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.

Loving Younger Men _ a poem by Yuri Kageyama in collaboration with Yui Shikakura on shamisen and song

“Loving Younger Men,” a poem written by Yuri Kageyama, read by Yuri Kageyama with Yui Shikakura on shamisen and singing at Bar Gari Gari in Tokyo at a Drunk Poets See God gathering Dec. 22, 2017. Her song is traditional Japanese “kudoki,” in which a woman talks about being abandoned by her lover, a genre that is sad but also an erotic celebration.
“Loving Younger Men” was first published in BEYOND RICE, A BROADSIDE SERIES, Mango Publications and NOLO Press, 1979.
Loving Younger Men
a poem by Yuri Kageyama
Only the bodies of young men aroused her; the pure innocence in their wide dark eyes, the wild still animal strength in their muscles, the smoothness of their skin, so shiny, stretched out over their boy-like shoulders, flat stomachs, abdominals rippling gently, their thick thighs that could thrust forever into the night, their soft moist lips, where their tonges, so delicious, dwelt, which darted against, into her vagina, making her moan with joy, forgetting everything, which felt so strong against her own tongue at one moment, yet another, seemed to melt like caramel in the back of her throat, their dry fingers, that touched her in the most unexpected and expecting spots, their penises, half-covered by their black curls, seemed smaller, less developed, less threatening, yet as their shoulders strangely widened when they held her, their penises filled her, pointed against her deepest uterine insides, hurting her with a pleasurable pain, as though she could sense with her hand, their movements from outside her belly. Her father beat her as a girl. She ran from him, crying, please don’t hit me! please don’t hit me! No, rather she stood defiant, silent, silent tears drunk down her chest, till he, in anger or fear, slapped her again and again, once so hard she was swung across the room, once on her left ear so that she could not hear for three weeks. She frequented bars, searching for young men who desired her. She sat alone drinking. She preferred the pretty effeminate types _ perfectly featured, a Michelangelo creation, island faces with coral eyes, faces of unknown tribal child-princes. To escape her family, she eloped at sixteen, with an alchoholic. who tortured her every night, binding her with ropes, sticking his penis into her mouth until she choked, hitting her face into bruises, kicking her in the stomach, aborting her child, his child. The young boys’ heads, she would hold, after orgasm, rocking them in her arms. She would kiss the side of their tanned necks, breathe in the ocean scent of their hair, lick their ear lobes and inside their ears. When they fell asleep, sprawled like a puppy upon her sheets, their mouths open, she would lie awake watching, watching, watching, admiring their bodies, how so aesthetically formed, balanced, textured. What she enjoyed the most was their fondling her breasts, suckling, massaging the flesh, flicking the tongue against the nipple, biting, sucking till her nipples were red-hot for days. She could come just by this, without penetration. When she is alone, she cries. In the dark, she reaches upwards, into the air, grabbing nothing.

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

SHARING ONLINE A REVIEW OF MY BOOK FOUND ONLINE

Kyoto Review cover

Kyoto Review cover

The writer Yo Nakayama has also translated my poems.
I so liked his versions I’ve read them with my poems.
Mr. Nakayama is an academic and a poet, too, and he has a flock of long hair and reading glasses maybe, and he is wise and soft and brave.
Or so I imagine, as although I maybe have met him, I can’t really remember.
I vaguely remember reading this review when I was younger, and frankly I didn’t really think much of it.
I was too busy dealing with things that went with trying to survive and being creative I did not really appreciate how this older poet was being supportive and so poignant.
And so poetic.
I am older now and do.
Nakayama died in 1997, it says online.
But his writing lives on.
Here, this person I know through Facebook, of all ways, has shared in a message this precious, kindhearted review of my work.
I am grateful, of course, and feel blessed.
But I also feel a sense of vindication about being a poet _ that we are all connected in doing the right, eternal thing by being poets.
Please read the review.
I’ve also updated my Review section on my site with this addition,
Sorry this is belated but thank you, Mr. Nakayama, truly from the poet’s heart:

Saying it her own way
a book review by Yo Nakayama in Kyoto Review, 22, Spring 1989
of “Peeling” by Yuri Kageyama, I. Reed Books, Berkeley, CA

New and important. Yuri Kageyama was born in Japan, but grew up in American culture.
Her work as contrasted with those of previous generations is very articulate and beautiful.
Should you take up this, her collection of poetry, you’ll find 32 exciting poems under five different sections.
In the first section she remembers time spent with her mother. Yuri seems to know where she is from, as here in a poem in which she describes her mother’s profile.

