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Hidemi Woods 

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

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Blog : Hidemi's Rambling

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...

 

A Bloody Smudge hr610

When I was in the shower the other night, a drop of rinsed water from my body sponge spattered right into my right eye. I washed my eye in haste over and over so as no to get germs. It was one of those things that happen all the time in our daily life and I didn’t worry so much. I actually had forgotten about it by the time I went to sleep.
   The next morning I stood in front of the bathroom sink with sleepy eyes as usual and saw my face in the mirror. In it, my right eye had a large smudge of blood in the white. My drowsy brain got electrified and I was instantly wide awake. It wasn’t simply bloodshot but a stain of blood spread in the half of the eye. It was ominous enough to frighten me badly. I remembered the water spatter in the shower, but it seemed too small to cause this big damage.
   Is this a foretaste of some kind of a serious disease? Is a heart attack or something imminent? Am I going blind? Do I need to rush to the hospital that I hate so much and always keep away? Besieged by all kinds of sinister questions, I remembered I’ve often heard a bad reputation that the only hospital in my small town in the mountains has no good equipment nor good doctors. At the same time, I remembered a scene in some movie I once saw in which a man had the similar bloody smudge in his eye when he was about to die.
   I sat at the table for breakfast across my partner with a mountainous amount of fear. As soon as he glanced at me, he stopped crunching cereal and turned pale. I asked him what was wrong and he answered that it was my eye. He looked into it for a moment then said that his eye sight became white out and couldn’t see anything. He started sweating heavily and claimed that sweat didn’t stop pouring out. He left for the bathroom in the middle of breakfast.
   His reaction threw me deeper in terror. My eye with a smudge of blood must have been so horrible that he became sick. Since he’s a big fan of a TV drama ‘The Walking Dead’, he may have thought one of the zombies finally came to reality and appeared to him. The situation was reversed and he looked more ill than I was. About ten minutes later, thankfully, he felt better and resumed his cereal.
   I was anxious all day long. I imagined I might fall flat at any moment. I might go unconscious or blind. Even if I kept surviving, I couldn’t go outside with this eye on my face especially because I foolishly care my appearance too much. With fear clawing hold of me, I spent the day moving slowly and quietly as if I was living in total darkness.
   In the evening, my partner who had looked up my symptom on the Internet told me it was perfectly nothing wrong and would disappear by itself gradually in one to two weeks. That sent me the light from above with the angels’ choir. It was nothing! Suddenly I felt like I breathe again, and couldn’t feel any stupider. I wondered why I didn’t look up online by myself first thing in the morning. I had been dreadful all day and wasted the day just for nothing. As it turned out, all I needed was to wait for the smudge to disappear. I would pass the coming one to two weeks by donning this eye, avoiding acquaintances, trying to see as less residents as possible on the hallway of my apartment building, wearing sunglasses when eating out, and generally hiding away. While I was relieved and cheerful about that I wasn’t ill, another depressing feeling seized me as I thought about my life in hiding for the coming weeks...

 

Japanese Millennials hr609

A big open-air rock festival is held annually every summer in the small town where I live that is enclosed by mountains. More than ten times as many people as the town’s population visit during the few days of the festival. People all over the country and even from overseas fill up the train station that is usually inactive and quiet. In front of it, an endlessly long line is formed in the heat for the shuttle bus to the concert venue. The attendance trend has changed in recent years. While a young attendance has been down, more and more men in their fifties and sixties come by their own. The reason mirrors characteristics of today’s Japanese youth. They have been getting poorer than the generation before and the tickets and the transportation for the festival cost too much for them. Also, they don’t like being dirty. It’s not appealing to them to watch concerts in the rain soaking wet and getting muddy in the open air. That attributes a less crowd on Japanese beaches, too. They opt for a pool where they don’t get covered with sand. I’ve seen young people’s behavior change everywhere. In restaurants, chairs and booths are disappearing and replaced by a Japanese-style space with tatami mats. They prefer sit directly on a tatami floor at a low table by taking off their shoes and folding their legs. In a restaurant that has a Western style without any tatami space, I sometimes see shameful people who take off their shoes and sit folding their legs on a chair as if a chair was a floor. Knives and forks are less available because they like to use chopsticks and suck pasta by making slithering noises. In a movie complex, less and less American movies are showing and Japanese movies are abundant instead. To make things worse,the majority of that small number of American movies is dubbed into Japanese, which spoils original actors’ performances completely. Up until a decade or so ago, almost all the foreign movies were subtitled. Since I exclusively see American movies with subtitles, which by the way I prefer without them but have no choice at a theater in Japan, the selection for the movie is excruciatingly limited nowadays. I sometimes see trailers of Japanese movies before the one I came to see and even a glimpse of it disgusts me. A main character is always a female high-school student or a child or an animal. Most are animated and a story is lukewarm and saccharine without any contention. I don’t understand what is the point to spend time and money to watch those. It seems that American movies, in which things are destroyed, people are killing each other, lives are at stake, emotions are exploding, are too intensive and strong for Japanese gentle millennials. Their taste for fashion is gentle, too. They choose somber, obscure colors with no patterns or accessories so that they look lowly. They seem peculiar to me especially because my taste is fancy and colorful. I like wearing clothes with bright colors and patterns and confusingly complex accessories. Although I’m not rich, I tend to have a glass of sparkling wine at a Western-style restaurant in a hotel. As my favorite restaurants and shops aren’t popular anymore and have been closed or remodeled into a cheap Japanese-style one by one, Japan has been getting an uncomfortable country to live in for me. Well, come to think of it, it has never been comfortable to me since my childhood. I had thought it would have been better by the time I became a grown-up, but it just didn’t happen. It was an illusion of a child and Japan has treated me the same way with different people...

 

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A #twilight view out of a #hotel room I stayed in during my #trip to Chiba. The convention center and #Tokyo #Bay. #sky #sunset #sea A #twilight view out of a #hotel room I stayed in during my #trip to Chiba. The convention center and #Tokyo #Bay. #sky #sunset #sea
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