Saturday, May 19, 2018

I Have Everything I Need hr606

The next morning, I hurried to the restaurant in the hotel to be in time for its breakfast serving time. I like to have breakfast especially at this restaurant. I can get a slight taste of an overseas travel here and a feeling that I were outside of Japan as most guests are from foreign countries. I glutted myself with the breakfast buffet, got back to the room, packed, and checked out. I transferred the hotel’s free bus at the airport to the express bus to Tokyo Disney Resort this time. I often visit there but don’t enter the parks that are too crowded all the time. Instead, I usually hang around the surrounding hotels and the shopping district. This visit was no exception and I went directly into the movie theater. The object was to see ‘Star Wars The Last Jedi’. It was the third time to see it in the theater and the film won glory as one of my best three movies in my lifetime so far. I had never been sold on any Star Wars movies until I saw this particular one. They were mere melodramas in the galaxy to me. But the one before ‘The Last Jedi’ turned the tide and this one blew me away completely. It has deepened my emotions every time I see it. It was too touching for me to stop crying at the very last scene, again. The story is very much like a film ‘Tomorrowland’ that is the best movie of my life. Both films tell about hope and if ‘Tomorrowland’ was made in a Star Wars setting, it would be ‘The Last Jedi’. I’m constantly afraid of not being recognized as a musician forever because my likings rarely agree with others. For the person like me, it’s a big relief when a favorite movie becomes a blockbuster. It literally gives me hope. Later on, I bought gadgets of R2-D2 and BB-8 that respond to my voice and talk back. I’ve enjoyed talking with them everyday. After the movie, I had a snack at a Mexican fast-food restaurant because it had happy hour that made margarita half price. A clerk there made a mistake for my order in a good way and gave me one more guacamole for free. Then I had a cafe latte at a bakery cafe in one of Disney hotels. Although the place was near empty, a cue of customers began to form outside. It was getting longer in a matter of minutes. It turned out that the sale time for freshly-baked croquette sandwiches was approaching and people were waiting to get them. Japanese people really love to stand in line for fresh food even though it’s expensive. Their strong zest for something hot from the oven is amazing, which I never understand. I saw the fireworks of the park from the same shopping district for free and headed for Tokyo Station by train to catch the bullet train home I’d booked at 35 percent off. At the station, I got croissants and a pork bowl both at half price by a closeout sale that were left unsold and old, and had dinner with them on the bullet train instead of at a restaurant. All in all, my trip cost so little for a luxury savor I could felt. Only, I was kind of blue as the exciting trip was coming to an end now while the train was sending me back to a sober, indifferent small town where my plain daily life exists...

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Around Narita Airport hr605

The bullet train arrived in Ueno and I walked toward the express railroad station steering through a crowd on the nasty, squalid streets between unsightly tall buildings. The express train I transferred to took me to Narita Airport in about 40 minutes. At the airport, I took the bus not the plane, to go to the outlet mall that was the first destination of my trip. It seemed all the passengers except for my partner and me were foreign tourists mainly from China who had just gotten off the plane. I almost didn’t shop anything at the mall, but enjoyed browsing cool stores and having coffee at a cafe and dinner at the food court. My partner sat in a bench watching the mall’s chic streets in the twilight as it was an outside mall. Since most shoppers had already left and only few were strolling, he murmured that he wished he could live in a town like this if it had existed in the real world. The buildings and pavements are tasteful and well-maintained, which decoration is colorful and sophisticated. I’ve never seen such a beautiful town with stylish buildings and neat people outside Disney Channel. All the while I was in this ideal town though, I had been carrying one problem. I had had a stupidly outrageous turmoil when I started off this trip this morning that had emptied out all my energy and caused a headache. It had accompanied me all the way here and gotten worse gradually. By the dinnertime, it became severe. I ended up taking aspirin at the mall’s food court. The hotel I was staying at was also near Narita Airport from which its free bus was available. When I checked in, the front clerk told me that breakfast wasn’t included. I thought the plan I had selected at the hotel’s website included breakfast although I wasn’t sure because I had made the reservation quite a while back and the rate was incredibly low by the limited time sale. They said that my stay would be without breakfast when I asked to double check. Afterward, it will have turned out that breakfast was indeed included and drawn a trouble, but there was no way of knowing at this point in time. Next morning, I had a lunch buffet at the hotel’s restaurant instead as I didn’t have breakfast and had a discount coupon for it. The restaurant was full but everything was so delicious that I ate as much as I could until I got too full to move. Then I took the free bus again to the airport, and transferred to another free bus to the different hotel for the second night. I’ve stayed at this hotel for a couple of times as it’s one of my favorites. The room they chose for me was the one that I had stayed in before. I like this room so much because the rate is low although its large window looks out on the runways of the airport and lets me see planes taking off and landing on closely. The jacket photo of my album that was recently released was taken from this room, too. The hotel’s lounge has happy hour during which drinks are served half price. I had one drink along with free popcorn and edamame. After that, I dropped by a convenience store inside the hotel for my usual main event of a trip. It’s eating and drinking inside the room without ordering room service. While the whole setting was gorgeous, what I was having were cheap snacks and drinks in the freebie-studded day. Reality intrudes on my trip always...