Her face from the side
the cheekbones distinct
is an Egyptian profile sculpture
an erotic Utamaro ukiyoe

and her mother’s lessons:

As soon as I would awake some chilly morning, she would
tell me to go smell the daphne bushes leading to our door.
I still remember their fresh fruitlike pungence

As Yuri grows older, she becomes uncomfortable with her mother and begins to hate her and her culture, which is alien to the American scene.

I dread your touch
when you return
that melts the hurt and vengeance
of wishing
to strangle you

Yuri feels almost physically hurt when she thinks of it. This is one of the characteristics your easily notice in her poetry. She is a physical writer, by which I mean that Yuri tries to write out of her own physical senses, especially when she talks about her involvement with music. In a short poem, “Music Makes Love to Me,” she confesses, “Music makes love to me everyday/ spilling cooled cucumber seeds/ wet flat disks to the tongue/ tickling/ shooting them with exalta-jaculation into my ear//” or in the section “Thought Speak,” she conveys her inner sensations as she listens to music:

music
is
the frantic flap of love doves taking dawn pre-cognizing flight
outside our window
music
is
the silence
between/your kisses

Or she describes her inner world as follows:

eyes closed
forsaken bamboo forest of the mind
hands groping
burrowing darkness like the earth
reaching out
shaking blood
muted and alone

As a young Japanese woman living in America, Yuri is constantly exposed to the situation that she has to say what she has to say: she, however, says it her own way, and I like it very much.
“A Categorical Analysis of the Asian Male or the Guide to Safe and Sane Living for the Asian Female” is a very funny piece in which she says there are four types: the Street Dude or “Lumberjack,” the Straight Dude or “Stereotype,” the Out There Dude or “Bum,” and finally the type four she calls the Ideal Dude, but this is the “Obake,” or the ghost, that is, she says “the perfect man who does not exist.” Once, Filipino writer Carlos Bulosan wrote that in America being a Filipino is a crime. And Yuri is, she says, “tired of the laundry men/ and the dirty restaurant cooks (cuz) they don’t have the powers.”

it’s okay
you see only the race in me
….
It’s okay
cuz, white man,
you have
whiteness
to give

The best part of the book is, however, that which deals with her physical intimacy with her lovers and her own baby. She could have written a categorical analysis of a male partner or the guide to safe and safe mating for a serious woman as well. Only after she has a baby of her own, she begins to realize the importance of the “Strings/Himo,” which she once wanted so badly to break out and couldn’t. Her reflection on the total life: “Having Babies Versus Having Sex” is the final poem in this book. When she sees her man rocking the baby, and looks into Isaku’s eyes and cries with him, she reaches her conclusion: this is the culmination of her womanhood.

Your eyes
Are my eyes
That see and see what I have seen
They can’t ever understand
The love of a Japanese woman
Who waits
Pale powdered hands
Eyes downcast night pools of wetness
Fifteen years for her samurai lover
And when he comes back

Nothing’s changed
Nothing’s changed

These poems could never have been written by anyone but a poetess who has gone through the labor Mother Nature imposes upon the one who creates. If not for Yuri’s sensitivity and capability, this book wouldn’t have been born.

My songwriting _ “Oh My Buddha” and “I Will Bleed”

Two of my songs in this new album

my songwriting

“Oh My Buddha” and “I Will Bleed,” two songs I co-wrote with Hiroshi Tokieda and Tea, are part of this great album that just came out (October 2017).
“Oh My Buddha” (audio of an earlier reading in the link) is an Asian take on what we often say: “Oh My God,” something that Toshinori Kondo pointed out some time back as what we should be saying as Asians.
And so I imagined what it would have been like to have been married to a great man like Buddha.
It might have not been as wonderful as it might seem.
Tea and I were talking about how fun it would be to write a pop song that was inspired by an Indian theme.
And so this is what we did.
I even rap or read my poem in the recording _ woooh la la !!

