Saturday, May 17, 2008


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.


Anonymous said...

Hi Yuri!
It's really great to get your perspective on the cultural shifts happening in Japan. I had read about the "freeters" but you paint a different picture. It's probably much more accurate since you are Japanese. I just returned from Las Vegas. Went there to see the Cirque de Soleil Beatles Love Show. It was fantastic and the part I liked the best was seeing the performers dressed as hippies. Reminded me so much of my days in SF in the 60's before I got caught up in the corporate world. The final song in the show was--"All You Need is Love" The "freeters" are bringing us back in balance.

Yuri Kageyama said...

That California hippie perspective does have a message that is relevant today.
Maybe it's just a massive Boomer perspective on things today, but "All You Need is Love" sure beats hatred.