Saturday, May 31, 2008

For women only

For women only

rubbing shoulders,
we rattle silently over the tracks
blouses, tucked bags, even powdered chins,
up too close to really see;
we sense only relief
we smell no greasy beards or sweaty suits or
beer breath of the morning after _
this morning commuter train
"josei senyo sha"
for women only,
introduced to protect the gentle sex
from those groping dark hands
preying prying fingers, stroking thigh,
poking panties,
pretending to be penises
right in public transport,
"josei senyo sha"
this is the kindness of Japanese society:
let chikan go unchecked,
forgiven for their mischief,
and give us, women, this special spot
farthest from the action
farthest from the ticket gates
the first car up front,
and the most dangerous
if we crash

Friday, May 30, 2008

Jounetsu wo Torimodosou

The song lyric version (as opposed to the poetic version)
translated into English
which will be performed at TOKYO FLOWER CHILDREN at the Pink Cow SUN June 8, 2008:

Jounetsu wo Torimodosou/We Remember Soul
By Teruyuki Kawabata of CigaretteSheWas

Without a word, don’t look back,
We are moving on;
Yes, we know these are things
That they will understand.

Get it back in our hearts
Like a sunset in our soul
And tonight, get it back,
dalalalilah, dalalalilah, dalalalilah X4

Forever tucked in my heart,
In this pocket of my soul,
Those days of tears and days of fears,
We’ll let them go untold.

Yes, we know we were young,
We aimed for way too high,
All we did in return
Was make our loved ones cry.

Get it back, let’s get it back,
In this pocket of my soul
We no longer need to cry
Cuz those days are gone away.

dalalalilah, dalalalilah, dalalalilah X4

Take a look, the rain is gone,
We can see the sky,
There’s no need to fit in
Or try too hard to get by.

Get it back, let’s get it back
In this pocket of my soul
We no longer need to cry
Cuz those days are gone away.

We don’t need to cry cuz those days are gone away.
We don’t need to cry cuz those days are gone away.

Amanojaku concert

Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Japanese Immigartion to Brazil
AMANOJAKU TAIKO DRUMMERS with Kyosuke Suzuki (yokobue flute) and Katsunari Sawada (shamisen)
Wed., August 13, 2008 19:00 (Doors open at 18:30)
Thu., August 14, 2008 14:00 (Doors open at 13:30)
Nerima Bunka Center
TEL: 03-3993-3311
Ticket Prices: Advance Tickets: JPY 4000  
Door Tickets: JPY 4500
All seats are non-reserved
Ticket Release Date: June 5, 2008
Ticket Sales: Ticket Pia -  P-Code: 293-971
TEL: 0570-02-9999
Contact: Amanojaku -
TEL: 03-3904-1745 FAX: 03-3904-9434

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Together for a Century 2

CASE CLOSED: Evidence of Amanojaku influence among Japanese Brazilian youngsters doing a great rendition of "Kenka Yatai," by Yoichi Watanabe, Amanojaku leader, composer and master drummer.
Together for a century and building for the next century _ look at that little kid on the right, a future taiko star!!

Together for a Century: AMANOJAKU Taiko in Brazil

One Thousand Brazilians Drum up a Celebration
The 100th Year Anniversary of Japanese Immigration to Brazil

(TOKYO) _ The celebration of the 100th year anniversary of Japanese immigration to Brazil will be coming to Sao Paulo's samba venue Skol Arena Anhembi with an unmistakable blast in a June 21 taiko drumming performance by Amanojaku, a Tokyo-based group now on their sixth visit to the country.

Amanojaku blends an innovative, modern sound that is all Tokyo with "hogaku" sounds including Kagura festival music and Edo-style Sukeroku taiko, to create fascinating Japanese contemporary percussion music.

Amanojaku has performed in the U.S., Great Britan, Thailand and other nations. But in recent years, much of their ambassadorial work has focused on Brazil, the nation with the biggest overseas Japanese community in the world.

The drummers for the Sao Paulo event are mostly Japanese-Brazilians in their teens and 20s. Amanojaku drummers have been working closely with the youngsters, delivering the message that taiko is a way to connect with Japanese roots and to revel hiphop-style in cultural pride.

It's a surprising ironic twist of rediscovery for Japan, a nation where an idolization of the West has many _ young and old _ forgetting their own legacy, or maybe just taking it for granted.

The Japanese Brazilan youngsters will perform the tune, fittingly called “Kizuna (Bond),” co-composed by Amanojaku leader Yoichi Watanabe _ a spectacular rendition by 1,000-drummers-strong lined up along the 500-meter long venue.

“Playing taiko requires more than just technique,” says Mr. Watanabe.

Learning the value of hard work, perseverance and teamwork is all part of taiko, he says.