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Self-made Turmoil hr604

I started off on a customary winter trip to take breath out of my town that is enclosed by the mountains and had been buried in snow. The itinerary of this winter trip was three days in the Tokyo metropolitan area by staying for two nights at the hotels near Narita Airport although I didn’t take the plane. The reason why I chose to stay near the airport that I wouldn’t use was simple; there are a lot of inexpensive hotels around the airport and a huge outlet mall is close. My favorite Tokyo Disney Resort isn’t far so that I can drop by before I take the bullet train home at Tokyo Station. I got up unusually early on the morning when I set off with my partner. We waited for the local bus at the curbside bus stop in front of our apartment. The snow covered the mountains, roads, houses that were all white, and even more was coming down from the white sky. The bus appeared from the white on schedule and took us to the train station. At the station, I was to receive the bullet train ticket on the ticket machine that I had booked in advance. The price gets reduced 35 percent if it’s booked online one month before. By inserting the credit card which number is registered on booking into the machine, the ticket comes out automatically. I have used the service for numerous times and been used to it. I inserted my card into the machine as usual, and the slot spit the card instantly instead of the ticket. It had never happened before. I put the card in again, but it came out again. The monitor showed an ominous message, “Not a valid card.” At that message, I remembered something horrible. My credit card would have expired before the trip. I had received the new one after I booked the ticket, and I had to replace my old card in my wallet with that new one. The dreadful fact here was that I had forgotten to do so. I clearly visualized my new card sitting in my room. I panicked. I threw myself on an unrealistic possibility that I had unconsciously put it into my wallet. I rummaged through my wallet for the card that couldn’t have been in there, babbling “No, no, no, it can’t be happening, no!” The bullet train that I had booked would depart in 20 minutes that wasn’t enough time to get back to my apartment by cab for the new card. I just madly repeated to rummage through my wallet over and over for the imaginary card. Sweat came down. I was panting for breath. My partner stood beside me and asked me what was going on. He looked scared not at what was just happening but at my panic mode. I kept yelling at him, “Card! Left my card! Caaaaaard!” I came up with the last solution. The only way to get my new card here was to use the force or psychokinesis or mind power or whatever it’s called that is supernatural. I pictured and concentrated on my new card in my room strongly enough to shiver, closing my eyes and believing that it emerged in my wallet when I opened my eyes. I looked through my wallet yet again, and of course, the card wasn’t there. I was on the verge of crying. I calculated roughly how much money I would lose by this mistake. The discounted deal for the ticket would be gone, the train also would be gone, the entire schedule of the trip would be disrupted. To sum up, this trip was determined to be ruined already. And seeing in my head figures of the rough total amount of money that would be wasted almost made me faint. My partner tried to get me come to my senses and I remotely heard his voice saying “Why don’t you consult with an operator at the ticket booth?” I staggered toward the booth and asked if there was any way to get the ticket. She told me that I could if I had the reservation number. I had forgotten about the existence of my smartphone until that point. I looked up the confirmation email with my trembling hand and found the reservation number. Beneath the number, I saw four digits. They were the last four digits of the credit card number that I used for this booking. It stunned me. They were not the four of my new card. Suddenly I remembered. When I booked, I purposely tried not to use the card because I acknowledged the expiration would come between then and the trip itself. So, I used another card that I rarely used. And I had that card with me in my wallet now! I jumped and said to the operator, “It’s here! It’s this card! This card!” The operator handed me the ticket. It looked like a dream ticket now. I felt that supernatural power worked in a different way, after all. The operator seemed puzzled and gave me a dubious look as I thanked her a million times with tears in my eyes. I hurried to the ticket gate, got the dream ticket scanned, caught the bullet train, and sat in the seat I had booked. It turned out that I made a big turmoil for nothing. I was ashamed myself whose simply poor memory caused this ridiculous, totally unnecessary fuss. It drained me completely by the time the trip actually began. As if to prove it, a headache also started along with a trip...

