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Hidemi Woods 

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

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Blog : Hidemi's Rambling

Bruises hr615

The reason I am excessively self-conscious is apparently because my mother hammered in my childhood how I should look and behave.
   Appearance is the most essential thing in my mother’s life. She always puts face-saving first among other things. That inevitably leads to her daughter’s reputation. For it, she doesn’t care how her daughter feels or what she wants. People’s opinions are everything to her.
   When I was in junior high school, the local public transportation bus I took everyday to school slammed on the brakes suddenly one day and threw me out of the multiple seat at the back. I hit my shin against a metal bar. After I got off the bus at the nearest bus stop from my home, I did my usual 15-minute walk to my house limping. My parents happened to pass by in their car on that particular day. I thought how lucky I was to get a ride when I had a sore leg of all occasions. As soon as I got in the car, my mother bawled me out for limping without asking what had happened to me. “You’re walking like a vagabond. How embarrassing!”, she scolded. She ignored my say that I had a small accident on the bus and my leg hurt as if it wasn’t the point at all. She kept lashing out with her mantra, “What would others think if they saw!?” It must have been so shocking to her that she had grabbed every chance to bring up the way of my walking and nagged at me about that one-time-only limping for years. Now, the sight of my limping has haunted her strongly enough for her to believe I have a slight limp by nature.
   Walk while eating used to be regarded as bad manners in Japanese society. My mother made me go to the cram school to prepare for an entrance exam of a renowned junior high when I was an elementary school pupil. The classes were three days a week after regular school hours and the cram school was far from home, which it took 40 minutes by train. It was usually close to 7 p.m. when the class was over, and we were all hungry. My fellow students would buy chocolate and eat at the platform while waiting for the train home. I had never done that as I didn’t have extra money and was forbidden to eat standing in public by my mother. One of them gave me a piece one evening. I stashed it to have it back home. But I became very hungry in that particular evening when I transferred to another train at the terminal station. I had put a piece of chocolate in my mouth when I arrived at the nearest station from my house. My mother happened to be there to pick me up for once. She almost screamed, “You’re chewing gum in public!” She ignored my say that I had never done this before and the thing was chocolate not gum. She kept wailing, “You chew gum in public! How embarrassing! What would others think if they saw!?” To this day, when she meets me, she still nags at me about how disappointed she was when she saw me chewing gum that evening.
   Those instances could go on endlessly. She didn’t allow me to go to the school nurse's room no matter how sick I felt at school because it looked bad in front of other kids. When we had our house robbed, she stopped me from calling the police because it looked bad to our neighbors. She made me wear the class president pin wherever I went during my term for show. I was raised by a lump of vanity like my mother and have become a vain person myself who cares too much about looks and behavior unconsciously.
   My family took a trip by train early in my teens and I missed a step of the stairs at the station with my new unaccustomed high-heeled boots. I fell and rolled down the stairs over a dozen steps. I stood up at the bottom of the stairs despite pain. My mother walked down the stairs calmly and indifferently instead of rushing over to help me, and said, “I didn’t think it was you. I thought it was a stranger.” Not one ‘Are you all right?’ came out of her mouth that day. After we checked in a hotel, I saw my body in the bathroom. The half side of my body was covered with dark bruises. I imagine how wonderful it would be that someday the bruises on my mind finally healed and disappeared along with my massive self-consciousness...

 

