WHY I REPORT IN ENGLISH by Yuri Kageyama

Why I Report in English by Yuri Kageyama

This is something I just happened to find in my desk, typed up (yes, typed _ remember those days?). It’s an essay about why I am a reporter, and why I report in the English language that I wrote I think in the 1980s. Perhaps I was applying for work? It is long before I joined The AP. I am not changing the wording, but have put it down exactly the way it is typed on the sheet of paper, except for the four changes made in red in pen that were already there. I might write it differently today. But I feel exactly the same. So here goes:

Ever since I can remember, I have been of both worlds _ American and Japanese. As a child of a Japanese “salaryman” who had dreams of pioneering science by crossing borders, years before the Japanese business Establishment decided “internationalization” was fashionable, I was constantly thrust back and forth between two very different, sometimes clashing, cultures.

I will not pretend that the experience was always pleasant. It was often stunning, confusing and painful. One moment, for instance, I was expected to be the submissive, demure Japanese girl, who laughed shyly covering her mouth. The next moment, I found myself having to turn into an assertive, no-nonsense American, who could outtalk and outperform any male.

Gradually I have come to accept this dichotomy. In a sense, I now cherish it as a privilege. I took to switching cultural allegiance for convenience. I would claim my “Japaneseness” when watching Ennosuke Ichikawa Kabuki, but I would, with no qualms, claim “Americanhood” while appreciating soul rhythms at an Earth, Wind and Fire concert.

It is, after all, an eyeopener to perceive that many of society’s rules are arbitrary. What passes as positive in one culture may be absolutely taboo in another, and vice versa. As a perpetual outsider, one can see through much of the false pretentious aspects of social norms and values and hope to grasp more accurately the universal human essence.

Reporting in English about Japanese matters, therefore, came naturally to me. Explaining the East to the West has been my persistent pastime. It is something I do well, I think, because it is part of my fate.

Earlier this year, I flew to Iwo Jima to cover the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s annual services for the war dead there. The sandy island speckled with gnarled tropical vegetation appeared, at first glance, barren except for the military bases.

Yet, upon closer inspection, strange voices seemed to fill the hot, dry air _ chants verging on song, rising and falling. So many people, both American and Japanese, have died here, the voices seemed to be saying. Their blood covers this island. Even if it has been washed away, the fact of history that thousands died here will never be erased, the windlike voices were saying.

Two monuments stand on Iwo Jima _ the one put up by Americans with the Stars and Stripes and the other of gray stone built by Japanese with a graphic depiction of the map of Japan. As though staring into two alien worlds with unmoving granite eyes, the two monuments remain apart on opposite sides of the same hill.

The visit held a revelation for me. Obviously, Japan and the U.S. are two separate countries that have even waged war against one another. Today, many of the misunderstanding and barriers that divide the two nations are still close to insurmountable. But thanks to a slightly aberrant upbringing, the two worlds are totally at peace within myself.

It is this unconditional yet effortless peace between Japan and America I know so intimately that I want to keep in mind when I work as a reporter.

My 2015 Story on the Kamikaze

I still like this Story I did for The Associated Press some time ago when I interviewed a former kamikaze pilot. It was still online at The Detroit News.

#peacepoetry A collaborative poem by Sandile Ngidi and Yuri Kageyama

#peacepoetry A collaborative poem by Sandile Ngidi and Yuri Kageyama March 2022 ~ May 2022

Sandile

We are crushed still, bulldozed, uneasy.

Give bread, paska, borscht now.

Sink the molten nerves, war hormones.

Pray fair winds, pebbles, sumac delights.

Rachel Corrie flowers, Westbank’s red ruins.

Yuri

Phan Thi Kim Phuc’s back,

Silent chants, red smoke, orphans cry.

Blue and yellow flurry on Tokyo streets,

“We stand with Ukraine.”  

Fissions of fear, hypersonic glide.

Kent State My Lai Mariupol

Akiko Yosano tells us: Mountains will move,

Shuddering dark loins, tangled hair to lips.

Sandile

Stoop, Russians, stoop,

War dogs eat death you planted in the fields.

Spit its blood like wastewater.

Smear the gunpowder to sanctify your sword.

