Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Last Letter from My Mother hr608

My parents sold our farms, house, land that had been inherited from generation to generation and lost everything after they had failed their business. They moved out their hometown and started their new life in a small apartment in a strange city. It was a huge blow to them because my father had given up everything that he had wanted in order to inherit them, and my mother had married my father whom she didn’t love in order to get his family fortune. Although they had planned the similar life as theirs for me, I refused to inherit my family by sacrificing what I wanted to do. I chose a musician as my career and left home. That drove them to be eaten up with enmity against me and they had done everything they could think of to make me give up and come home. While I kept defying their attacks for a long period of time, they lost all the family fortune and had nothing left for me to inherit. Their battle against me was automatically terminated. Oddly, since they moved in their new apartment, they have become gentle to me as if they had been different persons. Their dramatic change of attitude toward me had often perplexed me. I had tried to explain that they became old, felt weak and had learned a little from their failure, which was why they mended their ways to treat me. As I hadn’t had a good relationship with them for decades, I slightly wished we were having a new starting point to build a better one. That was just about when I received an unexpected letter from my mother that crushed my wish so easily. To my great surprise, all that the letter contained was blame and reproach to me. She just kept on criticizing me at length, complaining how much I disappointed her, how much she bore a grudge against me, how much she felt chagrin at me being a musician, what a bad person I was. Although she had done innumerable cruel, heartless, thoughtless things to me over the years, she had the audacity not to mention one word about those. At the end of all slander, she concluded her letter by writing, “This is the last letter from me to you.” To summarize her long letter, what she wanted to tell me was that she didn’t want to see my face ever again and didn’t want me to send her birthday presents or Mother’s Day gifts ever again. She asked me not to stay in contact with her anymore. I had been treated unfairly by her for so many times but this letter exceeded all the spite that she had shot at me. The letter was out of blue and shocking enough for me to wonder if she was having some kind of brain disorder. Since I was little, she has had a strong tendency to tell an every sort of lie from grave to transparent, and to forget about anything inconvenient to her. For a person like her, it’s not so unpredicted that her old brain got murky. In any case, I was deeply shocked. I shouldn’t forget that things like sending this letter is the norm for her and I’ve gotten used to it already. She only did what she usually does again and I was the one who was fooled by her recent nice gestures. But I asked myself repeatedly if it’s impossible for human nature to be changed after all. My mother is a scorpion which ultimate goal is to make others unhappy regardless of its own profit. The fact that I have the same DNA in me horrifies me. A good thing is that I was mostly raised by my late grandparents. I may have grown up to be a decent person not to be like my mother. I will, and should, prove it by myself with the way I live...

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Justice Is Served hr607

The world has come to where Mr. Trump is the President of the United States of America and a villain smiles with the joy of victory even in the movie ‘Avengers Infinity War’. As for me, I had lived this desperate time while I held onto hope by watching ‘Star Wars The Last Jedi’ repeatedly. In the days like that, something huge  has finally occurred. Although it is unthinkable and significant enough to be the top news of the world, I’m sure no media reports it and I will take the honor to proclaim the news to the whole world here. The apartment building that I live in has a small gym for the residents. It’s called gym nominally, but in effect, it’s a space with a couple of massage chairs, few exercise machines most of which are outdated, a square exercise mat, and a TV set. Although it’s not a sufficient facility as a gym, I exercise there three or four times a week since it’s free for the residents. The biggest problem is a combination of the TV and the exercise mat spread in front of it. There are residents who are just watching TV lying down on the mat without exercising. Families are watching TV with the kids and let them play around there. They use the space as their second living room or a playground. They almost always set the TV volume so loud. To make things worse, Japanese TV programs are atrocious. Dramas are actors’ shrieking only without content, game shows are babble about nothing, and commercials are all close-up of young women. It’s nothing but a torture to ride an exercise bike engulfed by the picture and sound of those. Even when I exercise alone in the gym quietly without TV, someone who comes in after me walks straight towards the TV set and turns it on without hesitation. They don’t have minimum courtesy to ask if it’s all right to turn it on. I think they regard it as a TV room not a gym. To lessen my discomfort, I had started bringing my smartphone and earphones. I have to listen to music at max volume to compensate the loud TV. One day, a man came in when I was exercising alone. As usual, he turned on TV and began to watch it lying on the exercise mat. That’s the cue that I got used to now. I turned on my smartphone and began to play music in my earphones. On that particular day, I became really indignant at what he was doing because he was a regular and had annoyed me with the loud TV for a hundred times. I unconsciously muttered, “How dare you turn on TV?” The thing is, I was listening to the music at max volume and forgot to control the volume of my own voice. I didn’t mutter, but almost shouted the sentence. The man looked back at me with sheer terror on his face. I was as surprised at myself as he was. Those unpleasant gym days had been my norm for years because of the TV watchers. The other day, a man was watching TV as usual when I came into the gym. A familiar sight. But what happened next was completely different from the usual. As soon as he saw me coming in, he jumped up as if he got startled, and he turned off TV right away and left the gym. I wondered how angry and intimidating my look was. I started riding the bike peacefully without TV and noticed something below the TV screen. There was a sign. I got closer to read it. It said in big letters, ‘This TV is for an exercise video only. To watch general programs, use TV in the lobby. Management’ A miracle happened. Someone who understands what is right exists in this apartment building other than me. It was literally too good to be true. The existence of my kind of person was so hard to believe that I briefly thought that I sleepwalked to the gym one night because of excessive anger and put the sign by myself. I rubbed my eyes to see if it was an illusion. No. The sign was real. For the first time in a long while, I did a pleasant exercise at the gym. It was a refreshing, clean time in which I had all smile on my face...

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...