A Guest Appearance in The Tonight Show hr614

I am a singer-songwriter but don’t do any gigs before audience any more as I used to do.
   I’m too self-conscious and have an almost morbid complex about my looks. Whenever I give a live performance, I worry too much about the way I look instead of the way I play. Since I duly know my looks are bad, I can’t focus on my play. All the while I’m singing, I keep chanting in my head, “I’m ugly, I’m ugly, I’m ugly.” Acute lack of self-confidence for looks makes me extra-nervous. As a result, I get tense excessively, sweat all over, forget the words of my song, and play terribly. I’ve lost every single live contest or audition. It’s easy to assume one of the reasons why I haven’t been successful to date.
   Countless numbers of failure later, I’ve become a recording artist who don’t perform before audience. As such, I regularly practice singing to record my songs. During the practice, I sing alone in my room. It usually goes smoothly. But the minute I imagine I were singing in public, my technique disappears and deteriorates to rock bottom. I have a sense that I need to cure this public-phobia in order to be successful. Therefore, I started practicing by turning my room into an imaginary studio as if I were on The Tonight Show.
   Since then, when I practice in my room, I’ve sung in The Tonight Show in my head almost every day for years. It has been therapy rather than practice. In that way, my singing is awful because I lose focus on a song. My focus easily turns towards looks. The words of a song in my head are replaced by the thoughts about how I look on TV. Do I look like an old woman? Does my nose get shiny? Are my ugly teeth showing? Am I too fat? Is my hair too thin? Endless concerns hinder my singing. Although I understand it’s desperately shallow, I can’t help it.
   But as I’ve practiced that way for a long time, there is a day when I sing well on the imaginary show occasionally. In a case like that, I feel like I’m ready for the actual show. That leads me another difficult phantom aspect - a talk with the host. I imagine myself sitting in the sofa beside the host. Instantly I’m worried about if I don’t talk like a stupid woman, if I cross my legs properly, if I put in clever jokes, if they don’t fall flat, if I leave the stage in style with a big punch line at which the audience laughs and goes crazy, and if people think Hidemi Woods is cute and smart with a superb sense of humor. Because of those worries, an imaginary self on the imaginary show is extremely nervous, fumble the talk all the way with cracked voice, speak broken English, tell a sick joke, sweat like a pig, and the audience goes silent. Seeing an unsightly, nightmarish myself in my head, I again realize that it’s impossible for me to act in public let alone The Tonight Show.
   I am clumsy all my life. And I had been very fat since eight years old until all through teenage time. That is probably why I long for good looks too much. As a clumsy person, I definitely believe that I’ve already gone through more embarrassment than ordinary people usually experience in lifetime...

 

Sushi and Beef Bowl Restaurants hr613

I happened to come across information on the Internet about a sushi restaurant that is close enough to get on foot from the bus station. Since I don’t have a car, the access by public transportation or on foot is essential for me wherever I go. Combined with the rural area I live in that has sparse places to eat, finding an accessible restaurant is rare. I went for it right away.
