Haiku March 27, 2021 by Yuri Kageyama

Haiku March 27, 2021 by Yuri Kageyama

Give Me That Power

To keep Dreaming My Dream if not just

To Live in My Dreams

ゆめおもう

ゆめをいきるは

夢の中

Miniature Figure by Munenori Tamagawa

It was Dr. Martin Luther King, who said: “I have a dream,” those words that spoke of that powerful message and legacy of Black Lives Matter years ago. Why has our dream as Asians in America so often and so long been lost? Called foreign, invisible, docile, cheap, expressionless, model minorities, we have been silenced, sometimes turned willingly silent, out of fear and the desire to survive, in that American conversation between white and Black. Our story has yet to be fully told, explored or studied, even dreamed.

A story shared from prison by Yuri Kageyama

I met the former inmate behind this story a few years ago, in 2016, when I was putting together my story “The Very Special Day” with artwork by Munenori Tamagawa. I was thinking of just stapling together printouts, but the visual artist had other ideas. He wanted a real book, and he said he knew someone who knew how to design books, a skill, as it turned out, he had learned in a Japanese prison. I didn’t ask questions. I just assumed he had committed a serious crime because of the long time he had been incarcerated, but felt he deserved to be treated no different from anyone else as he had served his time. I did not even know until he told me his story that he was asserting his innocence. This is his story:

He spent 15 years behind bars for a murder he confessed to, but he says he didn’t commit. His father hanged himself in shame. While in prison, he bit off a piece of his arm in a suicide attempt. Placed on half a dozen tranquilizer pills, he was an addict by the time he finally got out, four years ago.

Fengshui Iwazaki, who has changed his name to protect himself from the social backlash, is still trying to adjust to being back in the real world.  

“Fifteen years _ that’s a whole generation in a lifetime,” he says, his eyes clear, child-like, much younger than his 41 years. 

His story underlines the treatment convicts get in Japan, a society that’s so insular and crime-free most people don’t know much about what it’s like to live the life of a criminal. The arrest of Nissan’s former Chairman Carlos Ghosn, charged with financial misconduct, is helping bring international scrutiny to this legal system, which human rights groups have long criticized as harsh and unfair.

Iwazaki had never before spoken to me about his experiences, how two decades ago, he had made headlines as a murderer.   

“It was as though I was a monster,” Iwazaki recalled.          

^____<

Iwazaki and others who went through Japan’s criminal system say prosecutors and police come up with a story-line for a confession. While interrogated, Iwazaki was taken to the mountains where the body had been found and directed to point in the right spots, he said.

His girlfriend had been strangled to death, and he instantly emerged the prime suspect.

He resisted at first but signed the confession after three weeks of being interrogated daily without a lawyer present, standard practice in Japan.

He says he was bullied, his hair pulled, the table banged. After a while, it was easy to cave in.  

He believes the real murderer might be the man who had adopted his then-3-year-old daughter from a previous relationship. He had planned to live near her someday, not ever telling her he was the father, just to be close to her. She died in a car accident while he was serving time. 

Prosecutors say they are merely doing their jobs and didn’t create the system.

Defense lawyers say suspects sign false confessions and don’t realize it’s too late to assert innocence later in a trial.

That’s why it is called “hostage justice.”

Judges tend to believe the prosecutors’ story line: the conviction rate in Japan is higher than 99%.

Going against such a powerful trend takes tremendous courage. Unlike the U.S., prosecutors can appeal, meaning innocent verdicts can get overturned in a higher court.

^___<

The life of imprisonment Iwazaki describes is austere, isolated and regulated. Each prisoner gets a tiny cell with a toilet and bedding, unless the prison gets crowded and cells get shared, a condition that’s increasingly rare.

Communication among inmates is limited to the 30 minutes of outdoor exercise, or the evening hours, during which TV is allowed.

Whenever inmates are transported, they wait in enclosed booths lined next to each other so prisoners won’t mingle, called “bikkuri-bako,” or “jack-in-the-box.”   

Every morning, the convict changes into green prison garb and gets marched to a factory within the prison grounds.