But no gun can kill the hills’ brooding smiles,

Butterflies will survive the heavy rains.

Yuri

When “tactical” dwarfs Hiroshima, Nagasaki,

“Neo-Nazi” is not a name for anyone,

Retreat sends an attack more frenzied than ever.

Poets speak above the silence,

Purify the Meaninglessness

Of words gone Mad.

Sandile

This ominous cloud

Racial hate in sniper fire.

Your fresh light

Brave in stunning pearls.

Still stubborn as our knees.

Your tenacious love,

Shireen Abu Aqleh.

Vibrant in the storms of black powder rains.

Black stones.

Red shrines.

Coral noctilucence.

Yuri

Children in Ukraine and Fukushima

Are sick with thyroid cancer,

More than the usual two in a million.

She cries remembering that day a decade ago,

When doctors tell her you’ll die at 23 without surgery,

“I was wearing a new dress and new sandals.”

ASYLUM A poem by Yuri Kageyama

ASYLUM

A poem by Yuri Kageyama Feb. 26, 2022

She barely remembers the rape

Monsters grow only in drugless sleep

She is well taken care of

Air raid on Tokyo

Baghdad

Dresden

Ukraine

— —

She no longer draws but

Cuts papers of color

Into ferns and flowers

— — —

Hunger in Biafra

A scream in Vietnam

Van Gogh’s ear

The Apology _ A poem by Yuri Kageyama

The Apology
_ A poem by Yuri Kageyama

My voice screaming banzai
Ten thousand years banzai
Dying in glee as the divine devil wind
For the crane god whose voice I heard too late

My hand piercing your baby
A glob of meat with my bayonet
Raping girls in the name of comfort
Burning a city like a Sherman deranged

My heart that worships history
To win status as an honorary white
Bleeding streaks from a fluttering red sun
Despising those of the same yellow skin

My voice
My hand
My heart

My voice will never speak that way again
My hand will never act that way again
My heart will never feel that way again
No apology is enough but I promise
And I apologize

KAMIKAZE A POEM BY YURI KAGEYAMA

KAMIKAZE
A poem by Yuri Kageyama
with
Yuuichiro Ishii on Guitar

Okaasan
Boku wa ashita shutsugeki shimasu.
I take off on my mission tomorrow.
I am so sorry I have not been a good son, leaving you so soon.
It’s such a peaceful evening _ so quiet I can almost hear the fireflies glowing.
I don’t know why, but I am filled with happiness, well, maybe not happiness, since I must say goodbye.
But this feeling fills my heart, all the way to the top of my pilot helmet, like a stretching sky without a single cloud.
I will fly my Zero, and fly and fly.
Into that perfect rainbow circle of hope.

a-5190
photo by Eba Chan

KAMIKAZE AND FUKUSHIMA (A MOTHER SPEAKS)

ebaSF

KAMIKAZE AND FUKUSHIMA (A Mother Speaks)
Poetry by Yuri Kageyama
Music and Guitar by Hide Asada
at What the Dickens in Tokyo SUN July 5, 2015.

The Kamikaze _ A Poem by Yuri Kageyama

KAMIKAZE
A poem by Yuri Kageyama

Okaasan
Boku wa ashita shutsugeki shimasu.
I take off on my mission tomorrow.
I am so sorry I have not been a good son, leaving you so soon.
It’s such a peaceful evening _ so quiet I can almost hear the fireflies glowing.
I don’t know why, but I am filled with happiness, well, maybe not happiness, since I must say goodbye.
But this feeling fills my heart, all the way to the top of my pilot helmet, like a stretching sky without a single cloud.
I will fly my Zero, and fly and fly.
Into that perfect rainbow circle of hope.

NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA: A MOTHER SPEAKS
A poem by Yuri Kageyama

Please listen and tell the world.
How our children in Fukushima are getting thyroid cancer, one by one.
My daughter is one of them.
Pediatric thyroid cancer is rare.
The chance for getting it is under one in a million.
One in a million.
But in Fukushima, it’s 112 out of 380,000 children tested, and the tally is growing.
This is Fukushima after Three-Eleven.
Beautiful Fukushima, where rice paddies stretch between lazy mountains.
Beautiful Fukushima, where snow falls everywhere like fluffy rice.
Beautiful Fukushima, where, when spring finally comes, cherry trees explode in pink chiffon.
But this is Fukushima after Three-Eleven.
No other place in Japan is like that.
No other place in the world is like that _ except for the Ukraine and Belarus.
But they say these cases are turning up because we are looking so much harder, testing all the children in Fukushima.
The authorities say they are playing it safe.
When no one really feels safe
After Three-Eleven in Fukushima.
My little girl got surgery and so her tumor was removed.
And the doctor told me: Aren’t you so lucky?
Aren’t you so lucky we did those tests to save your child?
If we hadn’t, the cancer might not have been found.
But I don’t feel lucky.
I don’t feel lucky at all.

HIROSHIMA a poem by Yuri Kageyama read with Kaoru Watanabe

HIROSHIMA

A poem by Yuri Kageyama
A reading by Yuri Kageyama
With Kaoru Watanabe of Kodo on fue flute, taiko drum and other percussion.
Recorded at Kaoru Watanabe Taiko Studio in Brooklyn New York
For a memorial for poet, publisher and educator Virgina Scott at Lehman College, the Bronx, New York
September 20, 2014.

they wander like a whisper
still
over this city
blending with the sea breeze
the soft light
the cracks of scars
not just one ghost or two
but tens of thousands
who all looked up and saw a flash
turning people into dead globs of charcoal;
there are no photos from that day,
they wander, crawling, naked, moaning,
flesh hanging like tatters;
they’re asking that question,
we did nothing wrong
why oh why
when all it can do is
kill kill kill kill
nothing else
turning skin eyeballs laughter head back legs
into a keloid of hell,
but no one really answers.

IMG_3244 kaoru

Rock Legend Morgan Fisher plays with the Yuricane

Rock legend Morgan Fisher (Mott the Hoople, Dead Kennedys, Queen) plays with the Yuricane band on my poem “Hiroshima” at a benefit for Fukushima children at Infinity Books SUN April 20, 2014. Hirokazu Suyama on tablas, Hiroshi Tokieda on bass and Yuuichiro Ishii on guitar. This was the first time Morgan Fisher ever played with us, and we hope there will be many more. Film by Hirokazu Suyama.

HIROSHIMA
A poem by Yuri Kageyama

they wander like a whisper
still
over this city
blending with the sea breeze
the soft light
the cracks of scars
not just one ghost or two
but tens of thousands
who all looked up and saw a flash
turning people into dead globs of charcoal;
there are no photos from that day,
they wander, crawling, naked, moaning,
flesh hanging like tatters;
they’re asking that question,
we did nothing wrong
why oh why
when all it can do is
kill kill kill kill
nothing else
turning skin eyeballs laughter head back legs
into a keloid of hell,
but no one really answers.

And here is that night’s version of our “Fukushima,” my hiphop poem, after which we got an encore from the audience and we did “Hiroshima.”
Hirokazu Suyama on tablas, Hiroshi Tokieda on bass and Yuuichiro Ishii on guitar. Film by Hirokazu Suyama.

FUKUSHIMA
A poem 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.

Fukushima
Fukushima
Fukushima

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.

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

Fukushima
Fukushima
Fukushima

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

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

HIROSHIMA _ a poem by Yuri Kageyama

hiroshima
photo by Yuri Kageyama

HIROSHIMA
a poem by Yuri Kageyama and the Yuricane

Hirokazu Suyama on drums, Hiroshi Tokieda on bass and Yuuichiro Ishii on guitar.
Film by Adam Lewis.
At the Japan Writers Conference in Okinawa Nov. 2, 2013.

they wander like a whisper
still
over this city
blending with the sea breeze
the soft light
the cracks of scars
not just one ghost or two
but tens of thousands
who all looked up and saw a flash
turning people into dead globs of charcoal;
there are no photos from that day,
they wander, crawling, naked, moaning,
flesh hanging like tatters;
they’re asking that question,
we did nothing wrong
why oh why
when all it can do is
kill kill kill kill
nothing else
turning skin eyeballs laughter head back legs
into a keloid of hell,
but no one really answers.