It took more than a decade for iidabii to reach a point at which he could create performances about the painful experiences he had living with his mother and her strict Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs.
Before morphing into a rapper and slam poet, he started street performances at the age of 15, around the time he had an irreparable bust-up with his mother who vehemently opposed his artistic pursuits.
Although he still lacked the courage to speak about his childhood torment, he says expressing his feelings through spoken word gradually helped him navigate his mental anguish.
Iidabii performs spoken word in a poetry slam. (Supplied by iidabii)(Kyodo)
Iidabii is a so-called “second-generation” follower of fringe religious faiths in Japan, which have come under intense scrutiny following the fatal shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by the son of a follower of the Unification Church.
Abe’s accused assassin Tetsuya Yamagami acted on a grudge he had against the Unification Church. His mother had donated large sums of money to the church that is known for its questionable fundraising practices and he targeted Abe due to his links to the organization.
Following iidabii’s excommunication from the religious order for violating the faith’s teachings, he got a job and momentarily stepped away from his creative pursuits. He saved enough money to graduate from a distance learning university.
Around 2018, when his life began to settle down, he started working on expressing his art again. By the age of 27, iidabii had begun improvising by crooning into a voice recorder on his commute to work in his car.
Then, one day, something changed. Suddenly, his mother and her beliefs came to mind. He could not understand why, but the words and tears began to flow. Before he knew it, he had composed an entire poem. It was his first poem about religion, called “I Look at the Night Sky” about perhaps his only fond childhood memory of gazing at the stars with his mother.
I don’t understand
I was always told to judge in black or white
Whether God saw it as good or evil
That was all
There is nothing for me to judge…
But I found the sky
I found words
Even though nothing has worked out for me
I’m so glad I was born
I am tired of hating you…
I look at the sky
I don’t know why
When iidabii later performed the poem at a live house, a young man in the audience called out to him to say, “I am the same.” Iidabii later learned the 17-year-old was also suffering from his time growing up with a devoutly religious parent. He had also been beaten with a whip, and he had repeatedly run away from home.
Iidabii is pictured in Saitama, near Tokyo, in July 2022. (Kyodo)
Iidabii thought he had conquered his past. But right in from of him was “another me.” He knew he had to do something even though it made him uneasy.
An encounter with a music producer who performs under the name Buts — another person raised in a devoutly religious household — was another turning point. He says he could no longer stay silent about “faith forced by violence,” where children are physically abused in the name of God.
By changing to a poetry slam style in which he rapped sometimes graphic lyrics over hip-hop beats, he has expanded his creative range and increased the appeal of the works. Since 2020, he has teamed up with Buts to produce such works as “Witness of Abuse.”
When I am silent and do nothing
Then I’m no better than those adults
I’m done letting the other me
Die out there somewhere
In November of last year, iidabii released the music album “To You — Born in Hell,” a compilation of six works about his childhood suffering.
In it, he questions the point of religion while asking “why are so many people crying?”
In addition to performing at live houses and other venues, some of his performances are posted on YouTube. On Twitter and other social media platforms, the poetry slams appear to have touched a nerve. “Thank you for speaking the voice of us second-generation followers who have no voice,” one Twitter user said.
Iidabii says he hopes most of all that people understand “everyone has the right to religious freedom,” adding that he has never thought that his mother should give up her faith.
“There are second-generation followers who are happy that they have encountered this religion, and we must respect this. However, it is nothing more than abuse to force children to obey and mentally corner them if they will not practice a faith.”
Iidabii says it was only as an adult he realized his mother had “abused” him. His siblings were treated the same, and his father was indifferent to their plight. It never even occurred to him to reach out to his teachers or others for help. Looking back, he had nothing but painful times, he says.
He wants children who are in the position he once was to have a path away from their suffering so they know there is another way, a situation in which they can speak out and live how they like. But, he says, they must speak as he lays out in “Witness of Abuse.”
It’s hard and it takes courage
But it’s the only way to get freedom
In our case, freedom is won by standing up and speaking out
If you don’t get through this
Your life will not start
Since his mother was not impacted financially by her faith, iidabii thinks even if Yamagami had read or heard his work, “it probably would not have resonated with him.”
But he says in “Mushroom Man” he hopes his words can reach as many people as possible who are suffering under the oppression of their family’s religious faith and doctrines.
Let’s go greet the “me” from that day
Sorry I’m late
I came to save you
FEATURE:Street poet uses words to cure ills of abusive religious upbringing