THE VERY SPECIAL DAY A VERY SPECIAL FILM

THE VERY SPECIAL DAY IS NOW A VERY SPECIAL FILM

A collaboration with stop motion artist Hayatto.

Story written and read by Yuri Kageyama.

THE VERY SPECIAL DAY is an Official Selection at the Big Sur Film Festival April 2021, Winner in Best Animation at the Beyond the Curve International Film Festival February-March 2021, Official Selection at the Phoenix Shorts Festival March 2021, Nominated Best International Short Film at the Brazil International Monthly Independent Film Festival, Finalist Official Selection Paris International Short Festival, Official Selection New Year Film Festival and Hollywood International Golden Age Festival, Honorable Mention Official Selection London International Monthly Film Festival, all February 2021, Quarter Finalist at the Jade Jaguar Film Festival in Brazil in August 2021, won Best Animation at the New Wave Short Film Festival, Milan Short Film Festival, Madras Independent Film Festival, Award of Excellence in Animation Directing at the Montreal Independent Film Festival, Finalist Best Children’s Film at Indie Short Fest (Los Angeles International Film Festival) and the LA Sun Film Fest, in 2020, Official Selection Finalist Seoul International Short Film Festival, Semi-Finalist Jelly Film Festival and Finalist Official Selection at the Tokyo International Short Film Festival, in January 2021, Best Animation Short Winner at the Royal Wolf Film Awards and Special Jury Selection at the Roma Short Film Festival, both in December 2020, Official Selection Kalakari Film Festival May 15, 2021, Cyrus International Film Festival, New York Tri-State International Film Festival and the Silicon Beach Film Festival, Nominated Best Animation the Motion Pictures International Film Festival, Finalist Official Selection at the Sicily Independent Film Awards, the Pune Short Film Festival, Tokyo Lift-Off Film Festival, Grand Jury Award Oniros Film Awards in Italy, Finalist Official Selection at the Košice International Monthly Film Festival, all in 2020. It won the Silver Award Spotlight Short Film Awards, Honorable Mention Los Angeles Film Awards, New York Film Awards, Festigious International Film Festival and Top Shorts Film Festival, Award of Distinction Canada Shorts Film Festival, Best Animated film at the Hollywood Blood Horror Festival and was part of the Best Global Shorts film festival, in 2019.


“Your film brought us enormous pleasure and exhibits excellence in artistry and craftsmanship in noteworthy fashions.” _ Hans Krause, New Wave Short Film Festival.

“Brilliant concept and excellent execution. The structure works well.” _ Nami, Roy and the Los Angeles Film Awards team

A birthday is very special for any little boy. And a little boy is very special for any parent.

This is an everyday but very special story about the trials and joys of growing up in an imperfect world.

A story that’s a bit sentimental but honorable and true, written for all the children in the world.
May they stay safe, may they enjoy peace, may they find love and may they know who they really are.

Music by Kouzan Kikuchi, Hiroshi Tokieda, Ryan Carter and Isaku Kageyama.

Copyright All Rights Reserved by the Artists. August 2019.

“All my works deal with the theme of love, and I put a lot of love in my work. As soon as I saw Yuri’s THE VERY SPECIAL DAY, I felt the same kind of love in the story and knew at once it should be made with my stop motion. Stop motion requires arduous time: Each item is made by hand and moved a little bit at a time to create movement on film. A minimum of eight frames is needed per second. The number of handmade parts is considerable. I make everything myself_ alone but with love. Although, or perhaps because, it requires so much work, time and love, stop motion relays a nostalgic sense of warmth and frailty. When finally completed, it fills me with an emotion that makes me forget all the hard work that went into it. People will likely react in different ways to THE VERY SPECIAL DAY, but I can say it is filled with love. After all, everyone has his or her own “special,” and everyone realizes that what makes for this special ultimately is love, the greatest amorphous theme for humanity. I hope my work will help people around the world rediscover the meaning of love.” _ Hayatto

ONLINE SCREENINGS:

Beyond the Curve International Film Festival FRI April 23 ~ TUE April 27, 2021.

Brazil International Monthly Independent Film Festival MON March 8 ~ MON March 15, 2021.

Silicon Beach Film Festival FRI Nov. 13 ~ THU Nov. 19, 2020, extended through Thanksgiving.