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Club Lounge hr603

A Japanese high-class hotel chain has one property in my small town that situates in a mountainous region. The hotel looks uncommonly luxurious for a rather obsolete town like this. It operates to attract rich customers who visit for skiing. I had never stepped into that hotel although I had lived in this town for seven years now. Since my apartment is here, I don’t need to stay at a hotel. Also the restaurants in the hotel are all too expensive and out of my reach. I had just imagined that the most gorgeous space in this town existed inside it. I took a trip to the Tokyo metropolitan area a few years ago, and happened to choose a hotel of the same chain there to stay. When I booked it, I joined its loyalty membership program to get a discount for the room because the membership fee was free. The chain has a club lounge at selected locations that a loyalty program’s member can use for free of charge. Lately, the lounge was newly added to the hotel of my town. As a free bus to the hotel circulates around my town in the skiing season, it was a good opportunity to take a look at the hotel for free. I visited there for the first time after seven years in this town, wearing better clothes among what I have, with my partner. The hotel was lively with many skiers. A menu board stood at the entrance of its luxurious lobby lounge. The prices were depressingly high and my partner was on the verge of fainting by looking at them. I was confirmed that the only affordable place for us in this hotel was the free club lounge. I told a clerk who stood smiling at the entrance that I was a member of the loyalty club and wanted to use its lounge. She ushered us right away treating us as if we were VIPs. She opened the lounge door and let us in without requiring my membership card. “Enjoy”, she said bowing and left. The club lounge was small but empty. It had a Keurig coffee machine and a heap of its cartridges beside it. There was an abundance of clean expensive coffee cups and saucers. Packs of a well-known specialty cookie were laid out neatly. An array of chocolates in gold and silver wrappers was in a glass case like jewelry. We had all these to ourselves, and they were free! I sat in one of the soft quality easy chairs beside a sofa, looking at the blue sky and the snow-covered mountains out of the large windows. While I was pouring mineral water into a flute glass and smelling fresh brewed coffee, I felt a sense of happiness filled my brain. “Is all of this really free? It’s too incredible!” I doubt I could feel this kind of happiness if I were rich and afforded expensive foods at an exclusive place. It’s natural that things are gorgeous when you pay a lot. But experiencing luxury without paying anything doubles happiness because I feel luck is on my side. It was that feeling above all that made me fall for this club lounge. I wanted to come here every day if I could, but a monthly visit would be at best. After I had two cups of coffee, two cups of tea, a bottle of mineral water and five pieces of sweets, the time to catch a free bus came and I left the lounge. I got out of the gorgeous hotel through its elegant entrance and got on the shabby, ramshackle free bus like magic on Cinderella finished working...