    I don’t like a regular sushi restaurant. It usually has a counter only, with a peevish master behind it. You order directly to him and eat in front of him. It’s impossible for me to relax and enjoy eating in that kind of strained setting. That’s why I eat out sushi exclusively at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant that has no master. It’s a very popular type of sushi restaurant in Japan and there are many major chains. It has both a counter and tables beside which a narrow, long belt conveyor is moving. On a conveyor, small plates of sushi are arrayed. Various kinds of sushi circulates inside a big restaurant like a toy train, coming and going in front of customers. You just pick up what you want to eat and the price is told by the color of the plate. Orders also can be placed via a tablet that is set at each table. You just tap what you want, and it comes on the conveyor in a special container. You can order or pick up a plate as many as you want, and leave and pile the empty plates on your table. When you finish eating and touch ‘Check Out’ on the tablet, a human server came to your table at last and count the stack of empty plates so that the total amount of your payment is written or bar-coded on a sheet of paper. You bring it to a cashier and pay.
   My new finding was that conveyor type of sushi restaurant. The place seemed to have been remodeled recently and looked new and stylish. The tables were all booths, looking as if sushi was moving around inside Denny’s. Added to dozens of varieties of sushi, other items were abundant on the menu. Hamburger steak, fried potato, noodles, fried pot stickers, edamame, cakes, ice cream and parfait, not to mention beer, sake, and fresh coffee. They all came on the conveyor after you tap the tablet. And, above all, everything tasted good and the price was so low! Most plates carried two pieces of sushi at one dollar. As I avoided the lunch hour, the place was near empty and the atmosphere was superb.
   Since I liked the restaurant so much, I returned there with my partner three days later. When I walked toward the place, I noticed a beef bowl restaurant next to the sushi place was totally empty without any customers. An empty place is my favorite, and I jumped in.
   Beef bowl restaurants are also popular in Japan. They are fast restaurants mainly for Japanese business persons who don’t have enough time and money to eat lunch. They gobble up at a counter and dash out. That makes the place all efficiency and price, not atmosphere of the sort. I had hated it for that and never been a big fan, but this particular beef bowl place I found was different.
   It was also recently remodeled and the interior was pretty and clean. It had quite a few tables besides the counter, looking like a family restaurant rather than a beef bowl place. I enjoyed the low-priced, big-volume beef bowl in a relaxing atmosphere there. Then we moved to the sushi place where I had sake and appetizers while my partner had coffee and parfait.
   As for the payment, $12 at the beef bowl place and $15 at the sushi place for two people, tax included and tips unnecessary. It probably can happen only in Japan that eating delicious meals at low prices in an excellent atmosphere is possible. But not that everything is rosy. With these two eat-outs in a week, I hit a new high of my weight for this year...