Iwazaki did menial work like placing wooden chopsticks into paper wrapping and packing them in boxes. He also learned how to work the printing presses.

The toughest time was his three-year solitary confinement doled out as punishment for being a troublemaker, he said.

One time, out of frustration, he smashed a window with his bare hand, which added half a year to his sentence.

He was always curious about why others were locked up.

One inmate, he learned, had tried to steal money from an ATM to send his son to college. When a guard found him, he used a stun gun. The guard had a weak heart and died. And so the charge became murder while committing grand larceny, a serious offense.

“There are no really bad people in prison,” Iwazaki says with a conviction that is startling.  

^____<   

There is little in Japanese society that helps people adjust to life after incarceration.

When Iwazaki was released, he only had 1,000 yen ($9). He checked into a hospital, pleading insanity. He was running out of the pills prescribed at the prison.

He finally made it to Eizo Yamagiwa, a filmmaker who has devoted his life to supporting prisoners. Yamagiwa, who had visited Iwazaki in prison, gave him money, and Iwazaki finally made it home to his mom.

Yamagiwa says only the authorities’ side of the story gets relayed in Japan, influencing judges and juries so that trials tend to merely work as rubber-stamps for the prosecutors.

The prison system, he said, is so devastating most people come out sick and unable to continue with their lives.

He said Iwazaki was an exception in working hard to live a normal life.

^___<          

Iwazaki, who had originally planned to become a schoolteacher, has had his life forever changed.

Retrials to try to overturn guilty verdicts are rarely granted in Japan. Usually, totally new evidence such as a DNA test is needed.

Iwazaki is hesitant even to try. His case is tough because of the mounds of evidence submitted during his trial, including his confession. His mother has asked he doesn’t pursue a retrial; she doesn’t want to think about any of it ever again.

Iwazaki lives alone in a stark room with a tiny drab kitchen and a bathroom. A desk and two chairs are the only furniture.

On the walls are two drawings signed Masahiro, a man who died on death row. Done meticulously and entirely by pen and pencils, one depicts a bouquet of red roses, the other, Mary and baby Jesus. No one except for Iwazaki had claimed them.

Iwazaki also drew pictures while in prison: A big close-up of his open mouth filled with pills, a bird’s eye view of his cell, an inmate working so hard in the factory he is turning into a blur.

The drawings were part of a show of “art by outsiders” in April 2019, in Tokyo, a milestone for Iwazaki. While in prison, authorities had forbidden such exhibits.

Iwazaki is also in a training program to counsel addicts. He already works as a counselor, having studied various therapy methods, which he says helps calm him. Completing the training means better pay.   

He has also found a girlfriend, a carefree woman who works at a dot.com and is passionate about saving lions in Africa. They plan to get married and maybe have children.


.

OUR COLLABORATION AT M SPACE IN TOKYO

Our collaboration at Space M in Tokyo May 22, 2018.
The visual artists live painting: Munenori Tamagawa and Radio the Artist.
Hirokazu “Jackson” Suyama on Handpan
My Poetry read with rattles by yours truly “Mythical Monster” and “Hip Hop Fukushima,” both excerpts from my theater piece NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA: MEDITATION ON AN UNDER-REPORTED CATASTROPHE BY A POET, which debuted at La Mama in New York in 2015, where Hiro also played the drum set and percussion. It was also performed last year in San Francisco Z Space.
Thanks to Kenji Taguchi for the video and for having our poetry at this fabulous showcasing of important visual artists.

MYTHICAL MONSTER
by Yuri Kageyama

The Catfish sleeps
Buried in the mud
Of meltdown metal
A black-light coastline
Fifty reactors
Tomari to Genkai

The Catfish moves
And the Earth rumbles
Sways its tail
And skyscrapers crumble
Swishes a whisker
Bridges, roads shatter

The Catfish grows
Bigger and bigger
Eight snake faces
Eight dragon tails
Volcanic eruption
Yamata no Orochi

The Monster lives
Our daughters and sons
Every year, a sacrifice
Hundred eight brave samurai
They’re all dead,
Trying to kill it

HIP HOP FUKUSHIMA
by Yuri Kageyama

Y’all, it’s a Meltdown nation
Since Three-Eleven
Covered in the fear
Of unseen radiation
But don’t you expect
Any revolution
All you will find
Is fear and contamination.