The event is a moving and joyous testament to the success story of Japanese-Brazilians, who are now an integral part of a dynamic and booming Brazil.

For photos, video clips and interviews in Japan and Brazil, please e-mail Isaku Kageyama at
or call Amanojaku at 81-3-3904-1745 (for calls from Japan: 03-3904-1745).


Amanojaku Taiko Concert – Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Japanese Immigartion to Brazil
Personnel: Amanojaku, Kyosuke Suzuki (yokobue flute), Katsunari Sawada (shamisen)
Date and Time: August 13, 2008 Wednesday at 19:00 (Doors open at 18:30) and August 14, 2008 Thursday at 14:00 (Doors open at 13:30)
Place: Nerima Bunka Center TEL: 03-3993-3311
Ticket Prices: Advance Tickets: JPY 4000  Door Tickets: JPY 4500 All seats are non-reserved
Ticket Release Date: June 5, 2008
Ticket Sales: Ticket Pia -  P-Code: 293-971
TEL: 0570-02-9999
Contact: Amanojaku -
TEL: 03-3904-1745 FAX: 03-3904-9434
Sponsors: Asano Taiko


Ecchu Oshima Daiko 20th Anniversary Concert
Date and Time: June 15, 2008 at 14:00
Place: Kosugi Bunka Hall “Rapport”
Contact: Hechima Sangyo TEL 0766-52-5454

100th Anniversary of Japanese Immigration to Brazil Celebrations
Date: June 21, 2008
Place: SKOL ARENA ANHEMBI (Sao Paulo, Brazil)
Contact: Associacao Brasileira de Taiko TEL +55-11-3341-1077

12th Nippon Taiko Festival
Date and Time: July 13, 2008 at 12:30 (Doors open at 12:00)
Place: Sapporo Education and Culture Hall
Ticket Prices: Advance Tickets JPY 2500, Door Tickets JPY 3000 (All seats are non-reserved)
Ticket Sales: Ticket Pia TEL 0570-02-9999+Pコード(290-857)
Contact: Nippon Taiko Foundation TEL 03-6229-5577

Kan Nihon-kai Taiko Festival
Date and Time: July 27, 2008 at 18:00 (Doors open at 17:00)
Place: Ohama Seashore Stage
Ticket Prices: Advance Tickets JPY 2000, Door Tickets 2500
Contact: Kan Nihon-kai Taiko Festival Organization Office TEL 0234-26-0381

3rd Japan Taiko Festival
Date and Time: August 3, 2008 at 18:30
Place: Kurashiki TIVOLI Park “Plaenen Stage”
Ticket Prices: Please purchase an admission ticket to TIVOLI Park
Contact: Kurashi TIVOLI Park Information Center TEL 086-434-1111

Search for "amanojaku" on iTunes Music Store, Napster,, and other online music distributors.

People Who Know Pain

Recorded with Yumi Miyagishima on violin at Music Man studio in Tokyo, May 24, 2008.
Part of the TOKYO FLOWER CHILDREN poetry readings with music.
Yumi Miyagishima, or Shima, is one of my favorite Tokyo musicians and one of my favorite people.
I wrote this poem inspired by the kind of things she talks about because she is so filled with a free spirit, the sense of justice, the love for music _ and a total disregard for practicality, status, "common sense" and material wealth that makes her really delightful.
It is difficult living in this vicious, greedy and insane world that Tokyo has become _ especially for a Japanese woman.
Tokyo on the surface looks like any big modern city.
You'd think women will get equal treament.
Think again.
Women are being treated like second, third, class citizens, and live and work fighting for their jobs, safety, self-respect, right to be creative as though this is right in the Third World.
It makes it even sadder that all women like Shima want is genuine love.
And they must seek it from men, the very pepetrators, for the most part, of the discrimination, cruelty and degradation that hurt and brutalize women.
Women who want nothing more than the fulfillment of their simple dreams are vulnerable.
But Shima grows stronger day by day, year by year.
Here she is, still playing music in Tokyo, and she even has a nice boyfriend:

People Who Know Pain

The World is divided bet-
Ween two kinds of People
The Winners and the Losers
The Takers and the Givers
The Famous and the Forgotten
The Loved and the Unloved _
Those who don't care and

People who know Pain
People who know Pain

when your tongue rolls, the
tips of my nipples, piercing
knife of betrayal

Vincent Van Gogh
John Coltrane
Garcia Marquez
Toulouse Lautrec
Billie Holliday
Richard Wright
Kenji Miyazawa

People who know Pain
People who know Pain

baby foxes dance,
leaving paw marks in the snow,
fairy tale of joy

Hermit, victim,
Outcast, untouched,
They travel faceless
Shadows on the subway
Mute, unconnected,
Unknowing of their own Pain

