When I got down to mastering our new song yesterday, new ideas for the mix down struck me. But I’ve already declared the completion of the song. Trying the ideas means to return to the mix down again. I hesitated to do so because it really might throw me into an endless loop. I should accept closure for this project at some point or I would go on for the rest of my life. But, what if the ideas made the song drastically better? Can I leave the possibility untouched? I’m a master of regret and afraid that not trying would be added as one of the big regrets of my life. I’ve got too many regrets and can’t afford any more. I decided to try them. My partner thought I had finished the mastering and brought him a master disc when I told him about going back to the mix down instead. He was planning a trip. The trip was postponed for an indefinite period…
Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods
I am a germphobic. I never go out without packs of wet wipes and always carry a small spray bottle of sanitizer. Whenever I touch anything that shares contact with others, I wipe my hand right away. It’s especially cumbersome when I go on a trip. My routine after check-in is to spray sanitizer to tissues with which I wipe the door knobs, switches, handles of the wardrobe and the refrigerator, hangers, remote controls, faucets, toilet seat, toilet cover, flush handle. If the hotel doesn’t have a duvet style bed for its rooms, I bring clothespins and wrap the cover with the sheet by fastening them together so that any part of my body doesn’t touch the cover that isn’t washed each time. Then I place two pairs of slippers that I bring from home, one for pre-shower and one for post-shower. As you can imagine, it’s so much fuss for me to stay at a hotel. I just can’t help it.
I took a short trip the other day to a neighboring prefecture. For this trip, I was extra nervous because of that Corona virus turmoil. The local train I got on was near empty and most of the sparse passengers were wearing a medical mask. A 2-hour somewhat tense train ride later, I arrived at the hotel. A big spray bottle of sanitizer was put at the entrance and all the hotel staff at the front desk were wearing a mask. I went out for lunch at a family restaurant and it was also empty despite lunchtime. The shopping mall I visited afterwards had only few shoppers around. Since I hate crowds and a jam, all places turned in my favor. It seemed I bought comfort with nervousness. Back in the hotel room, I worked through my room-cleaning routine and had dinner with my partner in the room with deli foods I had gotten at the supermarket, not because I was worried about Corona virus at a restaurant but because I am cheap.
Next morning, I used the elevator to have a free breakfast at a small eat-in space inside the hotel. I was off guard and didn’t wear a mask although the small elevator was unexpectedly packed with guests. Nobody was talking and I unconsciously held my breath. After an awkward silence, I was released to the designated floor. The breakfast was a buffet style. I took food with tongs that many guests used, out of plates that they slowly walked by and looked into. Everyone pushed buttons on the dispenser of coffee and juice. Wet wipes didn’t give me usual assurance for this particular trip. I went back to my room and washed my hands frantically.
I have once read an article that says excessive hygiene is counterproductive. It means that being exposed usually to germs builds resistance and thus makes people hard to get sick. If so, my germphobia is not only self-complacent unction but also simply a bad habit. That may be true, but I can’t, just can’t stop for the life of me.
I checked out the hotel on the last day of my trip to the western region of Japan, flew from Kansai Airport and took an airport bus to the station where I would catch a bullet train heading home. When I finished a late lunch near the station, I noticed there had been voice mail from my mother on my cell phone. My parents had declined to meet me the day before when I was going to visit them who live in the western Japan. I thought the voice mail was about lame excuses to hide the fact that they didn’t want to see me, and called her back although my phone’s battery was extremely low.
I started sarcastically, “It was a pity that we couldn’t meet yesterday although it was a once-a-year opportunity, wasn’t it?” to hear her made-up excuse. Then, she replied, “Huh? Yesterday?” sounding like she had already forgotten about it. And she continued on as if it wasn’t important at all. What she wanted to tell me was why my parents had run away from their condo where my sister had begun to live with them, which I had learned also the day before as a surprise.
According to my mother, my parents had prepared an envelope that contained ten thousand dollars for me for a tax avoidance reason. They were going to hand it to me if I visited them because they didn’t know my bank account number to wire it. They had put the envelope on the Buddhist alter of their home. When my sister found it, she got into frenzy and began to hit my father, shouting, “Get out of this condo!” As her violence didn’t stop, they ran away with almost nothing but the clothes they wore. They had stayed at a hotel for a few days and moved in a short-term rental apartment that my sister later traced. As they wouldn’t let her in, she scratched my father’s car, broke his bicycle, torn window screens and put garbage at the door. They had been moving from one place to another for three weeks because she found them each time and repeated her harassment. They were still looking for another apartment to escape from my sister. As if to sum up, my mother said to me, “We couldn’t get back to our home where the envelope that had money we were going to give you sit. Your sister stole your money.”