TUE Nov. 10 ~ WED Nov. 11, 2020 at the Motion Pictures International Film Festival.

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.

SOME PEOPLE a poem by Yuri Kageyama

Artwork by Munenori Tamagawa

SOME PEOPLE a poem by Yuri Kageyama

Some people are Poison
In sheer Presence
Even from afar
Some people are Garbage
A stench of Gibberish
Even from afar
Some people are Ineffectual
A blob hanger-on
Even from afar
Some people are Broken
A Godzillion pieces
Never whole again
Some people are Forgotten
Hidden unbleedingly silent
Into the flesh of scars
Some people are Music
Wafting healing savory sweet
Even from afar

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.


.

THE VERY SPECIAL DAY _ A CHILDREN’S BOOK by YURI KAGEYAMA with PICTURES by MUNENORI TAMAGAWA; Also A FILM BY HAYATTO

Cover for the children's book THE VERY SPECIAL DAY by Yuri Kageyama with pictures by Munenori Tamagawa.

THE VERY SPECIAL DAY is also a film by stop motion artist HAYATTO (August 2019). PLEASE WATCH FOR SCREENINGS.

The trailer:

A birthday is very special for any little boy.
And a little boy is very special for any parent.
This book is an everyday but very special story about the trials and joys of growing up in an imperfect world.
THE VERY SPECIAL DAY by Yuri Kageyama (first published in KONCH, Ishmael Reed Publishing Co., 2013).

A TOKYO FLOWER CHILDREN 2016 publication picture book, with Illustrations by Munenori Tamagawa, Book design by Fengshui Iwazaki.

FOR ORDERS for the book, please go to this artist Munenori Tamagawa’s link , or write to us, using the contact section of this site.

A story about how a defiant young woman tries to make a birthday a very special day for her child all by herself.
A story about how discrimination begins in the home, and how the fight against discrimination also begins in the home.
A story about ice cream at a birthday party and French Fries at the aquarium.
A story about how “they didn’t like us because we were Japanese American, and not Japanese.”
A story about how stars can be that cure-all ideal but no-cost spiritual present.
A story that’s a bit sentimental but honorable and true, written for all the children in the world.
May they stay safe, may they enjoy peace, may they find love and may they know who they really are.

Reading THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen Tokyo SUN. Oct. 23, 2016.

Reading THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen Tokyo SUN. Oct. 23, 2016. Photo by Junji Kurokawa.

OUR READING OF THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen, Tokyo, SUN Oct. 23, 2016. Featuring Live Painting by Munenori Tamagawa, the illustrator of the book.
Left to Right: Yuri Kageyama (writer and storyteller), Hiroshi Tokieda (bass), Munenori Tamagawa (visual artist), Ryan Carter (guitar) and Kouzan Kikuchi (shakuhachi). PHOTOS by Junji Kurokawa.

Our Reading of THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen SUN Oct. 23, 2016.

Our Reading of THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen SUN Oct. 23, 2016. Photo by Junji Kurokawa.

Our Reading of THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen SUN Oct. 23, 2016.

Our Reading of THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen SUN Oct. 23, 2016. Photo by Junji Kurokawa.

Our Reading of THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen SUN Oct. 23, 2016.

Our Reading of THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen SUN Oct. 23, 2016. Photo by Junji Kurokawa.

Our Reading of THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen SUN Oct. 23, 2016.

Our Reading of THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen SUN Oct. 23, 2016. Photo by Junji Kurokawa.

Our Reading of THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen SUN Oct. 23, 2016.

Our Reading of THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen SUN Oct. 23, 2016. Photo by Junji Kurokawa.

So I thought about what could be a very special day for Mama, and so I asked her: “Mama, what would you like to do on your funeral?”
Mama stopped moving all of a sudden, and I thought she might even spank me because it was so all of a sudden, though she hardly ever ever ever spanks me.
That was how sudden it was.
Then she went back to normal and said, “I want a lot of beautiful music.”
So I said very quickly to catch up with her suddenness, “Mama, I will play that music. I will.”

_ Excerpt from “The Very Special Day,” a story first published in KONCH: Ishmael Reed Publishing Co. 2013, and a TOKYO FLOWER CHILDREN picture book, published 2016.