People who know Pain
People who know Pain

bitter memories grow
a cancer pomegranate
bleeding and rotting

I'd rather shelter that Pain alone
A powerless nobody,
Ashamed, shunned,
Stench of insignificance,
Laughing the idiot's laugh,
Running forgotten errands,
Dying before living like other

People who know Pain
People who know Pain

a zillion light years
the planet pulsates timeless
soundless universe

I'd never be that superior someone who
Conquers, fornicates, lynches,
Deposits paychecks, plans careers,
Forms opinions, writes reviews,
Weighs pros and cons, wins awards,
Attends receptions, discriminates,
Never knowing, shrugging off, how painful

People's Pain can be
People's Pain can be

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Free overtime

An interesting story I did today is about how Toyota will start paying workers for what had previously been free overtime.
Called QC Circle, they are meetings that Toyota auto workers attend to talk about how they can improve production methods.
The issue is significant because "kaizen," efficiency ideas from workers on the line and empowering workers, are all part of the Toyota Way.
Kaizen is crucial to the legendary manufacturing philosophy that make up the automaker's sterling image.
But the story of the individual worker sometimes can be far more tragic.
Last year, the Nagoya District Court ruled in a lawsuit filed by the widow that the death of a 30-year-old Toyota employee was work-related, or karoshi _ death from overwork.
I looked at the court documents, and the glimpse they offered into this man's life _ and death _ was heart-breaking.
He was doing more than 100 hours of overtime, sometimes working weekdays and holidays.
He was stressed out because his job was checking the car body for any defects, and pressures were high to catch them all.
This man had two young children, and in the beginning he was trying to also be the good father, and was giving them baths and playing with them.
Toward the end of his life, he no longer had the energy to do that, the court documents say, quoting his wife.
He was the team leader of one of these QC Circles, and the court ruled that such so-called voluntary work was part of the work (yes, real work) that contributed to his death.
One day, as he was filling in the records for defects, he collapsed from his chair.
He was rushed to the hospital but later died of heart failure.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Remembering Soul

One of the pieces we will do in TOKYO FLOWER CHILDREN at Tokyo's Pink Cow Sunday, June 8, is "Jounetsu wo Torimodosou."
Teruyuki Kawabata, leader of Tokyo indies band CigaretteSheWas, wrote the lyrics and music for the tune, which is on the soundtrack for a just released movie "Chiisana Koi no Monogatari (A Little Love Story)," from Kurosawa Studios.
I translated the lyrics. It's harder than you may think because "jounetsu" literally translates as "passion."
This is what I ended up doing:

Remembering Soul

we leave without saying a word
people will understand

yesterday’s sunset burns in our memory
but tonight we remember soul

forever tucked in that pocket of our soul
we will forget the days of tears and fears

we asked for too much and
made those close to us sad

remember, remember,
in this pocket of our soul
we don’t need to cry

dalalalilah, dalalalilah, dalalalilah

just look at the sun and the sky
we don’t need to fit in

remember, remember
in this pocket of our soul
we don’t need to cry

we don’t need to cry
we don’t need to cry

dalalalilah, dalalalilah, dalalilah


In the way Van Gogh thought he was Japanese and saw Old Edo in southern France, or the way Yayoi Kusama sees polka dots on faces, flowers and everything around her, I see Today's Tokyo as a flashback to the Hippie Days.
The differences are obvious.
But there are definite parallels between the questioning of the parents' values that the American LOVE generation did and what the Japanese youngsters are trying to do today.
They are rejecting the dreams for the "straight" life of joining big-name companies with their broken promises for lifelong employment and lifelong social status.
They are becoming "freeters" in more ways than one, looking for a freer lifestyle and a freer way of thinking, to accept not only themselves for who they are and also those around them in Japan _ and Asia and beyond.
The go-go modernization growth days are over _ just as the 1960s and '70s ended the American Dream.
There is a need for new answers, new values, a new identity, a new way of relating to the World.
The approach is peaceful _ just like Flower Power was so far away and so many years ago.
The Tokyo youngsters playing music, eating pasta and making love in the streets of Koenji, transport us magically to Berkeley and the Haight.
It's OK to drop out.
It's OK not to fit in.
It's OK to be weak.
It's OK to do something new.
It takes great courage to do this in a rigidly and cruelly conformist society like Japan.
Like flowers, they wilt in the wild.
But they sprout back with new life, carrying on a legacy of music and a frantic search for one-ness that live on through generations.
And so it was natural to call the personal project I began to collaborate with Tokyo musicians in readings of my poetry the TOKYO FLOWER CHILDREN.
We are all children.
No matter how old we grow, and no matter how we struggle to outgrow our childishness, we are all children.
Sure, being a poet is about remembering that eternal child in yourself.
It's also about remembering all the emotional and physical details of being a mother to your own child _ with all the miraculous joys to celebrate and anguishing sorrows to endure.
But through working with the Tokyo musicians, I learned a new lesson:
It's about being a poet for the next generation _ being a poet for all the children of the world, and knowing we are all children together.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Poetry and Music at the Pink Cow in Shibuya

Images from Photos by Memo Vasquez and hi_bana. Poster design by teruyuki kawabata.


