home. I had always longed to live in Tokyo since childhood, watching modern high-rises or cool apartments in TV dramas. I knew that would never happen to me because I was a firstborn in a family succeeded from generation to generation and was destined to finish my life in the country family house. But music provoked me to throw away everything-my family, friends, college life and, above all, secure life-and to move to Tokyo. As almost all Japanese record companies were in Tokyo and there were many musicians as well, I thought it would be easy to promote my music and find good band members. In actual fact, I only found bad musicians in an unsightly city with too many people, and the record companies picked trashy songs by ignoring mine. Except that I was so happy to have left the place where I was born, things in Tokyo weren’t as good as I had expected…