Here in Fukushima
It rhymes with Hiroshima
Instead of a holler
Hear just a whimper
They say it is safe
The kids like Chernobyl
Are coming down sick
With Thyroid cancer.

Fukushima
Fukushima
Fukushima

Y’all, it’s no hallucination
The refugees’ life
No compensation
No resolution
Just nuclear explosions
Get your dosimeter
Cesium in the water
Lost Imagination

Here in Fukushima
It rhymes with Hiroshima
The radiated Brothers
Faces are hidden
Goggles and masks
Like an astronaut
From head to toe
The Invisible workers

Fukushima
Fukushima
Fukushima

Premature aging
Nerve cells dying
Sterility, deformity
Unborn baby
Blood count dissipation
Leukemia debilitation
DNA radiation
Godzilla’s affliction

Tsunami Demolition
God’s DeCreation
Genetic Devastation
Our next Generation.
Here in Fukushima
It rhymes with Hiroshima
No-go zones forever
The World must remember.

Fukushima
Fukushima
Fukushima

MY READING WITH MUNENORI TAMAGAWA

Artwork by Munenori Tamagawa

Artwork by Munenori Tamagawa

A COLLABORATION OF VISUAL ART, THE SPOKEN WORD AND MUSIC
THE VERY SPECIAL DAY
What: I read my poetry/story “The Very Special Day” while Munenori Tamagawa paints to guitar by Yuuichiro Ishii.
Where: Nagai Garou’s Tachikawa Gallery 1-25-24 Nishi Building 4 Fl Fujimicho Tachikawa, Tokyo TEL: 080‐9573‐5655
When: SAT Oct. 28, 2017 from 3 p.m. Reception party follows from 4:30 p.m ~ 6 p.m.
Who: Munenori Tamagawa, “the Basquiat of Japan,” has shown his work at the Seattle Art Fair, Tachikawa Art Brut and the streets of Tokyo, including Innokashira Park and the Shiodome Art Market.
Guitarist Yuuichiro Ishii, who studied recently at the Berklee College of Music on a prestigious scholarship, has performed with Fuyu, Mika Nakashima and Yusa, as well as my Yuricane spoken-word band.
Why: To celebrate the exhibition of Munenori Tamagawa’s recent works.
More What: Last year, Munenori Tamagawa and I created the children’s book THE VERY SPECIAL DAY, which brings together my story with his illustrations. More information on our evolving collaboration.
Artists make any day a very special day when we come together.


Video by Naomi Yoshida

Photo by Seiko

Photo by Seiko

A Poem About About by Yuri Kageyama

Flowers Before

Flowers Before

Flowers After

Flowers After

About _ A Poem by Yuri Kageyama

Going through
Various stages
A student one moment,
A lover, a worker, a friend
Other moments
A plumber
A soldier
A poet
Mother
Daughter
Father
Son
Changing
Each moment
But no matter
Which Moment
What Stage
Whatever Roles we play
The ways we make a Living,
It’s always
About Who we are

THE YURICANE BACK AT THE PINK COW APRIL 4, 2015

THE YURICANE BACK AT THE PINK COW SAT APRIL 4, 2015 TOKYO JAPAN
PHOTOS BY EBA CHAN

The Yuricane

Hirokazu Suyama Jackson

Hirokazu Suyama Jackson

withyuuirhciropinkcow

yuuirhicoagain

pinkcow 2

hirofromfacebook

facebook2

Excerpts from “NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA: MEDITATION ON AN UNDER-REPORTED CATASTROPHE BY A POET” debutng at La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York September 2015, directed by Carla Blank with dance and music.

