Saturday, August 12, 2017

The New Song Completed hr597

At long last, my new song is finally complete. It took about five years to finish it, which seemed too long, but my previous song took more. That previous song of mine was my everything. I had always craved just one song that I could think I was born to write, that represented myself, my life. The song was exactly what I had been after. Since I put everything I had into the song, I was almost going to retire when I finished it. I said all things I had wanted to say to the world and summoned up all skills I had to the maximum in the song. I thought I had nothing left in me. But once I tried to retire, I found myself at a loss. Nothing except for music interested me. I also realized I couldn’t do anything well other than music. I decided to continue writing songs and singing, by way of retirement. I set about my new song with an easy mindset intending to make light work of it because I considered my chief song done. However, it didn’t go that way. As I went on, I couldn’t help working seriously. My easy attitude toward the new song quickly vanished. The more I worked on the song, the deeper I was in it. The concept of retirement was simply pushed away. I even revised the words and the song became profound. I was as focused and eagerly desired perfection as for the previous song. As a result, it took five years while at first I had meant to finish it in a week. I put everything I had again in the end, and I was filled with rapture that I didn’t feel in my everyday life when the new song was completed. The feeling lingered for several days and I didn’t feel like doing anything. It was like all energy was drained out of me and I was absent-minded all the time. It seemed I lost my concentration as a whole. I knocked off a glass and wasted my drink that I never do, though I’m clumsy and a regular dropper. Even my bowels were loose. The completion of a song doesn’t necessarily mean all the work is over. I need to make a backup of all data, store them, convert to several different formats, release publicly, arrange distribution, and so on. Although those mountainous tasks of post production await me, I still have a thick head and haven’t gotten down to it for a few weeks now. I noticed that I was less anxious to release and promote my new song than before. I used to get down to post production right after a new song was completed so as to make it public quickly. But I don’t have zest for it as I did before. It’s probably because I don’t expect the world so much any more and my trust in human beings has decreased over the years. I’ve learned that songs in which I do my best and with which I’m satisfied completely don’t have to do with the market. My previous song proved it. The song was fruition in which I got a real sense of fulfillment. Yet, it was totally disregarded by this world. I get used to seeing my songs ignored and my expectations failed. Big sales or admiration are no longer such a big deal to me. I just wish my new song would reach someone and help her or him in some way when it’s released a few months later. I hope my songs are heard by those who need them, and play an important role in their lives. I believe it will happen, somehow…

Saturday, July 15, 2017

An Earthly Paradise hr596

When I lived in California, the apartment I rented had an outside Jacuzzi. I liked taking it at night, seeing the sky above. Under the palm trees, I watched an airplane’s small dot of light blinking and moving through the stars. It was the moment that I felt like a winner who obtained a life in paradise by getting out of not only Japan but also my family to which I had been a bound successor. Prices in the U.S. were extremely low compared to Japan back then because of the strong yen. It seemed to me that everything was on sale and I literally lived in a bargain country. Sadly, my life in paradise didn’t last long, though. The Japanese economy crashed and yen turned weak. Inflation had edged up in the States as well. Price hikes assaulted me in all directions. I became unable to pay the rent even if I had moved into a cheap motel. I was practically kicked out of the States and the plane brought bitterly-discouraged myself back to Japan where I returned to a life of reality in a teeny-tiny apartment. Time went by, and I had benefited from technological advances like the Internet and computers, and also from the fall of housing value in Japan. Those benefits let me live in a condominium that has a communal spa. I take a Jacuzzi there watching a beautiful view of the mountains with lingering snow out of big windows. One day, I felt so euphoric that I thought this wasn’t real. I thought I may have already died from that northern Japan’s severe earthquake or from the subsequent meltdown of the nuclear plant, and must be in heaven now. That reminded me of the sensation I had felt in a Jacuzzi in California. I had never expected that I would experience an equally enraptured life here in Japan when I parted with it there. If I traveled back in time with a time machine, I could talk to my other self who was in despair on the flight to Japan from the States. I would say to her, “Years from now, you will get another chance to live in paradise!” I would tell her that she wouldn’t give up music and would have completed two songs back in Japan that had quality she had been craved for and entirely satisfied with. How easier the flight would’ve been if I had heard those words there. I was too hopeless to imagine so much as a speck of the possibility. I always find myself foolish in hindsight whenever I look back later. There are tons of things I have to say to my past self beforehand. The question is, what would my future self tell me now if she looked at me taking the Jacuzzi here. Would she say, “Embrace the moment. It’s the pinnacle of your life”? Or would she say, “Prepare yourself. It’s just the beginning”? I desperately hope for the latter…

