A doleful, ethereal, even diaphanous tale of the forgotten and forlorn, Yu Miri's Tokyo Ueno Station (translated from the Japanese by Morgan Giles) — a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Translated Literature — conjures considerations of class, loss, memory, history, and societal indifference. Kazu has already shuffled off this mortal coil, but he must, even in death, endure more suffering still (after losing his career, his home, his wife, and his children). Yu’s short novel offers a melancholic glimpse into the battered spectral remains of a man worn down by so many of life’s indignities. Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Translated Literature
A surreal, devastating story of a homeless ghost who haunts one of Tokyo's busiest train stations.
Kazu is dead. Born in Fukushima in 1933, the same year as the Japanese Emperor, his life is tied by a series of coincidences to the Imperial family and has been shaped at every turn by modern Japanese history. But his life story is also marked by bad luck, and now, in death, he is unable to rest, doomed to haunt the park near Ueno Station in Tokyo.
Kazu's life in the city began and ended in that park; he arrived there to work as a laborer in the preparations for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and ended his days living in the vast homeless village in the park, traumatized by the destruction of the 2011 tsunami and shattered by the announcement of the 2020 Olympics.
Through Kazu's eyes, we see daily life in Tokyo buzz around him and learn the intimate details of his personal story, how loss and society's inequalities and constrictions spiraled towards this ghostly fate, with moments of beauty and grace just out of reach. A powerful masterwork from one of Japan's most brilliant outsider writers, Tokyo Ueno Station is a book for our times and a look into a marginalized existence in a shiny global megapolis.
“Tokyo Ueno Station is a dream: a chronicle of hope, loss, where we’ve been and where we’re going. That Yu Miri could conjure so many realities simultaneously is nothing short of marvelous. The novel astounds, terrifies, and make the unseen concrete — entirely tangible and perennially effervescent, right there on the page.” Bryan Washington, author of Lot and Memorial
“A radical and deeply felt work of fiction, psychogeography and history all at once, tapping us straight into the lifeblood of a Tokyo we rarely see: Tokyo from the margins, rooted in the city’s most vulnerable and least visible lives — and deaths.” Elaine Castillo, author of America Is Not the Heart
"Coolly meditative, subtly
spectral....This slim but sprawling tale
finds a deeply sympathetic hero in a man who feels displaced and longs
for connection after it's too late." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Restrained and mature. A gem-like, melancholy novel infused with personal and national history." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"A surreal fable of splintered families, disintegrating relationships, and the casual devaluation of humanity." Booklist (Starred Review)
About the Author
Yu Miri is a writer
of plays, prose fiction, and essays, with over twenty books to her name.
She received Japan's most prestigious literary award, the Akutagawa,
and her bestselling memoir was made into a movie. After the 2011
earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima, she began to visit the affected
area, hosting a radio show to listen to survivors' stories. She
relocated to Fukushima in 2015 and has opened a bookstore and theatre
space to continue her cultural work in collaboration with those affected
by the disaster.
Morgan Giles is a Japanese translator and reviewer. She lives in London.