OH MY BUDDHA
_ a song about faith, love and other things
By Yuri Kageyama

REPEATING THEME:
My name is Yasodhara
Wife of Buddha
Mother of Rahula
I ride a white elephant
I am Siddharta’s woman

VERSE 1
You took off to find Nirvana
Became a hero for the poor
You just took off one sunny day
And found enlightenment
While I’m stuck in the kitchen
Barefoot and pregnant, alone

(Repeat theme)

VERSE 2
You’ve started a religion
See statues in your likeness
Of gold and bronze and wood
Sitting prim on that lotus
While I’m having your babies
Feeding them, aborting them, alone

(Repeat theme)

VERSE 3
You remember I cooked you breakfast?
So you could go and contemplate
Sitting 49 days under the Bodhi tree
To discover, sacrifice, meditate?
While I’m crying in my misery
Breathing my prayers, alone

(Repeat theme)

REFRAIN
You’re a superstar
I’m a nobody
You live in history
I die unknown
When I awoke
There was no sign of you
When I awoke
There was no sign of you
My universe went up in smoke
My universe went up in smoke
Oh, my Buddha
Oh, my Buddha

I am planning a music video, and I have asked Toshinori “Toshichael” Tani to come up with choreography.
He will dance in the video, which I will film.

“I Will Bleed,” to me, evokes a lot of things _ abortion, miscarriage, birth, heartbeat, love, death.
Love is such a powerful force it is both horrible and awful.
My poem is about that horror, inspired by the double suicides of Chikamatsu, which highlight how the puppets, in death, are able to transcend how miserable, human and lowly they were before that moment of death.
That beauty to me is about the kind of love that crosses boundaries, overcoming racism and other small, discriminatory, confining preconceptions.
It speaks of the potential of our human condition.
I wrote the poem for Hiroshi and Tea.
But it is a poem for all lovers, and the hope love will overcome hate around the world, through the purification of our bleeding.

Old Wounds _ a poem by Yuri Kageyama

OLD WOUNDS
_ a poem by Yuri Kageyama

the pain throbs
gnarled stuck intestines
wobbly knobs of scars inside
tracing where the knife slashed
to deliver your son
so many years ago
the bleeding has healed

betrayal, forgiven but not forgotten,
sealed lips of hushed kisses,
the chasm of hurt
tugging, tearing at your chest,
has turned into heartbeats
fading with age
just going

da-thump da-thump da-thump
barely murmurs
whispers of skin
you were young then
and had dreams,
not knowing other things,
unlike honor,

can elude,
again, and again,
for skin color, sex, age,
growing used to anonymity
outgrowing disappointment
but old wounds
they hurt like new wounds

DECONTAMINATION GHOSTS _ a performance poem by Yuri Kageyama (excerpt from “NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA: Meditation on an Under-Reported Catastrophe by a Poet”

Mounds of bags in Fukushima
Mounds of bags called “flexible containers,” or “fle-con,” in Fukushima. Photo by Yuri Kageyama.

DECONTAMINATION GHOSTS a performance poem by Yuri Kageyama an excerpt from “NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA: Meditation on an Under-Reported Catastrophe by a Poet” being performed at Z Space in San Francisco July 8-9, 2017. Written by Yuri Kageyama. Directed by Carla Blank. Performed by Takemi Kitamura, Monisha Shiva and Shigeko Sara Suga with Music by Melvin Gibbs, Isaku Kageyama and Kouzan Kikuchi. Lighting by Blu. Film by Yoshiaki Tago.

(with video and Drum and Fue, as in Kabuki Ghost scenes)

(In English speak normally, quickly)
Flexible Container
(Chant very slowly in Japanese, both voices together)
Fooh reh kooh she boo rew
Kon tay nah
Fooh reh kooh she boo rew
Kon tay nah
Fooh reh kooh she boo rew
Kon tay nah

Decontamination Efforts in Fukushima. Photo by Yuri Kageyama.
Decontamination Efforts in Fukushima. Photo by Yuri Kageyama.