Poet Yuri Kageyama presents
Teruyuki Kawabata (percussion),
Winchester Nii Tete (percussion),
Haruna Shimizu (kpanlogo), Keiji Kubo (didgeridoo),
Yumi Miyagishima (violin), Carl Freire (guitar).
The Pink Cow
Villa Moderuna B1 1-3-18 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku Tokyo 150-0002
DJ C.Geez (super soul music and dope true-school hip hop) 7 p.m.
Poetry and music 8 p.m. Free admission. Doors open 5 p.m.
Come early for dinner and the best seats!
Yummy Pink Cow food and drinks available to order at the bar!

Please celebrate the publication of Yuri Kageyama's story in
"POWWOW: American Short Fiction from Then to Now,"
edited by Ishmael Reed with Carla Blank (Da Capo Press).
Kageyama's works have appeared in many literary publications,
including "Y'Bird," "Greenfield Review," "On a Bed of Rice" and
"Stories We Hold Secret." She has a book of poems "Peeling."
The TOKYO FLOWER CHILDREN is a project Kageyama began last year to collaborate with Tokyo musicians in readings of her poetry.

Music maker, designer and self-proclaimed “shy and wagamama only child,” TERUYUKI KAWABATA leads Tokyo band CigaretteSheWas. The group has a CD album coming out this year.

Master percussionist WINCHESTER NII TETE hails from the honorable Addy-Amo-Boye families of drummers of Ghana. He plays with the Ghana national troupe, Sachi Hayasaka, Yoshio Harada and Takasitar.

HARUNA SHIMIZU of CigaretteSheWas fell in love with Ghana’s kpanlogo drum while she was in college. She has kept at it as freely as her spirit moves her.

KEIJI KUBO, who plays the didgeridoo and bass, is a linguist and student. He has total respect for aboriginal culture and all cultural integrity.

Violinist YUMI MIYAGISHIMA plays with CigaretteSheWas, Kyosuke Koizumi, The little witch and other groups.

CARL FREIRE is a Tokyo-based writer, translator and musician.

DEEJAY C. GEEZ from St.Louis has been a DJ since 1997 and living in Japan since 2006.

Friday, May 2, 2008

May 4 Reading of "an ode to the Caucasian male"

Carl Freire and I reading "an ode to the Caucasian male" at What the Dickens in Tokyo.

Published in "Peeling," by Yuri Kageyama, Berkeley, Calif.: I. Reed Press, 1988.
First published in "Women Talking, Women Listening."

an ode to the Caucasian male

white man
white man
with the silky blond hair
the emerald-blue eyes
and the cool million dollar grin
I won't mind being a Suzy Wong for you.
I'm tired of the laundry-men
and the dirty restaurant cooks
who can only smell of won ton soup
and talk about chowmein
they don't have the powers,
the style you do
seems you've got to be white
to really be a man
the long sleek legs
with the acid rock walk
in the hot tight pants
where the warm prick dwells
it's okay
you see only the race in me
just a stereotype, not my personality
it's okay
cuz, white man
you have
to give.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

SuperMom: A Poem for All Working Women With Children

Poetry by Yuri Kageyama.

SuperMom is the Mother in "The Terminator," fearless, sinewy, a mother like no other.
SuperMom risks her life to save her child.
SuperMom risks her life to save the world.
SuperMom _ the mother of all mothers.
SuperMom, Mother, Mama, Okaasan!
SuperMom is never found in kitchens barefoot and wears boots to march to work.
SuperMom doesn't make obento.
SuperMom shops at Ichi-Maru-Kyu.
SuperMom _ the mother of invention.
SuperMom, Mother, Mama, Okaasan!
SuperMom doesn't gossip with other moms but makes her own money, pays tuition and buys you sneakers.
SuperMom doesn't aspire to be on the cover of Nikkei Woman.
SuperMom just minds her keep.
SuperMom _ a motherfucking worker.
SuperMom, Mother, Mama, Okaasan!
SuperMom endures, her womb red and heavy and big and open, wrenching out babies and seaweed and stench.
SuperMom spurts out curdled milk like a fountain in the desert.
SuperMom is the origin of origins.
SuperMom _ the bottom of the sea.
SuperMom, Mother, Mama, Okaasan!
SuperMom teaches the primordial instinct of nurturing the species, the legacy of creation, the courage of the Artist.
SuperMom shows by example.
SuperMom leaves the message that nothing counts except Who You Are.
SuperMom _ the bottom of the earth.
SuperMom, Mother, Mama, Okaasan!