More photos from Inokashira Park courtesy park organizers:

06

BOOK PARTY free admission
featuring LIVE PAINTING by Munenori Tamagawa and poet Yuri Kageyama’s YURICANE spoken-word band with Kouzan Kikuchi (shakuhachi), Hiroshi Tokieda (bass), Trupti (vocals), Hirokazu Suyama (tabla).
Special Guests Kenwood Dennard, Biankah Bailey, Jacqueline Mujaya , Taylor Mignon and more.
SUN Aug. 7, 2016 2 p.m. Infinity Books. 1F Komagata Bashi Heights Bldg , 1-2-4 Azumabashi, Sumida-ku, Tokyo, 130-0001
SAT Aug. 13, 2016 2 p.m. Demi Cafe in sora Gallery. 3-14-1 Honcho Kokubunji-shi, Tokyo 85-0012

THE VERY SPECIAL DAY book party at Infinity Books in Tokyo SUN Aug. 7, 2016.

THE VERY SPECIAL DAY book party at Infinity Books in Tokyo SUN Aug. 7, 2016. Photos by Emiko Tokai.

Live Painting with the reading.

Live Painting with the reading.

Kenwood Dennard, professor at Berklee College of Music, reads his poetry at THE VERY SPECIAL DAY

Kenwood Dennard, professor at Berklee College of Music, reads his poetry at THE VERY SPECIAL DAY

Jackie Mujaya speaks about Tanaganika Kids at THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Infinity Books in Tokyo.

Jackie Mujaya speaks about Tanaganika Kids at THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Infinity Books in Tokyo. Cherie Willoughby, at right, who also read her poetry.

An Ode to the Asian Uncle Tom _ A Yuricane Poem (or does power always turn evil?) by Yuri Kageyama

NOW PUBLISHED IN THE SUMMER 2018 ISSUE OF KONCH edited and published by Ishmael Reed and Tennessee Reed.

An ode to the Asian Uncle Tom
A Yuricane poem (or does power always turn evil?)
by Yuri Kageyama

a painting collaboration by Munenori Tamagawa and Radio the Artist as Yuri Kageyama reads this poem written by Yuri Kageyama  at What The Dickens in Tokyo Feb 4, 2018.

a painting collaboration by Munenori Tamagawa and Radio the Artist as Yuri Kageyama reads this poem written by Yuri Kageyama at What The Dickens in Tokyo Feb 4, 2018.

You sit prim with your glasses
Behind that desk, title, resume
Won on the backs of
The 442 Purple Hearts
Oblivious in your banal Banana-ism
To the fact that
Yellow is your Color
The most expedient, forgotten,
Cheapest of lives
Hiroshima
My Lai
North Korea
You sip white wine at ethnic restaurants
New York, Tokyo, Dubai, Bangkok
They all look alike
Smiling in Instagram posts
You have it made
You have them duped
You have arrived
Never mind, in your deepest fearful solitary moments,
You can’t help but pick out
Just those
Who look like you:
Race suddenly a Reality;
You must put them down,
And make sure they stay down,
Remain the invisible man, the invisible woman,
Establish as Fact through rumors and appraisals
That People of Color
Can’t be objective, and, be careful,
Get easily used,
You can do the math _ as the stereotype goes _
The slots are limited,
Tokenism being a zero sum game,
Diversity cannot be the majority;
You’ve long lost your ancestral accent
You’ve adopted the air of leaders
You’ve deleted memories
Of how we were all shackled,
We picked strawberries,
We built the Transcontinental Railroad,
We survived behind barbed wires,
Instead
You go to meetings,
Rehearse video appearances,
Take vacations to the Caribbean and Bali,
Sneer at Chinese going shopping,
Plan your retirement,
Asian American
Only to whites

Artwork by Munenori Tamagawa

Artwork by Munenori Tamagawa

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

Aging _ A Poetic Reflection by Yuri Kageyama

Artwork by Munenori Tamagawa

Artwork by Munenori Tamagawa

Aging _ A Poetic Reflection
a poem by Yuri Kageyama

Skin loosens
But that hotness
That is you
Enclosed
A clear bubble of heavenly air _
Because skin is fallible,
Sags, blotches, wrinkles _
But that,
Still burning, hotter, inside,
That is you
Age can’t ever change this feeling:
This feeling
Of the man you love
Moving inside of you
With
That certainty,
And that child
Growing, living
Inside
That is you