Flexible Container
Foo reh kon
Foo reh kon
Foo reh kon
(One voice starts counting slowly and keeps counting slowly in Japanese. Overlay as the other voice starts, with the slow mechanical Japanese chant)
Hitotsu Futatsu Mittsu Yottsu Itsutsu Muttsu Nanatsu ….
Foo reh kon
Foo reh kon
Foo reh kon
Fooh reh kooh she boo rew
Fooh reh kooh she boo rew
Fooh reh kooh she boo rew
Kon tay nah
Kon tay nah
Kon tay nah
(fade out)

Note to readers: The Japanese government is backing expensive projects for giant shovels to scrape off topsoil in a stretch of land as big as the state of Massachusetts, and storing them in plastic bags, mounds and mounds of them _ 13 million flexible containers by the official count _ so areas in Fukushima can be declared safe enough for people to come back and live. This wasn’t attempted in Chernobyl, or any place in the world. The government is ending aid in March for those who evacuated from the areas being declared safe after decontamination. Before the 2011 nuclear accident, the government used to set the safe limit for radiation exposure at about 1 millisievert a year. But these days health experts are saying the definitive link with cancer is detected scientifically at 100 millisieverts a year or higher, and so Fukushima people at most will be exposed to far less at under 20 millisieverts, which, they say, would be safe.

Decontamination efforts in Fukushima
Decontamination efforts in Fukushima. Photo by Yuri Kageyama.

HAIKU FOR SAGIMUSUME _ a poem by Yuri Kageyama

Heron in a Tokyo Park

Heron in a Tokyo Park

HAIKU FOR SAGIMUSUME
A poem by Yuri Kageyama

Dance from white to red
A ghostly bride mirrored in snow
Killed by love, she still lives

I saw Kikunosuke perform the Kabuki dance “Heron Maiden.”
I’ve seen the dance by Tamasaburo many times, but this version was special, perhaps because his subdued though utterly elegant interpretation so perfectly highlighted the beauty of the story and the music, or perhaps just because a garden near where I live, Hamarikyu, has herons.
Now, I know they are so still, perched on a rock with their crooked necks, as though they know but don’t care they are forming a perfect picture for an artist, so intensely focused, ruthless in their silence and stillness.
What a bird it is _ and what an image, forlorn and fantastic at once, to depict the love of a Japanese woman.
It is not necessary to have seen herons every day or be a Japanese woman to appreciate this gorgeous theater piece.
But it helps.
And I thank the god of poetry for giving me the gift that allows me to witness how this great Japanese dance and the humble dignity of the heron can transcend the finitude and pettiness of society.

Heron in a Tokyo Garden.

Heron in a Tokyo Garden.

THE MANY LIVES OF YURI KAGEYAMA _ THE POET IN ME AND THE JOURNALIST IN ME

I get such a nice write-up by Tim Hornyak in No. 1 Shimbun, the publication of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo, I can’t believe it is really about me.
It’s called The Many Lives of Yuri Kageyama.
And it brings together the sides of me I usually like to keep separate _ the poet in me and the journalist in me.

“The prose is unvarnished, unflinchingly personal and adroit in quickly juggling themes of child abuse, racism and sexuality while maintaining a narrative flow,” he writes.

“Kageyama’s poems have addressed stereotypes about race and gender roles. They’re made even more powerful when Kageyama recites them with collaborators such as Ghanaian percussionist Winchester Nii Tete on African drums and Keiji Kubo on didgeridoo. Against the backdrop of a traditional Noh stage, it’s a heady, globalized mix of words and music.”

Thanks to Tim. Thanks to all the musicians who have helped my poetry. Thanks to the poets, the literary publishers, the songwriters, the photographers, the filmmakers. Thanks to all the people of Fukushima who have shared their stories with me. Thanks, above all, to all the honorable, creative and dedicated colleagues I have at The Associated Press.

GIFTS FROM THE DEAD a poem by Yuri Kageyama

GIFTS FROM THE DEAD
a poem by Yuri Kageyama

Graves are always There
for those Who are still
Alive to Forgive
Accept Reconcile.
They don’t Speak Back.
They don’t expect much
because
they are ready
to be Forgotten
if not
really already
Forgotten.
So when You
Go There, You
will Be Forgiven:
Grave are Gifts
from the Dead
for the Living.

At a temple in Toyokawa, Aichi Prefecture, Japan. Photo by Yuri Kageyama.

At a temple in Toyokawa, Aichi Prefecture, Japan. Photo by Yuri Kageyama.