 

Jackpot hr612

That casino was old and forlorn. Inside, it had the outdated concert hall where gaudy revues and magic shows used to be abundant. Since the casino lost its popularity and customers, the hall had been used as a makeshift break area. Those who used up money for gambling and no longer had anything to do sat there sparsely with vacant eyes, producing a wretched atmosphere that perfectly matched the whole casino. My partner, my mother and I was resting there after we lost most money. As it was too gloomy to be sitting in the break area, my partner suggested that we should use up the scarce rest of our money and leave the casino.
   Each of us sat in front of our favorite slot machine. On the screen of my slot, I came close to win with two matched pictures but the third one didn’t come up in every turn. My mother and I quickly ran out of money. Further down the floor, I saw my partner still playing. I left him there and went back to our hotel with my mother.
   It was the last day of our stay and I started packing for checkout. The hotel looked out on the waterway that connected the hotel and the casino. For a brief break from packing, I went out on the balcony of our room and watched the waterway. Then I noticed something gigantic floating far up the waterway. It was slowly flowing toward the hotel. The closer it got, the more monstrous it became. It approached near enough to tell what it was.
   A tall, triangular-shaped white condominium was carried on a massive barge. Tied behind it was a white enormous sailing ship. They were carried carefully from the direction where the casino located. Considering where it came from and how unusual they were to be carried along the waterway, I assumed that they were some prizes of the casino. I called my mother to the balcony and we wondered what kind of person had extremely good fortune like this.
   The barge and the ship stopped in front of the hotel, right under our balcony. There was the third boat tied behind the ship. A man was sitting in it almost buried in numerous boxes and bags. It meant he was the winner. I gazed at the man with the biggest possible amount of envy. And I gasped. The man who won all of those was no other than my partner! I couldn’t shout, couldn’t scream but was just speechless. I saw my partner getting off the boat and being welcomed by the hotel staff. He gave them some instructions and they hurriedly moved around. Soon, there was a knock on the door of our room. The bellboys brought countless boxes of shoes and bags of brand clothes into our room. Finally my partner came in. He said calmly, “It’s time for checkout.” I told him that I hadn’t finished packing and he said, “It’s all taken care of. I hired people to do the rest. We can just leave.”
   We stepped out of the hotel. In front of my eyes, the white condominium gleamed under the bright sunshine. The white sailing ship gently swayed with its sails furled. I asked myself repeatedly, “Can anything like this actually happen?”. My mother said, “I’ve always wanted a condominium like this!” and got onboard the barge. My partner returned onto the boat. I was excited enough to jump in the water and floated by a swim ring that was connected to the boat. The fleet began to move again and we were heading home.
   While we were slowly moving down the waterway, I saw some parade floats in the water ahead of us. The area was a popular resort destination and the waterway threaded through many hotels. The parade seemed one of the events held in the area. Seeing the floats far ahead and the big condominium and the sailing ship before me, I asked my partner, “This is a dream, isn’t it?” He had been expressionless up until this point but smiled for the first time since he won. “Why? Are you that happy?”, he asked me back. I usually dream a lot. Sometimes I dream a very good one and feel ecstatic in it. But in those cases, waking up is excruciatingly painful. Dreadful disappointment crushes me. I’ve had those experiences more than too much and want no more. I would do anything to avoid it. If this is also a dream, I have to wake up now before euphoria gets inside me. Otherwise, I couldn’t bear a disappointment of this magnitude.
   I was sad that everything I had gotten would disappear when I woke up. This was undoubtedly the best and the most vivid dream I’ve ever had. But I had to know whether this was reality or not at this point in order to minimize disappointment. I looked at the clear blue surface of the waterway on which I was floating. It was sparkling in the sunlight. I hit the surface and made it splash. Sprays of water showered on my face. It was cold and refreshing. I slapped my wet cheeks with my both hand. It hurt. Still, everything stayed as it was. I slapped my face over and over, hearing the sound of slapping and splashing water and my partner’s laughter. The condominium and the sailboat were still there. I felt gentle breeze and drips of water streaming down my face. I looked up the bright blue sky and got the dazzling sunshine over my face. I didn’t wake up. This was all real!
   Now that I was convinced this wasn’t a dream, I was able to take it in. Indescribable happiness seized me. It almost choked me and I panted for breath. I felt my lungs were pressed with happiness and heated like coals. I’ve never been this happy in my entire life. I became a billionaire. My life got redeemed. I was finally getting out of a prison and living in a place where I should be. I was filled with a sense of relief, peace, and freedom. I felt a lump in my throat. It was as if the heated coals in my chest reached the boiling point and were about to explode. Tears appeared in the bottom of my eyes. They began to liquefy my sight. I blinked to shed tears. I felt tears rolling down my cheeks. I opened my eyes again. Then - much to my horrible surprise - the sight remained black. I blinked again and fixed my eyes on the darkness. It was the ceiling above the bed of my room.
   It was completely beyond belief. Although I made sure so many times, all what happened was a dream. I was simply lying on my bed with tears streaming down my face. The sensation I had felt was so real that I even suspected this awakening was a dream. I sat up on the bed, bewildering. Everything was gone along with happiness. I was dazed for a while without moving. I uttered several times, “Can’t be a dream.” because it was too real to be a dream. I made a mistake again that I’ve tried to avoid all the time. This time, the mistake was huge. The dream was too good,  too vivid, and too happy. Accordingly, disappointment was severely grave.
   I felt the massive disappointment was trying to squash me. I couldn’t get up. I kept sitting on the bed, and started weeping...