I had heard about some abuse my parents have been inflicted from my sister when my mother called me a month ago and told me that she was in hell. But I hadn’t known things have gotten even worse like this. Although I just learned all her miseries, only one thing seized my mind – ten thousand dollars. It triggered something in me and my eyes turned dollar signs like a cartoon. I swiftly responded her that it happened because they had prepared it in cash and that I would give her my bank account number not to repeat this in the future. I was desperately trying to retrieve the ten thousand dollars. I thought they might wire it again once they got my bank account number. By then, my cell phone’s electrical voice had uttered ‘Low Battery’ and ‘Charge Now’ for several times over my mother’s lamenting. I told her to get a piece of paper and a pen immediately and started the names of my bank and its branch. She was getting them so awfully slowly that I suspected she did it intentionally. After a painful wait, I started the number. But right before the first digit came out of my mouth, my phone went dead.
I felt quite chilly because the timing was so precise that it didn’t seem coincident. I also felt ten thousand dollars were slipping through my fingers. I looked around for pay phones to finish the number, but couldn’t find one. I came home by bullet train, recharged my cell phone, and called back my parents. Both of them didn’t answer. I called them again the next day. My father answered this time with the same vacant voice as I heard on the phone during the trip. He told me that he couldn’t talk with me now as he was in the real estate agent’s office for another apartment hunting to hide from my sister. He sounded completely absent-minded and made me feel uncertain. My mother came up to the phone and told me their effort would be in vain anyway since my sister would eventually find out their new place somehow. I offered that I would find an apartment for them around where I live if they didn’t bother it would be 500 miles away from where they are now. It was when my mother burst into tears again. “Will YOU help me? Really?”, she bawled, as if she couldn’t believe my words.
After I hung up the phone without telling her my bank account number, I finally came to my senses. My dollar signs tumbled down from my eyes and my reason returned. My mother is, has always been, a liar. She tells any kind of lies from big to small to anyone. She also has set her mind to make me unhappy in every possible way. She has wielded countless tactics for that purpose. The marked example was when the music label my partner and I started finally got on track after strenuous years. When she noticed our beginning of success, she offered financial support to back me up. I foolishly trusted her because she was my mother. My partner and I moved to a bigger office and hired more staffs. Shortly after that, she tried to take over our business by threatening to stop financial aid unless we handed over the profit. I realized that she had offered money in the first place to crush our business, but it was too late. Our label suffered heavy losses and damage with her sudden finance withdrawal. Thinking back my bitter experiences of many years, it has been proven that she never does anything good for me and she never hopes my well-being. It’s totally a blue dahlia that she would give me any money. I almost took in her ‘ten thousand dollars’ this time and was stupid enough to be about to tell her my bank account number.
I wonder why I keep being fooled by my mother after all those years from childhood. My mother has never been forgiven for what she did and things have increasingly gotten worse around her year after year. I may wish somewhere in my mind that she is finally brought back to her sense and cleans up her act. Then she becomes a better person and someday she accepts me and loves me. Probably those vain hopes are my weakness on which my mother plays with her lies. Or more simply, like mother like daughter, I’m as greedy as my mother, that’s why I easily fall for her…
On the second day of a trip to the western region of Japan, time was running short for the train I was going to take while I was preparing to go out at the hotel room. I walked to the closest train station hurriedly and called my parents.
One of the purposes of this trip was visiting my parents. When I do, I never tell them about my visit beforehand. My life experience taught me that they will plan some ways to attack me if I give them time. I let them know right before my actual visit in order not to give them a chance to think of any plots.
The one who answered my call was my younger sister to whom I hadn’t talked for more than a decade. Before the trip, I had received a phone call from my mother who was crying and confessed that her life had been hell since my sister began to live with them about a year ago. My parents had kept it secret from me for a year because my sister didn’t want me to know that she had returned to Japan from abroad and had lived with them. Although I had known that from my mother’s phone call, I pretended not to know when my sister answered my call as I also had known her intention. I said, “You’re back in Japan,” and she admitted in a very faint voice. And an unexpected new fact followed when I asked her to put either of my parents on the phone. She told me that my parents had no longer lived there because they ran away from home.
My mother had mentioned some kind of abuse by my sister on the distraught phone call less than a month ago, but I never thought it was serious enough to run away. My sister explained in a feeble voice that they had felt excessively stressful to live with her. And she didn’t know their whereabouts.