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Sentence Finisher hr595

I don’t like someone to tell me what I’ve already said or known. There’s no such thing as copyright to what we utter, but I always feel like claiming it. Actually, I often urge people close to me to admit I’ve already said what they just said. It doesn’t matter how ridiculously trivial the issue is. As long as I recognize I’ve said the same thing before, I declare that I’ve said it before they said it. Even when I haven’t said it but known it, I can’t help telling them that I’ve known that. It’s impossible for me to hear through something pretending that I hear that for the first time or I didn’t know that. My mouth involuntarily utters “I’ve already said it!” or “I know it!” I’ve had this irksome habit since I was little. Suppose I said to my mother, “It’ll be hot tomorrow, I’ll wear summer clothes.” Next morning, when my mother said, “It’ll be hot today and I put out your summer clothes,” I instantaneously claimed, “That’s what I said yesterday!” She would go, “Is it?” And I would go, “Sure it is! I said that! You should add ‘as you said’!” If I’d heard the weather forecast for rain and my mother said “It’s going to rain today,” I said, “I know!” at once. As such an annoying child like that, I gave my parents painful conversations when they inadvertently touched what I had said or known and forgot to add ‘as you said’ or ‘you may know’. Their experiences must have been so torturous that my father still hastily adds, “As you said,” when he talks to me to this day. It seems my childhood practice caused him a trauma and he sometimes adds ‘as you said’ to what I haven’t said. My terrible habit hasn’t subsided, it has, rather, aggravated to sentence finishing. Now I anticipate what someone is going to say and want to say it before she or he actually says it. I just simply can’t wait for them to finish once I make out what’s coming. For instance, my partner begins, “Tomorrow, I’ll…” and I interrupt him, ‘Go to the convenience store to make a payment for something, right?” The problem is I’m more than often wrong. My partner answers, “Yeah, that reminds me,” and he forgets what he was really going to say. My interruptions make our conversations unnecessarily long and cumbersome. It appears that I want to be ahead of everything by showing that I know everything beforehand. And that’s all because I want to appeal how smart I am. No wonder I’ve been disliked by anyone, including my own blood relatives. Of course I can imagine there are numerous other reasons for that particular matter…

Saturday, June 10, 2017

A 1000-Year Life Expectancy hr594

I’ve heard some scientists and science-fiction writers say the average life expectancy of humans will get even longer fast and we could soon live up to 1000 years old. If it’s true, it’s a huge game changer. Supposing I live until 1000 years old, the shape of my life will be entirely different as of today. First of all, the pace of living will get slower. I won’t have to hasten anything since I’ve still got more than 900 years left. I won’t fuss over the quick completion of my new song for which I’ve been deep into mastering. When I complete it without hurry, I will move on to another song and take plentiful time to finish it again. Even such a slow worker like me can stock ample songs in over 900 years. With that duration of time and the number of songs, the odds can be better that one of my songs could be found by some chance and be a smash hit, which will make me a celebrity and lead me to Monaco to live in. Secondly, I will be freed from fear of aging. I seriously resist getting old, sometimes quite hysterically. Of course no one likes to see their skin sagging and all wrinkled. But when I see my deteriorating looks, I feel a deadline for making my dreams come true. Getting older means getting closer to the deadline for whatever we haven’t yet achieved. The sense that we might not make it is dreadful if we have something to accomplish. Now that the deadline is well over 900 years away, how peaceful I can feel for the moment! I don’t have to pronounce my dreams dead just yet. The day could come when I see people all around the world listen to and hum my songs. If I moved in Monaco at the age of 300, I could live there for almost 700 years. In the course of 1000 years, it could become a common practice that a human body is replaced by a cyborg. Aging could be extinct. I could be a ballerina as I dreamed of when I was a child. Or, I would be the president of the united world when I’m 500 years old. As a simpler alternative, I could win the lottery before I die, since the odds turn good with the innumerable lotto strips I will get in over 900 years. That could give me a come-from-behind fortune. By making a smart investment of it, I could end my life as a team owner of Formula One. It seems anything is possible once I have 1000 years. This rapture is weirdly familiar to me. My grandfather. He had the habit of saying he would live until 100 years old when I was little. Back then, not so many people lived so long and everyone of my family used to scoff at him. Although he couldn’t reach 100 but died at 96 years old, it was close enough to his fantasy goal. In that respect, I could go as far as 900. But I noticed a long life expectancy is not necessarily all good. Life requires money. I’ve made ends meet with bare life so far in my life. As anything is possible, it’s also possible this state continues as long as I live. 1000 years of financial worries? It definitely sounds like a living hell…

Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Routine Thief hr593

I’m particular about almost anything. That’s why my daily routine is inevitably quite precise, especially for details in it. My routine includes taking a bath at the communal spa and exercising at the communal gym both located inside my apartment complex for the residents. One night, I found an unfamiliar woman in the Jacuzzi of the spa. This Jacuzzi has eight spots to sit inside and I have my particular spot I usually sit in. The spot isn’t popular, as other residents prefer different ones. But this woman was sitting right in my spot, which made me move to the other. The spa has a sauna that stops being operated early in the evening. I take it after its operating hour in the late evening as a low-temperature sauna since heat remains. No residents use it that way and I can monopolize it. One night, I found the same woman in the sauna, using it as a low-temperature sauna like I do. My days of a sauna monopoly are over. I’ve seen her more and more and it seemed she is a new resident in this apartment complex. I bring a big hook to the spa and put it on the wall of the shower booth to hang my bag of amenities from it. No other residents do something like that as they put their amenities on the booth floor directly. And one night, I noticed that new woman began to use a big hook on the wall of her booth. Now I was convinced it was no coincidence. She apparently imitates me. There are four tubs in total in the spa with different water temperatures and different tub sizes. I take every one of them. Other residents don’t take all, just taking a couple according to their liking. One night, the mimic woman began to take all tubs like I do. I exercise inside the hot tub while I’m submerged in the bath water, which no other residents do. And one night, the mimic woman even started exercising in the hot tub just as I always do. I sometimes have a chat with other residents when we share the locker room. And as she has become familiar to them, she also began to have a chat with them intimately and impudently while I still talk to them modestly. Before taking a bath, I exercise at the gym next to the spa, which is also one of my daily routines. The other night, I went in the gym as usual and, look, who was there, the mimic woman! She has started exercising at the gym and then begun to bring her husband there. They had used different machines beside me for several days, but her husband began to use the exercise bike I regularly use. Above all, she imitates my own timetable so that I see her every day, everywhere, doing exactly what I do. My spa and gym time was completely copied by her. Usually, it’s nice to find a person who has a lot in common with me. I would like that person and sometimes build a friendly relationship. In that respect, I should be pleased that I’ve got a new neighbor resident whose liking is the same as mine and with whom I have so much in common. The strange thing is, it’s not the case this time at all. This particular woman really annoys me for some reason. While I realize it sounds totally irrational, I dislike her so much. Every bit of what she’s doing irritates me and disgusts me. Her any behavior, the way of her talking, and even the tone of her voice get on my nerves. As I was curious what makes me loathe her, I studied her closely. She’s thin, pretty, and a showboat. She always has to be the center of attention. I’m jealous of her looks – that’s a given. And I’m indignant because she grabbed my routine that I took years to establish. But except for that, nothing is wrong with her. She’s just too much like me. I may be looking at myself through her. Now I see how I look to others. Does it mean I hate myself? Do others look at me as a loathsome person like her? I feel like they do. I can’t stand to look at my lousy behavior through her any more. Not to see her do my things, I had no choice but to change and reconstruct my routine schedule entirely…

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Illusions of Completion hr592

My work for the new song is drawing to a close and it’s in the mastering process now. I usually make the master track and leave it for a few days before the final check. The interval is essential for me because it gets me out of the zone, calms me down and gives me ears to listen objectively. Since this particular new song of mine required difficult mastering, I had trouble with finding the solution. It took much longer than I had expected to make the master track. I finally got to make one and tried to forget all about it for a few days. After the interval, I got so tense and excited that couldn’t sleep the night before the final check. What made me sleepless was the thought that on the very next day, I would finally end this painfully prolonged mastering and could see the song completed. I knew I needed a good night’s sleep for a good physical condition to make good judgement, but that pressure for all good kept me awake all the more. I listened to the master track the next day carefully and objectively, and found one slight flaw. I was disappointed that it wasn’t the day. I had to correct it and hold the completion over. I repeated the process of mastering, taking an interval, having difficulty sleeping, and making the final check. Then on the day I believed this would be the day of completion, I noticed one minor kink. I redid the process all over again. At the moment, I’m in this loop and can’t get out of it. I’m literally stuck in the mud of mastering. I make it a custom to open champagne when a song is completed, which doesn’t happen often because I’m a slow worker. Completing a song is so infrequent that I celebrate with Moet Chandon. It’s my favorite but too expensive for me to drink except for New Year’s Eve. This time, I put it in the fridge months ago when I thought this song was completed at any moment. And it’s been there unopened for months, as I’m deeply caught in the mastering mire. Every time I open the fridge, I see Moet chilled so long and almost frozen up, blaming my prolonged work. I keep declaring to my partner that today is the last day for this song, and retracting it at the end of the day. He doesn’t say anything but I feel his disappointment and anxiousness. As I’ve taken back my words of the completion so many times, I fear that he might see me as a useless liar who is just lingering slow work. I can take as much time as I like in theory since the deadline doesn’t exist for the song. Even so, I’ve already spent five years working just on this song and it’s too long for a slow worker like me. That notion puts a lot of pressure on me to complete fast. It seems to me as if both Moet’s and my partner’s patience is running out. Workdays have dragged on and on, and it has begun to eat me mentally. These days, when I finish my day’s work and tell my partner that the song hasn’t been completed again, I sense that he throws me a cold glance implying, “I thought so.” The other night, I had a dream in which I cried for joy because the song’s mastering went perfectly and it sounded flawless. The other day, when I failed to finish the song for umpteenth time, I was so irritated that I took it out on my partner and had a nasty dinnertime. In this anguish, winter ended and spring has come. I’ve been correcting small parts that I’m not satisfied with, which hinders completion. The thing is, those parts are too small to be called flaws or even kinks. I’m certain nobody would notice when he or she listens to it. Then what am I doing? What am I chasing? I may have lost a definition for completion. What is completion, after all? I’ve asked basic questions to myself and the answer is the same. I just want what I’m entirely satisfied with. If I called anything other than that completion, it would be a lie. I would actually become a useless liar and be done for. I would rather be bogged down in this mud of searching for my perfection than that. So I go on, starting another loop yet again, while I keep crying completion to my partner, to myself, and to Moet Chandon…