 

A Trip after The Storm hr611

Although I had received “the last letter to me” quoted as written from my mother a few months before in which she wrote she wouldn’t like to see me or hear from me or receive any gifts from me or stay in contact with me any more for the rest of her life, I ignored it completely and made an annual visit to my parents as usual. She had sent me that offensive letter behind my father’s back and he doesn’t know about a broken relationship between me and my mother.
   My father also used to be bad-tempered and attack me when I returned home once a year or two. But since he sold our family’s house, he has welcomed me in a good mood at his small apartment in an unfamiliar town and hasn’t criticized me. He seems simply happy to see me each time I visit their apartment. And I know that is exactly what annoys my mother to the limit.
   To her, her new life is degradation. She was always unhappy when she lived in a big house with her husband to whom she married for his money. And now she has become even unhappier living in the small apartment without our family’s fortune. It’s easy to imagine how disgusted she is by my father’s upbeat attitude toward his new life. She must have sought revenge to make him equally unhappy and come up with that letter. She thought I would stop visiting them as she asked to. That would take away one of his pleasures and get him one step closer to unhappiness. She loves any kind of plot all her life but none of them is ever clever. This one is no exception that is too apparent for me to be fallen into. My decision to carry out a visit despite her letter implicated harassment to her because it would show her that her wicked plot failed yet again.
   A week before the trip, a big typhoon hit the western part of Japan where my parents live. Much damage resulted from it including to Kansai Airport on which my flight was going to arrive. As the airport is a man-made island in the sea, its runways and facilities were flooded by a storm surge. On top of that, a tanker crushed into the only bridge that connects the airport to the shore and broke it. The airport has been shut down.
   I hesitated about the trip. I couldn’t decide whether I should cancel my reservations for the flight and the hotel. Above all things, I wondered if this was a sign telling me not to visit my parents.
   But I had to go at all cost because it was my mother who had told me not to come. I’ve discovered and followed the unshaken rule since I was a teenager -do the opposite of what my mother says and I’ll be happy and everything will go well. This rule has worked 100 percent and has never failed in my life.
   Meanwhile, the airport partially reopened unexpectedly sooner than reported. Among most suspended flights, mine was one of the few that partially started re-operating. The damaged bridge to the shore returned passable by the limited lanes. I visited my parents as I had planned.
   I knew it would be so awkward to see my mother but I had determined not to get angry at her or blame her on her letter. If I did so, it would be her achievement. Her purpose is always to make me unhappy with any blow she could think of. I should behave unbreakable, which would be my blow against her.
   My mother met me at the entrance of their apartment as if nothing had happened between us. She desperately acted joyfully, uttering shallow flattery like I looked young or my outfit was pretty. Not only when my father was around, but also when there were only two of us, we never mentioned about the letter. She just kept on flattering and wearing fake smile. She even told me what she had never told before -tons of complains about her favorite, my younger sister. What surprised me more than that was the fact my mother had aged so suddenly. Her countenance had changed too. She had a face like a devil. With her aged shape and evil countenance, she looked exactly like a witch in “Snow White”. Looking at her sudden change, I realized that she regretted the letter. The moment she dropped the letter into the mail box, she became aware that she was old and helpless. Numerous unusual disasters that hit her region after the letter, such as crazy heat, a big earthquake and the typhoon, made her more insecure and anxious. She regretted that she had cut me off from her life because she threw away a thin rope by herself that she could have relied on in the future. It’s too late now.
   On the train back to the hotel, I felt good as everything went well on my side. At the same time, I felt an enormous relief and found how nervous I was during the visit. As it turned out, it was a showdown rather than a visit...

 

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My second #book 'Surviving in Japan' has been published! #Japan My second #book 'Surviving in Japan' has been published! #Japan
And I like the interior of the #cafe area in the Italian restaurant. #Japan And I like the interior of the #cafe area in the Italian restaurant. #Japan
The Italian restaurant's menu of special #cakes for this winter. #panda #Japan The Italian restaurant's menu of special #cakes for this winter. #panda #Japan
Happy Valentine's Day! The decoration I saw at the hotel lobby during my latest trip. #valentines #Japan #teddybear Happy Valentine's Day! The decoration I saw at the hotel lobby during my latest trip. #valentines #Japan #teddybear
#Strawberry #crepes at the Italian #restaurant in my town, $6. The crepes have chocolate in the dough. #Strawberry #crepes at the Italian #restaurant in my town, $6. The crepes have chocolate in the dough.
Had a #Japanese popular snack 'Okonomi-yaki' as #lunch. From the frozen food shelf at a convenience store, at $2. Had a #Japanese popular snack 'Okonomi-yaki' as #lunch. From the frozen food shelf at a convenience store, at $2.
Enjoyed the happy hour at my favorite #bar inside the supermarket. A glass of #sparklingwine, an #appetizer plate and #baguette, $5 altogether. #ham #Japan Enjoyed the happy hour at my favorite #bar inside the supermarket. A glass of #sparklingwine, an #appetizer plate and #baguette, $5 altogether. #ham #Japan
My favorite limited-time-only dish at a #Japanese family #restaurant. An #urchin and #cuttlefish bowl. My favorite limited-time-only dish at a #Japanese family #restaurant. An #urchin and #cuttlefish bowl.
A #pork bowl with salty sauce. The #lunch special of a beer bar. $8 with salad. #restaurant #Japan A #pork bowl with salty sauce. The #lunch special of a beer bar. $8 with salad. #restaurant #Japan
Walking to the grocery store near my home. A view over the bridge. #river #snow #mountains #Japan Walking to the grocery store near my home. A view over the bridge. #river #snow #mountains #Japan

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