Japanophile _ Part 4 A Story by Yuri Kageyama

Japanophile _ Part 4
A story by Yuri Kageyama

They smiled sheepishly beneath long spiky brownish bangs _ their photos, lined up one by one in the doorway to the entrance.
“Do you have a preference?” the waiter asked.
I had to get the No. 1.
That was the only reason I was here.
I was prepared to pay a small fortune, maybe 100,000 yen for this service at a host bar in Tokyo’s Shinjuku.
But the anxiety must have been obvious as the waiter tells me there is a discount for first-time women customers, and the first drink is on the house.
The place is not as dark or as big as I expected.
It looks much like any bar with the overdone felt chairs, the giant glitzy chandelier hanging from the ceiling.
A mirror ball circles lazily over a tiny dance floor, just a corner where the tables have been nudged over.
The host wearing what looks like a cheap suit that is probably very expensive sits across from me.
“What are your hobbies? Tennis? Oh, I just love tennis.”
Finally the No. 1 finds time in between chatting with the bar women who frequent the host bars to come to my table.
This is what he says:

I saw him every day, always sitting with the homeless guys next to the theater in Kabukicho.
He was so tanned I could barely make out his looks, but I thought he could make a good host.
He was so pathetic. But he reeked this survival strength from his entire being that I liked.
He was learning how to help clean up the manga magazines the homeless guys had collected so they could sell it and get money.
I hear the homeless guys were giving him 1,000 yen here and there.
Otherwise, he would never have really survived, despite that strength I told you about that he was reeking.
One day, I told him to follow me, and I took him to the soba joint around the corner from the theater.
“Give him a bowl with everything on top, zenbunose,” I said.
He looked startled like he had never had noodles with everything on top.
It was just 1,280 yen. Nothing for me.
But maybe it was something he hadn’t had for a while.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
Why had my son been there at a dingy theater district, of all places, so helpless he needed to count on the mercy of homeless people and a host?
At the same time, I was filled with gratitude toward what they had done for him.
And I hated myself for not having seen through what could have possibly sent him to this fate.

PREVIOUS INSTALLMENTS OF “JAPANOPHILE”

Company You Keep


“POW WOW _ Charting the Fault Lines in the American Experience _ Short Fiction From Then to Now,” edited by Ishmael Reed with Carla Blank, (cover design by Ann Weinstock) just came out, gathering works from the likes of (as photographed clockwise from top left): Ntozake Shange, Alejandro Murguia, Benjamin Franklikn and Gertrude Stein.
Works are in alphabetical order and so my short story “The Father and the Son” follows “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston, and comes right before “Moses Mama” by William Melvin Kelley _ some exalted company I keep.
Among others in the book: Langston Hughes, Al Young, Russell Banks, John A. Williams, Grace Paley, Mark Twain, Chester Himes.
From the cover:
“Celebrated novelist, poet and MacArthur Fellow Ishmael Reed follows his groundbreaking poetry anthology FROM TOTEMS TO HIP-HOP with a provocative survey of American short fiction …. By presenting many different facets of the American experience, these stories challenge official history, shatter accepted myths and provide necessary alternatives to mainstream notions of personal and national identity.”
My story is about death, motherhood, identity, music, love.
In the Foreword, Ishmael Reed says my story exposes the stupidity and cruelty of the patriarchal family.
That, too!

New title for the anthology

The anthology edited by Ishmael Reed, award-winning novelist and poet, with dancer/violinist Carla Blank, has a new title:
“POW-WOW: 63 Writers Address the Fault Lines in the American Experience.”
January 2009: Da Capo Press.
I’m in good company _ Langston Hughes, Toni Cade Bambara, Alejandro Murguía, Erskine Caldwell, Kevin Powell.
Pre-order from Amazon!

Ben’s Cafe SUN June 29 & SUN Nov. 30

Winchester Nii Tete, Yumi Miyagishima and I are going to the reading at Ben’s Cafe in Takadanobaba Sunday, June 29, 7 p.m.
They both played in our TOKYO FLOWER CHILDREN reading the other day at the Pink Cow.
But we will be doing new material.
So please come if you’re in town and have time.
Ben’s Cafe readings take place only when there’s a fifth Sunday in a month.
They are usually devoted to prose. But on June 29 _ anything goes!
Looking way ahead, I am also on schedule to read _ prose, this time _ on another fifth Sunday, Nov. 30.