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Checkout hr591

I got up early in the morning on the last day of my latest trip. The reason was simple; I was going to the hotel’s exclusive fitness club one last time before the checkout invalidated my free ticket. I passed through the heavy double doors of the club again and the clerk ushered me as a personal guide as it happened last night. Since the spa and the locker room don’t open until noon, there is a special locker room for a member who uses the pool in the morning. It was much smaller, but robes, towels and amenities were fully provided. The morning light liberally came in through the glass-dome ceiling and filled up the poolside. I had the large pool facility all to myself again, the whole morning through. It seemed as if the gorgeous pool was reserved just for me. I doubted if Bill Gates even had this scale of luxury. I saw my room through the glass ceiling and spotted my partner who was standing by the window. While I was taking a Jacuzzi on the poolside, I waved at him. He waved back and looked a little sad because he couldn’t enjoy this free treat due to his atopic eczema. On one hand I felt sorry for him; on the other hand, I enjoyed to the maximum such a luxurious, refreshing, and dreamy time that I had never had before. After I took a shower in the elegant shower booth, I left the club. It was about noon and I passed the members who were coming in. It is said that the gap between the rich and the poor is generally small in Japan. I had thought there weren’t so many mega-rich people in Japan as in the States until I came here. But now I realized quite a few mega-rich Japanese people existed, as I actually saw the members who apparently paid the five-digit membership fee. I hadn’t known that because they lived in a different world from me like in this club. I wondered if I could ever visit this club again and wished strongly for that. I came back to my room, packed in a great hurry and checked out. I didn’t forget to have expensive coffee and tea for free one more time at the hotel’s privileged lounge before I left. The receptionist was the same person and got familiar since I came here three days in a row. She knew I used the lounge for free and I felt embarrassed. When I left the hotel, I missed it more than ever now that I experienced the fitness club. I got to another shopping mall by train, bought a skirt 80 percent off and had dinner at a Mexican restaurant that we rarely find in Japan. As the mall is adjacent to Tokyo Disney Resort, I saw the fireworks of the park from the mall for free. I took a train again to Tokyo Station and looked around the shopping area while I was waiting for the bullet train on which I had booked the seat. Just when I was looking, half-off stickers began to be put on packages of sushi. I got one of those and had it on the bullet train with the leftover wine from the hotel that I had brought in a plastic bottle. Although I was exhausted from lack of sleep and swimming, I really wanted to do this trip over from the beginning. I pondered when it would be that I could take a trip like this one. While I recalled the heavenly sensation I had when I was swimming alone in the pool inside that fitness club, the bullet train ran through several long tunnels and sent me back in my town that was packed in deep snow. I took a cab to my apartment. It was a blizzard. I could see nothing but hammering snow out the windshield of the cab. With that near zero visibility, the cab was running into darkness at breakneck speed toward my accustomed world…

