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Hidemi Woods 

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

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Blog : Hidemi's Rambling

A Rich World Requiring No Wealth hr617

The most luxurious hotel in my small, rustic town is not far from my apartment. I visited there again the other day, not to stay the night but to use the club lounge.
   The club lounge is exclusive to a member of the hotel’s loyalty program. The members can use it free of charge. The hotel has a regular lounge for its guests which menu has heart-stopping prices. Nonetheless, it was alive with customers who came to ski on the skiing slopes adjacent to the hotel. At the entrance, just by telling the server that I am a club member and flickering my membership card, she ushered me to the back of the regular lounge. Behind the glass door is the club lounge.
   Once I stepped inside, I was in a heavenly place. Despite the hurly-burly of the regular lounge, I had this secluded section to myself. A cartridge coffee machine brewed freshly each cup. Bottles of sparkling wine and club soda stood in the ice-filled silver cooler. Kiss chocolates in silver wrappers, Hershey’s almond chocolates in gold wrappers and packs of a specialty cookie were arrayed. The place used up two-story-high vertical space and the wall-wide window reached to the second floor ceiling. Out of it was a side of the snow-covered mountain. I enjoyed sparkling wine in a flute glass as much as I want, sitting in a cozy sofa. The thing is, I didn’t pay a dime for this service since the membership fee is free. Other occasions I use my membership card except for this lounge are when I travel to the city a couple of times a year and stay at one of the same hotel chain to get its lowest rate.
   Happiness seems to be enlarged 10 times when a gorgeous experience costs none. I don’t think that the wealthy feel happy when they pay a lot of money to use a luxurious hotel lounge because it’s how things usually go. I’ve seen many rich people who don’t have a good time with a frown no matter how expensive the place they are at is. My parents used to be rich, but they were always unhappy and pulled a long face. The schools I went to were exclusive Catholic schools, but the students and their parents alike didn’t seem happy at all from any angles I could have ever taken to observe them.
   It’s an illusion that money brings happiness. I have just finished my second book that I wrote disregarding big sales. Since I didn’t bother about how many copies would sell, I had fun in all the processes such as writing, an enormous amount of editing work and publishing. My happiness is 100 times as much as the one that I felt when I was desperate to be famous and rich.
   A long time ago, I got in a facility of a soft drink company when I visited Walt Disney World. The visitors there were allowed to drink a various kinds of soft drink from the dispensers as much as they wanted for free. The minute I entered the place, I noticed a strange atmosphere. It was crowded, but people were all smiling. Each of them was laughing, talking, jesting, and having fun with a small paper cup in their hand. While I lived in U.S., it was the only place that I saw people look joyful and relaxed without influences of alcohol or drugs.
   Does wealth really make people happy? We can be happy without it if we overcome fear and create the world where money doesn’t work on us. I know, though, the way to happiness is of course long and hard...

 

A Breakthrough hr616

The day arrived unexpectedly that the spell under which I had been for a long time was finally broken.

   Because my mother had nurtured excessive self-consciousness in me since my childhood, I had cared about how I look, how I behave, and what others think of me more than enough. I would be drenched in sweat from chatting casually with others as a thought I should look my best tenses me up abnormally. I’m now aware that this nature of mine was the culprit that cornered me with pursuit of fame and wealth although I became a singer-songwriter purely from love for music in the beginning.
   On that particular day, I got in the communal spa of my apartment building as usual.It was an evening bath time for the regular residents and quite a few people were taking a bath there. Among them was this woman who had moved in about two years ago. My bath time coincides with hers every day and hostility toward her had gradually grown inside me. She is thin and beautiful, a little younger than I am. She is always posturing and self-assured. For some reason, she imitates almost everything I do in the spa, from the way of taking a bath to bath tools she brings in. Whatever she does gets on my nerves, such as her way of walking, washing, and talking. She practices beauty exercises in the Jacuzzi, and does the facial treatment in the hot tub. Those routines of hers irritate me immensely when they happen to come into my sight. Since I don’t figure out why I dislike her so much, I asked my partner one day. According to his analysis, it’s because she is the one I want to become but I know I can’t become. It sums up all envy. That explains it indeed.
   It’s common that people don’t wear a swimsuit at a spa in Japan. This communal spa also adopts the Japanese practice, and the hot tubs, the Jacuzzi and the sauna must be taken all naked. I’m not thin nor beautiful, and I know it’s no competition between that woman and me. Nevertheless, I hold my breath and squeeze in my chubby belly as much as possible spontaneously whenever I pass her by. It’s so silly of me to try to look better, even in vain, but I can’t help it.
   And the thing happened. I was taking the Jacuzzi when she stepped in and joined me. I stepped out right away because avoiding her was my usual habit not to let her see my unshapely body. I was squeezing my belly and walking beside her on the stone floor toward my shower booth hurriedly because I was inside her sight. Then, right in front of her eyes, my foot slipped and I saw in slow motion my body flying in the air like in ‘Home Alone’. I landed on the stone surface with my buttocks and my left hand.
   Before a scare or pain, it was embarrassment that came first. I stood up immediately as if the fall had been part of some sequence of motion. Although other users were all washing their body in the shower booth, the only one that was in the tub and witnessed what I did was, of all people, the woman whom I didn’t want to let see most. She jumped out of the tub worrying, and kindly asked me, “Are you all right?”. Oddly enough, my instant reply was, “I’m OK. I do this all the time!” although I had never fallen there before. Even in the case like this, I still tried to make face by fabricating an accident into my custom. I laughed and shrugged off, and walked back to my shower booth.
   I noticed pain. But it was nothing compared to the massive amount of embarrassment that overwhelmed me. I couldn’t believe it really happened, nor could I imagine myself being any clumsier. I Home-Aloned naked before the cool woman whom I had regarded as a rival by flattering myself but in reality who had been way out of my league. I was literally stunned with an extremity of embarrassment. I sincerely wished to make time rewind. I sat in a hot tub dazed in shock and the woman joined in again. My mouth uttered weird words one more time, “I’m sorry my fall disturbed you. It’s a usual thing to me, but surprises others.” I was persistent to keep up appearances. She replied, “Oh, it’s all right, only if you didn’t get hurt.”
   Back in my apartment, pain assaulted earnestly in my hand and buttocks. The palm of my left hand already turned purple and swelled. I dreaded to think about broken bones. But the embarrassment appalled me even more. I felt sick to my stomach with my outrageous self-consciousness. I wondered why I couldn’t admit I did the folly.
   I’ve been clumsy all my life. I’ve been a comic who makes a blunder all the time. No matter how hard I pretend to be cool, it has never worked. I should have stopped denying that long before. The fall ordered me to accept it already. I felt as if I had looked at myself in the mirror for the first time in my life. The reflection of myself disappointed me but somehow relieved my burden. I came out of the illusion that pretending can change who I am. I’ve felt easy on my shoulders since the fall, walking around as my true self...

 

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...

 

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