After I hung up the phone, I called my father’s cell phone. He answered sounding absent-minded. I told him I had come to see him and asked him if we could meet. He answered it was inconvenient for him because he had somewhere to go with my mother and there was no time to spare for me all day long. He apparently avoided me and sounded he didn’t want to see me. When I asked him where they were living now, he said in a vacant voice, “In an apartment near the condo where I lived.” I had a previous engagement to meet with my high school teacher before I was going to see my parents and the train to catch was coming. Although I had tons of questions left, I ran out of time and hung up the phone.
To meet my teacher, I needed to transfer the train at Osaka terminal station. As there was 15-minute space to the next train, I used the bathroom in the station. I was headed for the platform where the next train would depart, walking through the enormous station that has eleven platforms and seven different train lines. The passages were entwined and crawling with passengers. It looked like as much as O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. I was waiting for the train on the platform I had made sure on the information board. When the train came in though, I noticed a wrong destination was displayed on the side of the train. I had checked the platform number by the departure time. Unfortunately, Osaka Station is a gigantic station that has numerous trains depart at the exactly same time. I had been waiting for a train diligently at the wrong platform. I saw the right train coming in a few platforms away. I panicked, rushed down the long flight of stairs, ran down the long main passage, ran up the stairs and tried to zap into the train. But on the platform I ended up, the right train didn’t arrive. Instead, an unfamiliar, new special gorgeous train had been parked and the full-dress station attendants were standing in line in front of the train, giving it a salute. There were some camera crews around them. It seemed some sort of ceremony was being held there, and I appeared in the midst of it dashing out of the stairs. I couldn’t grasp what was happening for a moment and was just looking around frantically for my train. A young lady attendant approached me with a kind smile, saying to me, “Why don’t you take one if you like.” and handed me a small plastic flag on which an illustration of this special train was printed. Then I realized I got on the wrong platform again because I didn’t come here to see off this train with the flag. I ran down the stairs yet again, and dashed up the stairs to the right platform this time.
The platform was empty with no train and no passengers. My train seemed to have long gone. I was standing alone in a daze, panting for breath on the oddly quiet platform with a small flag holding in my hand.
I was late for the arranged time and made my teacher wait, but was able to see her again who is one of only few people that have understood me and supported me for all the years after I graduated from high school. A good time passes quickly. I was immensely encouraged by her even in this short meeting and got on the train to go back to the hotel instead of going to my parents’ home.
Because the plan to meet my parents was cancelled in an unexpected way, I happened to have time to go to the outlet mall that I had given up the other day because of rain. I enjoyed hanging around there with my partner and had dinner at the Hawaiian restaurant with a turkey sandwich and popcorn shrimps that are rare items in Japanese restaurants and give me yearning for the days when I lived in the U.S. In the end of a weird day filled with totally unexpected twists, a wonderful time waited for me. My precise plan for this trip turned to be completely different two days in a row…
After I saw the outside of the buildings, I met a real estate agent who showed me the available room in each apartment. For a room in the apartment which was under refurbishment, she offered a 20 percent discount because the carpet and the wallpaper in the room was damaged. As the room had been my first choice anyway before I came here and I have a weakness for a discount, my mind was almost set on that place. The thing was, as I wrote here once, the available rooms of that building were concentrated on the fourth floor in the east side and this room was among them. Even after I saw the building and the room with my own eyes, I couldn’t find out what was wrong with the fourth floor. I checked in a hotel and went to have dinner at a restaurant in the hotel as the stay included dinner. Since it was a budget travel package, I didn’t expect the food at all. But the dinner was probably the most gorgeous feast I had ever had. It included all-you-can-eat crabs, tempura, steak and shrimps. Ironically, fatigue and tension for decision making spoiled my appetite and I could eat only little. At night, I couldn’t sleep either from a sense of claustrophobia because the mountains and the woods closed down the area. I asked myself if I could really move in this area, let alone on the enigmatic fourth floor…
I transferred the bullet train to the local train to the area where all three apartments of my choice were located. There were no passengers but me on the train although it was a weekday morning. The station was an unmanned small shack. I walked along shabby houses, used-to-be shops and rice fields and found one of the apartments among them. My first impression was that a photograph showed things much better than they actually were. The building had looked a lot more gorgeous in the photos on a website. I walked on and soon found the other two apartments. One was under refurbishment and I couldn’t see it from the outside. The other stood nearby and I saw a half-naked old man sitting idly on a balcony, who was a kind of person I didn’t like to have as one of my neighbors. I took a rest on a bench, wondering if this trip had already become a fool’s errand…