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Another World hr590

At the end of a glass corridor in the hotel, there were heavy double doors painted to imitate marble. It was an entrance to the hotel’s outrageously expensive exclusive fitness club although its appearance was rather like some shady bar. I mentioned the membership fee is expensive, but the degree of expensive far exceeds my definition of expensive. It’s a five-digit matter. I was standing at the doors holding a magic piece of paper that nullified the fee. It was given at the front desk when I checked in as I was staying here with a special low-priced promotion that included the free use of the club. I pushed the heavy doors open with my trembling hand. I prepared myself for a counter, but instead I saw a huge vase of flowers majestically sit on the center of a small hexagonal room. The club spares this space just to welcome a member. Walking into the next room, I finally found the reception desk behind which two clerks were standing. I handed them my magic ticket and they told me the club rules. Those were common rules such as no tattoos, no makeup, and a shower before a tub, but required my signature on the paper. Then, the clerk acted as a guide and courteously ushered me to an exclusive elevator at the back of the reception room. The elevator door opened to a member lounge and a member restaurant. Beside them, round marble stairs led to an entrance to the locker room. Along the carpeted hallway, several private massage rooms lined. Rows of lockers were surrounded by luxurious tables, chairs, and benches. Each locker had a display and the key was digital, by entering numbers of my choice on the pad. Inside, I saw a purple robe neatly folded. Up to this point, the place was already much more gorgeous than any club that characters of Michael Douglas had used in the movies. Since the club rule strictly indicated to wear the robe in the locker room area, additional purple robes of all sizes were abundantly stacked on the shelves, like at an apparel shop, not to mention fresh soft face towels and bath towels, which were all free to use as many as I liked. After my personal guide left, I removed my makeup at the spacious powder room section. All kinds of high-end amenity I’d never seen were arrayed with cottons, tissue and a hair dryer on the dressing tables with sets of mirrors. I was looking around restlessly like a bumpkin and went in the pool. It had a glass dome roof above and wooden tables and deck chairs, shower booths, a sauna, a Jacuzzi and a tanning bed on the poolside. On the edge of the big pool, there were wide round stairs to get into water that looked like an edge of a stage. Except for a pool side clerk who stood behind the counter and politely greeted me, no one was there. I monopolized the heavenly place, swimming, taking a Jacuzzi, looking out a night view of skyscrapers and streets. When I was leaving, a fresh towel was handed by the clerk. Next to the pool was the spa. It had both a Finnish sauna and a steam sauna beside a hot tub, a cold plunge and shower booths. I got in them repeatedly and used imported shampoo by an amount I never used daily. By then, I was dying of thirst and went out to the locker room area for some water. Beyond the powder room section was a relaxation section that had a circle of five or six robotic massage chairs. On the wall, I found something like a water cooler. I took a paper cup and my eyes popped out with surprise. What looked like a water dispenser was a free soda fountain! A wide variety of quality-brand soft drinks such as sports drink, 100% fruit juice and soda came out for free. While I was gulping down eight cups of all kinds, I was quite certain that I had somewhere died and was in heaven now. I spent three hours in total, which wasn’t enough to look at the gym, the indoor tennis courts, the indoor driving range and the putting greens. I wondered how happy I would be if I could live in this completely different world from the one I knew. I also duly knew I was only a visitor who had to leave since I can’t possibly think of a way to be a resident of that totally heavenly world…

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Main Attraction hr589

On the first day of my latest trip, I checked in the hotel after I left the shopping mall. The room had a big window looking out on Tokyo Bay. A night view of the jet-black sea and glittering skyscrapers of stylish condominiums was spread on it. Onto the gorgeous glass table, I laid out packs of deli foods that had a sticker telling ‘Half Price’ on each lid that I’d gotten at the grocery store in the mall. My chief delight of a trip is to enjoy drinking in a hotel room. I usually get food outside the hotel and bring a small plastic bottle that I refill with cheap brandy beforehand at home. Compared to the room service, the cost is digits lower in this way although the place to have it is the same. It feels like I order room service of a space as an elegant cocktail lounge by staying at a hotel instead of drinks and foods. Since I bring cheap liquor and snacks, I can enjoy drinking in a quiet, luxurious setting without worries of the bill or the closing time, which is somehow my main purpose of a trip. I was nibbling on half-off seafood looking out the view that I couldn’t possibly see out of my apartment window and wished this moment would last forever. Although I had feared the hotel might be crammed with Chinese tourists because of the Lunar New Year, it wasn’t the case here and I didn’t see many of them. But as the way the world goes, hotels are never quiet enough to sleep in well. I woke up next morning by noises from neighboring rooms without sleeping tight. Quite a few hotels stand together in this area and I walked to the different hotel for lunch. A restaurant in that hotel has a lunch buffet that is reasonably priced and served in a chic atmosphere. About 95 percent of the customers are women and the place is always full. I had no trouble to get a table though, as I had made an online reservation that gave me a discount. I enjoyed as much roasted beef and dessert as I wanted that was too expensive to have in my daily life. Then I moved to a nearby outlet mall. Because my apartment is about to be burst with cheap clothes already, I just strolled around as a window shopper. But when I found a bracelet at $5 that was marked down from $30, I couldn’t help jumping at it. I was staying at the same hotel that night, which meant my favorite drinking time would come again. I got a plastic bottle of wine at $4 and, as I was still more than full from the lunch buffet, some salad and light snacks for dinner at a convenience store and walked back to the hotel. Before going back to my room, I had an important thing to do – using the hotel’s premium member lounge as a nonmember, again. I repeated the extravaganza of the previous day there, having expensive coffee and tea for free as much as I liked. I didn’t know why free drinks tasted especially good, but I knew for sure that I was the one who made the most of the free use of the lounge as this hotel’s off-season promotion. It was early evening and there was still time until I opened my cost efficient bar by myself in my room. So I went to the fitness club of this hotel for the first time. The club requires an outrageously expensive membership fee and normally I just do nothing but ignoring its existence. Only, this off-season promotion stay came with preferential treatment at no extra cost that included the free use of the club. I was curious what an astronomically expensive fitness club looked like. As I walked through a glass corridor leading up to the club, I saw the whole new world unfold before my eyes. I had cherished drinking in a hotel room as the main attraction of a trip for years till then. Yet the experience I was about to have in this fitness club overturned and changed everything so easily…