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Hidemi Woods, Author hr602

Over the various obstructs, I finally passed through the ticket gate and saw my former high school teacher at the train station. I recognized her right away and she did the same to me among the crowd of passengers getting on and off the train although we hadn’t seen each other in decades. Even before we exchanged greetings, our hands were squeezed in one another’s. We settled in a cafe in front of the station. The long gap dissipated instantly and we were talking as we had been in a high school classroom. We talked about what we had been doing all these years to catch up. As I listened to her, I realized why she was a rare teacher with whom I got along oddly well in my high school days and why I had kept in touch with her by Christmas cards. She was a person who was similar to me. When I talked about how I had turned my back on Japanese music industry and moved my business to US, she easily understood. She also once looked for a way to get out of Japan and live abroad. It didn’t happen because her work, teaching Japanese classic literature, wasn’t so global-oriented. Just as I’ve felt, she felt her way of thinking and living didn’t fit well into Japanese intolerant society. One example was that she wanted to keep and use her last name instead of her husband’s when she got married, but the Japanese law didn’t allow it. She had patiently waited for the new bill to be enacted, only to see it revoked every time. She wearied of Japanese inclination to disregard differences and couldn’t agree with implicit pressure to be the same as a Japanese. I wasn’t sure if it was the reason but she said most of her past students with whom she still got in touch lived abroad at one time or other like myself. Now I knew we were alike, and we had suffered from the same thing in the different field. She listened to me so joyfully while I was talking about myself, but that grave fact lingered on in my mind - I haven’t achieved anything. I had nothing to show off, and didn’t have audacity to forge stories. What I was telling her was all true in which there was no success. I couldn’t wipe off the thought that I might be disappointing her, in this very moment. I had brought my first physical book, ‘An Old Tree in Kyoto’ as a gift for her since she was my literature teacher. I only could do that much. When I handed it to her, she was very pleased. Actually, she was pleased so much that she asked me to inscribe the book for her. Up until the point to meet her, there were too many incidents I panicked at, but none of those was in this magnitude. I seriously panicked. I had never inscribed a book before, let alone I had never imagined that would happen to me. The day came without any warning, out of the utter blue. I couldn’t think of anything, and absolutely had no idea what to write. She said gleefully, “Write something.” I froze. I just couldn’t figure out how to do it. I tried to remember the scenes of a book signing in the movies and TV dramas. An autograph, that was what I came up with. Sadly, I didn’t have mine as I’m too obscure. In conclusion, I had nothing worthy to write. I said to her apologetically, “I don’t have an autograph because I’m not famous.” In contrast to my grave note, she replied frankly, “Oh, no, no, I’m not asking for your autograph. That’s okay.” I was cornered. An inscription is supposed to be meaningful because of someone’s achievements. In my concept, it’s not what an unimportant person gives. I noticed sweat slowly came down to my brow. I held a pen in my hand, my book before me, still as a stone. There was no escape. It was time to throw away all the remaining pride I had clung to and confess. “Teacher, neither my music nor my book sells. I’ve never inscribed a book. I’m completely nobody.” Although I uttered it on the verge of crying for embarrassment, she gave me a vacant look as if she didn’t get what I was talking about. “I don’t care,” she said. “I just want you to write something on your book to commemorate this incredibly happy day of mine.” Her eyes were twinkling with sheer joy. I made an inscription with my trembling hand. I was too tense and nervous to remember what I wrote. I can’t recall to date while I have a vague memory of scribbling her name, something about remembrance of a happy reunion, the date, and signing Hidemi Woods. What I remember vividly is the sensation I had when I finished writing. I felt as if I had officially become an author and that book signing was its ceremony. I handed back my book to my teacher, weirdly confident like a different person. We said goodbye at the ticket gate of the train station. When I was leaving, she said, “If I were your parent, I would be very proud of my daughter.” After the decades' gap, she taught me something again...

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Heavy Gate hr601

On the day that I would meet my former high school teacher for the first time in decades, I commenced a journey by train from the hotel I stayed to the station of our rendezvous. I had made a detailed plan beforehand for this train trip since quite a few transfers were involved along the way and the area was unfamiliar to me. I took the first train and repeatedly looked over the note I had taken for which train of what time at which station to catch. The plan was perfect. Now that I got on the first train right on schedule, all I needed to do was just moving the rest of the way according to the note. The train arrived at the station where I was to make the first transfer. I was standing in front of the car door to get off when the train stopped. Oddly, the automatic door wouldn’t open. I was waiting for a while until I heard the departure bell ring and noticed a sign saying ‘This Door Doesn’t Open. Use One at Opposite End of Car’ I panicked instantly. The train was about to depart and I had to reach the opposite end of this long car. I dashed down the aisle like a sprinter while all the passengers were startled at my frenzied run. I was barely in time to get off. As I passed a close call of the day, I transferred to the other train line with a relief. Then, the bigger trial assaulted me on the platform of that line. An electric board that shows the upcoming trains in the green light had turned all red. It indicated that all the trains were delayed severely by heavy rain and the next train was cancelled. My jaw dropped. I didn’t see that coming as it wasn’t raining at all here. Plus, the next train that had been cancelled was the very train I was going to take. What are odds that the exact train I was taking is the only train cancelled among all? Taking that train was crucial because I had more transfers to make on the way ahead. Missing that train would disrupt the whole connections. A big piece to complete my journey fell off and my perfect plan came to naught unexpectedly quickly. Now I was officially in a panic mode. I tried to come up with an alternative, thinking hard about which train to take instead and where to transfer to get to my destination. When I frantically looked through information boards on the platform, a delayed, out-of-schedule train came in. Its destination was a big famous terminal that I thought would take me somewhere from. I hopped on it, and found out that the train to which  I was going to transfer later would also stop at the terminal. If I had caught it there, I still could have made it on time for the planned appointment. As soon as the train arrived at the terminal, I was a dashing sprinter again, rolling down and up the stairs to move between the platforms like a cartoon character. When I zipped by a businessman in a flash in the middle of a flight, my bag somehow caught his umbrella. I found myself running dangling an umbrella. I ran down to him who gaped at me, returned his umbrella, ran up again, reached the platform and jumped in the train. Inside, I realized that the train wasn’t what I had planned to take but the one happened to be there after a few hours’ delay. It didn’t depart on schedule, which meant I didn’t have to dash around the terminal like a maniac. This unknown train turned out to go straight to my destination without transfer. In a very weird way, I made up for the disruptive schedule with each delayed train and arrived almost on time. I stepped out of the train, completely exhausted. I wondered why I had to endure great hardship like this in order just to reunite with my former teacher. It wasn’t such a long distance. I simply wanted to see my teacher and bridge the decades’ gap. It was supposed to be easy, but it wasn’t. I saw the reason why I had never tried to see her up until now. I wasn’t brave enough to show myself to her. I had believed I ought to be successful when I met her again. I hadn’t had the courage to admit that I haven’t achieved anything and I was still nothing. To see her, I needed to verify what I’ve done in my life so far and get over my foolish pride that I had held onto for a long time. In this trip, I challenged it. This trying journey to see her signified a long difficult way to accept who I am. I struggled around, but reached after all in an accidental way. Over the ticket gate at the station, I spotted her waiting for me smiling...

Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Long Journey hr600

I have been estranged from my friends for a long time. There are only three people with whom I keep in touch by a Christmas card once a year. They are my kindergarten teacher and two high school teachers. I feel a lifelong obligation to those three for each reason. I came across one of the two high school teachers when I was a senior. She had just graduated from a university and started teaching at my school as a new teacher. She taught Japanese classics and I was one of her first students. The Japanese classics class consisted of a mere dozen students who selected the subject to prepare for the entrance examination of a university or a college. As the class was unusually small and the new teacher was young and friendly, it soon became like a big family. It was as if we had a weekly family gathering that happened to have a specific topic of Japanese classics, rather than a school class. In my dismal and miserable high school life, the class was a chink of light. It was the only place at school where I could breathe and came to life. I took the initiative in having fun. Mostly my target was the new teacher. I pulled various pranks on her at every class, such as all students hid in the cupboards and she walked in the empty classroom, perplexed. On a perfect sunny day, I suggested having the class outside and she taught us in the schoolyard like a picnic. I tried what hadn’t been done at my school before and she just cracked up every time. It seemed I was really good at making her laugh. The whole class eventually laughed all the time, and the old strict teacher who had her class next room often came in to tell us to shut up. She sometimes called my teacher out to the hallway and reprimanded her. Nevertheless, my teacher never hushed us, and continued laughing at my jokes and having fun together. She helped me with those bright hours in my dark last year of high school and I’m thankful for that forever. She quit and moved to the other school when I graduated. We have exchanged New Year cards or Christmas cards ever since. While I write simple season’s greetings on them, she somehow knows and writes what I want to hear most. For instance, toward the end of the year in which I’d had a hard time and felt discouraged, her Christmas card said ‘Hang in there! Things are turning better!’ and made me wonder how she could ever know. We somewhat have a lot in common with the way of living, too. In those years, most Japanese women got married and quit working when they did. While I work and stay single, she also continued teaching at school and didn’t change her last name to her husband’s when she got married as the Japanese tradition goes. Without seeing her in decades, I’ve felt strange bond with her. Last year, my parents moved and their new address startled me. By pure coincidence, it’s weirdly close to the teacher’s. I mentioned about it on the Christmas card to her and then things developed quickly. During my latest trip for a visit to my parents’, we had a chance to meet each other for the first time since I was a teenager. The hotel I stayed in on the trip was located in Osaka because I flew in this time instead of using a train. From Osaka to the station we would meet though, it was a two-hour train ride with several transfers. It would be a long trip but we would bridge a decades’ gap in two hours. I thought of the gap, and suddenly came to myself. Shouldn’t a reunion with one’s former teacher be an opportunity to show some achievement for gratitude? I had forgotten about it because the process to this meeting had strangely gone smoothly as if it had been happening automatically out of my will. I had tried and worked hard all those years, but achieved nothing, no money, no fame. I recalled I had said to her that I would become a musician when I last spoke to her. During the course of life, I did. But that’s it. I haven’t gotten anything to show to her. I wondered if our reunion might be an embarrassment where a teacher would see her student’s unfruitful result of many years…