Yuri Kageyama – spoken word
Hirokazu Suyama Jackson – drums
Yuuichiro Ishii – guitar
Nobutaka Yamasaki – keyboard

MYTHICAL MONSTER
A Poem by Yuri Kageyama

Catfish sleeps
Buried in the mud
Of meltdown metal
A black-light coastline
Fifty reactors
Tomari to Genkai
Catfish moves
And the Earth rumbles
Sways its tail
And skyscrapers crumble
Swishes a whisker
Bridges, roads shatter
Catfish grows
Bigger and bigger
Eight snake faces
Eight dragon tails
Volcanic eruption
Yamata no Orochi
Monster lives
Our daughters and sons
Every year, a sacrifice
Hundred eight brave samurai
They’re all dead,
Trying to kill it

Why? A Poem by Yuri Kageyama

WHY?
A Poem by Yuri Kageyama

Why?
Don’t ask Why.
Why?
If you need to ask, don’t.
Why?
Worse reasons.
Why?
And worse to do.
Why?
Oh, why?
Why?
Why ask?
Why do?
Why do?
Why?
Why?
Why?
And why?
But why?

EN-EN-EN-EN-EN A Poem by Yuri Kageyama

En-EN-EN-EN-EN
A Poem by Yuri Kageyama

POETRY
DOES NOT
CANNOT
EN-TERTAIN
POETRY
DOES CAN
EN-GAGE
EN-RAGE
EN-LIGHTEN

Hatsu Kooh – First Poem for 2015 by Yuri Kageyama

Hatsu Kooh _ First Poem for The New Year
by Yuri Kageyama

Integrity.
Integral.
Inside.
Within.
In Itself.
Self.
What It Is.
Not NOT Not What It Is Not.
Naught.
Nothing.
Thing.
Everything.
All.
Real.

An excerpt from Story of Miu (a performance piece in the works) by Yuri Kageyama

An excerpt from Story of Miu (a performance piece in the works)
By Yuri Kageyama

You are curled up tight, in fetal position, eyes still closed but seeing red blindness, throbbing flesh, still alive, deep inside our stomachs so entrenched within us but also disjointed and expanding like our pain and like all the solar systems in the universe.
I was already there in that moment. We shared in that secret of knowing you will someday be born, before anyone else knew, and then grow up and become man _ or woman _ with a yelping gasping flash-of-light wail, the newborn’s cry in that first breath, and recognizing from the very start that you will someday have this same joy and same pain, growing inside you and being born.
It doesn’t matter that you will make towers. You will make music. You will make computer programs. You will make money. You will make babies.
It doesn’t matter that you will be a pillar of society. You will be an outcast. You will win rewards. You will be abused as a stranger.
It doesn’t matter that you will witness a great northern earthquake, although it is a once-in-a-century disaster setting off a torrent of outraged water that turns farmland into mud, buildings and homes into rubble, and quiet untouched happy towns into ghost towns covered with radiation.
I was there, with you, before it all _ in that redness and blackness and all seeing blindness that was here and everywhere, bleeding and beating and breathing and being, inside my uterus, that spot near my navel that connects with your navel, before and even after your newborn cry.
This is the same cosmos inside the bodies of all mothers, where we fall in our slumber, snuggling against our blankets, the safe and eternal place we visit that are called dreams after we awaken.
This is the same cosmos in the resonance of the giant taiko drum, shaking and deafening, but we hear and understand every note like our mother’s heartbeat.
The otherworldly world that awaits behind the mirror in a Tadanori Yokoo painting, the crooked road not taken behind the church in a Vincent Van Gogh painting _ a world from this end we fear might be the Michelangelo hell of a nuclear meltdown with faces and arms peeled, stunted and melted by an erring god scientists will never admit was provoked by anything other than a mother’s mistake, or else it could smell like lotuses and incense and candles, sinking into a Claude Monet lake of sheer light and blindness that is canvas and museum walls no more but total artist’s vision.
This is the same cosmos where ghosts with long black hair reside, sometimes standing besides riverside willow trees weeping about their lovers’ betrayal, and at other times mysteriously saving children from car crashes as benevolent all-knowing ancestors.
After all these years, I finally know this is where I return when I die.
To be with you again, all the time, in that moment of eternity that is before birth, so perfectly connected we don’t need to speak or breathe or remember.