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Free Foods and Drinks hr588

The bullet train ran through several long tunnels in the mountains and carried me out of snow. In less than twenty minutes, I was in a different, snow-free world where the sun was shining and the blue sky spread. I put on my makeup and had rice balls that I’d gotten back at the station. By then, my worry about this trip had dwindled away and I began to feel thrilled. On the other hand, my poor partner who accompanied me on this trip had been suffering from atopic eczema and was sitting next to me nervously, as his body was itchy. We arrived at Tokyo Station where we walked through an underground passage that was busy and crowded with people and transferred to the local train. As this line runs along Tokyo Bay, the ocean can be seen out of the train window. It was so refreshing to see a stretch of the horizon over the sea for me who live surrounded by mountains. I thought I finally got my breath. The hotel I’d booked was close to the train station. I got in there but wasn’t allowed to check in until 7 p.m. since I chose the bargain rate for the room. I went straight ahead to the top floor lounge to enjoy the afternoon tea for which I had collected points diligently for two years to exchange to a fifty dollars off coupon. Although a small usual disappointment was alongside, which there was a family with a noisy child even in a luxury lounge like that, I was in seventh heaven looking out the magnificent twilight view of Tokyo Bay. And it was practically free because I paid only a fraction of money thanks to the coupon. Then I moved to another lounge that was exclusively for the hotel’s premium member. This bargain rate stay came with preferential treatment at no extra cost as their off-season promotion and I was entitled to use this lounge. It had a single-serve coffee machine and expensive soft drinks. I had two cups of freshly dripped specialty coffee, two cups of specialty tea and a bottled sparkling water along with elegant cookies that the receptionist had brought to me. And everything was free! I wondered why something complimentary was always gone to my stomach easily and endlessly. As it was still too early for my check-in time, I was headed for a shopping mall near the hotel. When I was walking on the broad sidewalk beside a modern convention center and looking ahead the twilight skyline of tall buildings, I somewhat missed urban life. I stepped in the gigantic shopping mall and looked around the grocery floor for something to eat in the hotel room. The floor had ten times as large space as a grocery store of my town and had all kinds of deli foods, salad and bread. I imagined how much fun it would be if I shopped daily at a place like this. Adjacent to the mall was Costco. A lot of kinds of free samples were being given out there, such as beefsteak, salmon, sushi rolls, and croissant. I became full enough with those. My partner took free samples and had them too, which was odd. He’s usually a little lofty and conceited and doesn’t like to get free samples. But this time, he willingly joined the line for a sample, took it, swallowed, and eagerly repeated it over and over. I observed his strange behavior thinking that he must have been so much hungry, or the samples must have tasted so good, or his atopy must have been bad enough to affect his brain. After our free sample jamboree, I dropped by the food court of Costco. The place to eat was dirty and looked like a visitors’ room of a prison. But considering the incredible size of the hot dog and the cup of soda, they were virtually free because their prices were incredibly low. I gobbled them and walked back to the hotel. The first day of my trip ended this way, filled with freebies and savings…

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Beginning of A Winter Trip hr587

The mountainous region where I live is in the depth of winter and it snows day after day. Now that the snow covering the ground has accumulated over my own height, I was having a sense of claustrophobia. That’s a cue for my annual three-day trip to the Tokyo metropolitan area that doesn’t have much snow. I set about arranging this year’s trip online. I successfully booked the room in a hotel of the Japanese luxury chain at a greatly economical rate by making the best use of coupons and their off-season promotion. The stay would come with preferential treatment at no extra cost as part of the promotion. To get to the Tokyo metropolitan area, I need to ride the bullet train that is expensive. But I got a 35% discount for the ticket by reserving early in advance. I was all set to get out of snow. Although it had snowed every day, it rained on that particular day when I set off on a trip in the morning. Rain is more troublesome than snow. I would take a local bus to the bullet train station. The bus stop is near my apartment but it has neither a cubicle nor a roof. When it snows, I can pat off the snow that comes onto my clothes while I’m walking to the bus stop and waiting there. But in the rain, my one hand is occupied with an umbrella as I carry all the bags, which would cause awkward walking that inevitably wets me. I would freeze while I’m waiting for the bus. I bore an unexpected expense and called a cab. The dispatcher told me it would take long to come to pick me up due to high demand. Since I had the bullet train to catch, I gave in to my umbrella and walked toward the bus stop in the rain. I felt miserable while I was waiting for the bus with many bags around me drenching. Out of the bus window, I saw snow plains beneath which were parks, rice paddies and sidewalks. The road was plowed, but the snow was pushed off to a long, tall snow wall alongside. The lengthy massive white wall was taller than the bus and it looked almost like a snow-made tunnel. I started to feel claustrophobia again. I cheered myself up by thinking I was soon in the snow-free city. I made a wish for a nice trip upon the closest mountain that had turned completely white. On the platform for the bullet train at the station, I found many Chinese families and tourists. That suddenly reminded me about the Lunar New Year during which Chinese people took vacation and traveled. The hotel I was staying at might be crowded with Chinese tourists as well. I couldn’t believe why I was so careless that I’d forgotten about Chinese New Year. Among the gleeful Chinese tourists, I stood waiting for the train with a long face. Rain and the Lunar New Year seems more like a bad omen, and now I became unsure as to whether or not this trip was the right move…