As the summer holidays began in Japan, an old vintage bus has been running for sightseeing spots in the area I moved in. Its one-day pass is $3 and I tried it for the first time the other day. What appeared at the bus stop was a cool hooded bus with the ‘50s or ‘60s style. A conductor was aboard, who collected money for the ticket and announced each stop. The bus’s interior remained of its old one and the unfamiliar cab and the dashboard excited me immensely. But once it got going, it jolted violently for old suspension and made my body jump in the seat up and down, right and left, although it was running on asphalt. The heat was also unbearable since the bus wasn’t equipped with air conditioning. I glimpsed how hard traveling was in the past. While I appreciated authenticity of the bus, I was tired from the uncomfortable ride. Maybe there are some kinds of vehicles that are suitable not to be gotten in, but to be looked at, like this bus or a Formula One car. Watching the quaint bus going through my new neighborhood, I couldn’t help feeling a little sad because it matched well with the town, which meant my new town looked as old as the bus itself…
I took a trip to the Western region of Japan with my partner. To travel there is an about-once-a-year event for me because the region is where my parents live and one of my favorite destinations to spend a short vacation. I had made a precise plan for this trip a few months in advance. The plan was taking a bullet train and then a plane to get there, hanging around the outlet mall, meeting my high school teacher and visiting my parents’ home.
I saw rain falling quite heavily out of my window on the morning of departure although the weather forecast had been for rain only in the afternoon. Thanks to the inaccurate weather forecast, I would have to walk in the rain to the nearest local train station for ten minutes with an umbrella added to my heavy bags. When we left and got down to the entrance of our apartment building though, the rain just stopped. My partner exclaimed excessively, “How lucky we are! It stopped raining just when we’re stepping outside! How about that!”
We were transferring from the local train to the bullet train at the station. We didn’t have our seats reserved on a bullet train as it cost less. Before getting aboard, we were going to drop by a kiosk to get breakfast. But we looked in an information board for coming trains instead of entering into a kiosk directly. A station attendant happened to pass by, and told us the platform number where the next train would come although we didn’t ask. He also added that if we moved now, we would catch it in time. Instead of breakfast, we took an escalator to the platform while hearing the train coming in. Just when we got to the platform, the train door opened before us. Two business men got off, and two of us got on. Although the train had been full, only two seats that those business men had taken side by side were empty. We sat together without a reservation. My partner was enraptured and said, “Got aboard just in time, only two seats together were empty! How lucky we are!”
After arriving at the airport, we flew to Kansai Airport by a low cost carrier. The flight was completely packed since the fare was incredibly low. I was irritated for the whole flight because a group of a kid, a mother and her friend was sitting right behind me and extremely noisy. The kid was shouting all the way. My patience was about to reach the limit in the end of a mere 90-minute flight. When the plane descended and prepared for landing, it was lapped by dark clouds. Large drops of rain drummed on the windows. The captain announced the weather at the airport would be heavy rain. Probably because it was a low cost carrier plane, it wasn’t connected to a ramp but parked far from the terminal building. After landing, we needed to use the stairs to go down to the ground and walk outside to the building. While I was going down the stairs, I noticed the heavy rain had just stopped. My partner said exultantly, “Look at the sodden tarmac! It must have been raining hard until minutes ago! How lucky we are!”
I finally dared to question him, “If we are that lucky, how come we sat in front of the only noisy child on the plane?” He answered convincingly, “It’s a piece of advice that we shouldn’t take any longer flight than this on a low cost carrier.” He apparently implicated our tentative plan to fly to North America by a low cost carrier and sounded as if we were lucky to find the right indication for the plan.
We took a train to the nearest station from a hotel we had booked. The hotel was a 7-to-8 minute walk from the station. On our way, drops of rain started falling. It rained in earnest a few feet away from the hotel and we rushed forth to the entrance. After we settled in a hotel room, I suggested that we should give up our plan to go to the outlet mall. I thought that it wouldn’t rain again like this if the plan to go there was right. We changed our plan and took the hotel’s spa instead.
Since the hotel was the economy one, I didn’t expect too much of the hotel bath. But as it turned out, it was the best communal bath I’d ever taken. It was small but clean and stylish, and the total atmosphere was superb with the modern lighting and jazzy background music. And I was the only guest there. I enjoyed it immensely and relaxed totally. It unexpectedly became a true vacation experience. Luck seemed to be on my side on this trip so far. I couldn’t tell any more who or what decides our itinerary…