Try Saying You're Alive!: Kazuki Tomokawa in His Own Words, translated by Daniel Joseph, intro by Damon Krukowski / ISBN 9781953691033 / 200-page paperback from Blank Forms
A vivid account of life on the margins and Tokyo’s 1970s underground culture from a Japanese folk legend
Tokyo in the 1970s was a magnet for young musicians, poets and painters. Among them was Kazuki Tomokawa, a prolific singer-songwriter from Japan’s northern provinces, whose guttural vocals and incisive lyrics earned him the unofficial title of “screaming philosopher.”
The stories in this memoir―originally published in 2015 in Japan and now appearing as the first English translation of Tomokawa’s writing―are told with a rambler’s wit and wisdom, bringing together his memorable reflections on six decades of day labor, drinking, gambling, acting, singing and writing. Figures such as Kan Mikami, Nobuyoshi Araki and Shūji Terayama drift through this down-and-out vagabond’s memoir, which observes the turbulence of postwar countercultures and the explosion of Tokyo’s underground film and music scenes.
Kazuki Tomokawa (born 1950) is a prolific singer-songwriter from Hachiryū Village (now the town of Mitane) in the Akita Prefecture area of northern Japan. Since his debut in 1974, he has released more than 30 albums. He is additionally known as a poet, painter, keirin enthusiast and inimitable drinker. The 2010 documentary about his life, La Faute des Fleurs, won the Sound & Vision award at the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival, and that same year saw the Japanese release of the book Dreams Die Vigorously Day by Day, a collection of his lyrics spanning 40 years. His most recent albums are Vengeance Bourbon (2014) and Gleaming Crayon (2016), both on the Modest Launch label.
Damon Krukowski is a musician and writer based in Cambridge, MA. His most recent book is Ways of Hearing (MIT Press, 2019) and his latest album is Damon & Naomi’s A Sky Record (20|20|20, 2021).
Daniel Joseph is a translator, editor and musician. He holds a master’s degree from Harvard University in medieval Japanese literature, and recently contributed translations to Terminal Boredom (Verso, 2021), a collection of stories by science fiction pioneer Izumi Suzuki.