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Picture-Card Show hr586

I was absorbed in one kind of play when I was about seven years old. It was paper play called ‘kamishibai’ in Japan. It’s a picture-card show in which a performer tells a story while showing a picture that corresponds to it. A performer impersonates the characters to say their lines and flips a picture to the next one when the scene changes. It’s a sort of street performance that is hardly seen these days. But when I was little, an old picture-card showman came to the small park near my house every two weeks or so. He would walk around my neighborhood while ringing a bell to let children know the show was coming. When I heard the bell, I would spring toward the park clenching small change in my hand. The show was free, but the performer sold cheap snacks and candies before the show. His theater was his bicycle. On the back of the bicycle, a big wooden box was fixed that contained both the pictures and candies. Once the show started, the box transformed into the picture holder. By tacit agreement, children who had bought candies stood in the front and those who hadn’t stood on their toes in the back to get a view. Although the story itself didn’t interest me so much, I loved the experience that I saw a live performance while eating delicious snacks. It was a luxury to me. Probably because I liked it too much, I asked my parents and got a picture-card show play set. The play set was available at a bookstore and came with a sono-sheet. A sono-sheet was a very thin flexible vinyl record on which the story, the lines of the characters and the sound effects all that corresponded to the picture cards were recorded. The instruction for the timing to flip the pictures was also recorded. The story and the pictures were from a popular TV animation program for kids. Unlike the picture-card show at the park, with this play set, I was a performer. Since there was a vinyl to be played along with it, I could sit in front of the picture holder and watch it as a lone audience while listening to the record. Only, I wasn’t interested in being the audience. I’d rather stood behind the picture holder and flipped the pictures according to the instruction played on the record. The characters’ lines were printed on the back of each picture and I read them along with the record. The number of the picture cards were over twenty and I practiced flipping each one of them in the perfect timing and reading the lines with emotions by imitating the voice actors on the record. That was my favorite play of my childhood and I spent a lot of time and energy every day. The funny part was, I didn’t need any audience. I practiced intently not to show the play but to perform perfectly. And I performed exclusively for myself. This play couldn’t be accomplished without the record player that sat in the guestroom of my house. I would sneak in there to play with the set because I couldn’t concentrate on my performance if someone heard or saw it. In case my younger sister asked me to play it to her, I drove her away. Not to be bothered by anyone, I didn’t even turn on the light of the room. I would play the show along with the record alone in the dark, and relish satisfaction and joy when I thought the performance went perfectly. Recalling my favorite childhood play now, it awfully looks similar to the way I engage in my work of music. I guess I make my songs strenuously for perfection not for audience’s reception. I always thought I pursued people’s attention and stardom, but it wasn’t true as long as I remembered how I felt happy in my childhood. That explains why my songs don’t ever sell. I perform to no audience. It seems that’s the way I liked, and the way I’m destined for…

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Train Ride in Japan hr585

My main means of transportation is the train. As manners and common sense vary in countries, I introduce here what a train ride in Japan is like. In the Tokyo metropolitan area, it’s just atrocious especially during the rush hours. I had had a lot of trouble when I lived in the area. It’s almost impossible to get a ride since both the train and the platform are packed with people. The train is full, which means in Japan’s case that you can’t move as you’re pressed firmly against other passengers’ bodies around you. Because I’m short and feel claustrophobia only in a few minutes, I have to pass several trains to wait for a less crowded one. That results in a long, inefficient travel although the trains run every ten minutes or less. As the night deepens, the smell of alcohol fills the train car that has more drunken businessmen, some of whom are befuddled. It used to be common that men openly spread and read porn magazines and tabloids in the car, but thankfully they are replaced by smartphones now. There are women-only cars that men aren’t allowed to get in during the rush hours. Too many cases of being groped or molested in a crowded train car made railroad companies invent this crazy sexism solution. I myself can’t count how many times I was touched or saw a man expose himself in the train. When I once squeezed myself into a packed car on my way to school, I barely got my body inside the car but my bag couldn’t. The door closed on the handles of my bag and left the bag outside. I rode for three minutes with my bag dangling outside the train, swinging violently. In daytime, the murderous congestion subsides. Instead, enters a group of housewives with large strollers that block aisles. They ignore their children who are crying and shrieking. Some passengers eat snacks, rice balls or sandwiches in the train. Some eat cup noodles or lunch in a box called bento. Even drinking alcoholic beverages is okay. But, people dart an angry look at someone who is putting on makeup. One of major complains to railroad companies is making up in the train. I don’t have the slightest idea what that means. It’s acceptable no matter how drunken or how loud you are inside the train, but not that you’re putting up makeup. I heard on the radio show that an elderly woman complained about a young lady who was putting on mascara in the train. Her point was she couldn’t allow a woman to turn up the whites of her eyes in public. It doesn’t make sense and to me, it sounds clear sexism. I almost always put on makeup on the train for time efficiency and wage a quiet battle against other passengers’ angry glances. With good or bad manners aside, trains in Japan are generally safe and a murder or a robbery hardly happens. A pickpocket steals a wallet from a drunken passenger who has fallen asleep, or a drunk beats a conductor, that’s the maximum. If you have carelessly left your belongings in the train, they’re found and delivered to a station in most cases. It may be too extravagant to complain of Japan’s trains that are well maintained, so clean, and graffiti-free. While it’s sometimes uncomfortable to share a ride with people whose likes and dislikes are pretty different from mine, it’d be better to relish the difference and be surprised by it. That may help me grow leniency. Besides, there’s no such thing as the world going round solely by my own rules after all…

Friday, January 6, 2017

Gold Dust hr584

“Would you believe it if I said gold dust could fall on you?” I was asked out of nowhere by Kuri-chan who sat behind me in the classroom when I was a senior in high school. I had known her since junior high and we had chatted casually all the time. Although we had never belonged to the same group to hang around, the last year of high school made us closer as we were in the same class sitting next to each other. She abruptly asked this question with strange solemnity, looking set on confiding her big secret. I had never seen her like this. While I had no idea what she was implying with the question, I answered I would. I thought someone who was seeing the meteor shower was so excited that she or he felt that gold dust was showering on her or him. Or, someone having the happiest moment in the snow might feel the snow gold. Or, gold dust was simply an analogy to an inconceivable happening that made someone very happy. Those thoughts led my answer to yes, on which Kuri-chan hesitantly began to explain her question. She had visited frequently a certain shrine where gold dust fell on a person who believed. And she wanted me to come. I promptly asked her if it had ever fallen on her. She said it hadn’t because she hadn’t believed enough. Then I asked if she had ever seen it fall on anyone. Her reply was no and she added, “But there are people who have seen it.” My head got filled with doubt and questions. How often does it happen? How much does gold fall when it happens? By what size? How is it collected when it is sprinkled all over her or him? Are a broom and a dustpan provided near at hand? Don’t other people scramble for the fallen dust to steal it? How do you declare it as yours? And when you collect it safely, where should it be brought? Can it be cashed out? Does it fall at a time with an enough amount to make a living? I couldn’t subdue my curiosity, greed, and weird self-confidence. What if it fell on me today? Actual gold dust, not an analogy, could be possible when it comes to me. I followed Kuri-chan to the shrine after school, feeling as if I was going to a casino, although I sensed it was some sort of cult. The shrine was in the vast, luxurious premises. There were many people in the main hall, mostly middle-aged and elderly. They were intently praying, which seemed waiting for gold dust to me. A large framed portrait of the founder of the religious sect was hung on the front wall of the hall. Kuri-chan told me that gold dust fell on him first. I somehow refrained from asking her if he built this cult with the money from that gold dust. In my mind, though, I was thinking it would fall quite an amount. I sat face to face with Kuri-chan inside the hall and she put her hand above my forehead. She was going to pray for me and gold dust would fall on me if I believed. I was told to keep my eyes closed until the praying was over. It lasted for about five minutes and I believed hard that gold dust was falling on me now. “It’s done,” She said. I opened my eyes and looked for the dust around me. None. I asked her, “Didn’t only a bit fall?” She smiled wanly and said no, looking surprised that I thought it would happen to me on the first try. I was led to a small room for a new comer. A group of ten new comers was greeted by an unnaturally friendly middle-aged woman. She told the story about gold dust falling on the founder but didn’t explain how to cash it out to the end. When we were leaving, a woman who was an acquaintance of Kuri-chan ran toward us and said hello. She offered a ride to the bus stop. She casually asked where I lived. She said she knew the area well and would drive me home. I began to feel uncomfortable. I declined repeatedly, but she insisted strongly. The car finally stopped near my house and I said goodbye. To my surprise, she told me to let her meet my parents. I asked why and she said she wanted to tell the story about the gold dust to my parents. She gave me a ride to recruit. I was too stupid to know earlier. I said my parents were out for work, but she said she would wait. I said they would come home late because they were farmers, but she was adamant about waiting. I asked her to leave, but she wouldn’t let me out of the car. I felt scared as if I was kidnapped. Kuri-chan joined me and asked the woman to let me go home. With repeated angry begging from two of us, she finally gave in and released me. Next day at school, Kuri-chan apologized to me about how it had gone. “It should never be that way. Trust me. I didn’t know that woman was wicked”, she said regretfully. A few days later, she asked me to go to the shrine together again. I rejected. She asked, “Why? You said you believed gold dust would fall.” I still believed it but wasn’t interested in the cult. I thought if gold dust fell on me, it would happen anyway, with or without a cult. I’ve never joined a cult. But the fact remains that I believe in miracles…