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Tokyo Ueno Station (2014)

by Miri Yū

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6332536,323 (3.64)48
"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"--… (more)
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» See also 48 mentions

English (23)  Spanish (1)  All languages (24)
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
Having been to Tokyo and at the Ueno park, i saw the homeless people there. Now i see them in a different light. ( )
  kakadoo202 | Jan 6, 2024 |
Damn…this book was a hard hitting one. Tokyo Ueno Station by Miri Yu follows the life and death of a man that can be considered inconsequential to the Imperial and governmental eyes of Japan. This man’s circumstances are the products of numerous capitalistic and governmental decisions made by the country without consideration of its working class. This man works so much to the point of not knowing his wife and children just so he can provide a life for them. He works hard, he loses most, he becomes houseless, he dies. Apart from his life, this story focuses on this train station and park by the name of Ueno and the houseless people who live there. They float in and out of Yu’s book and are given a moment of clarity and humanity where normally they might be invisible, undesired. Their stories and lives and losses are juxtaposed against the ever changing Ueno Station, a place that houses statues and memorials to many important figures and events in Japanese history, but does not house the homeless.
I felt many things while reading this.. sadness, anger, discomfort, despair. This lack of care for people with out houses is not distinct to Tokyo, or Japan, it is here in my neighborhood and in yours. Yu creates a space for us to reevaluate how much or how little our governments care about people—whether working class or houseless—and she reveals how that attitude may poison us—the privileged who may have a place to return to at night.
This book roots it’s imagery in sounds and vignettes of people and things and creatures passing through the station. It also follows the specific history of this region in Japan. Though very disjointed and fading in its flow through time and space, I believe anyone who reads this will be transported visually and emotionally to Ueno Station. A hard read, but a good read. ( )
  Readings.of.a.Slinky | Nov 20, 2023 |
Man, this was so sad!
The narrator is a ghost exploring and explaining his life in the Ueno Station homeless encampment. Originally a marginalised worker who spent most of time away from home, he loses his son unexpectedly and despite acknowledging he doesn't have a strong relationship with his children, he takes this loss hard. Later he is able to reconcile his relationship with his wife and spends some years at home until he loses her as well. While living with a caring granddaughter, he decides he no longer wants to be a burden and moves to Tokyo to the homeless encampment. The encampment is affected by the development due to the oncoming Olympics.
Having been to Japan recently this really hit home. There was a lot of Buddhist wisdom and customs with things I saw well explained. While in Hiroshima we also came in contact with some homeless people who politely asked us for donations.
The extreme cultural expectations of workload, pride and face come into play here.
While this book was sad, it was beautifully written and translated.
( )
  secondhandrose | Oct 31, 2023 |
This is quite a strange story, in that our protagonist/narrator, Kazu, is dead.   Before Kazu died, he was homeless and living in a cardboard and tarpaulin hut in Ueno Park, right next to Tokyo Ueno Station.

All too often we are shown the shiny-shiny capitalist face of Tokyo that those in power wish us to see, the Olympics, etc., but never do we see, or hear, those who are cast aside, unwanted and unneeded by a system that some just can't keep up with.   Tokyo Ueno Station is their story, told by a ghost of one of the many people that society has no place for any more.

I know it sounds all rather depressing, but i didn't find it so because it's a view of Tokyo that is told in such a unique and interesting way, keeping our attention when most writers would have lost it, making us realise, consider and re-revaluate.   How many homeless people die on the streets every year and no one ever gets to hear their story, or realise the truth as to why they were homeless in the first place, this book makes you think about those things: they are important.

It's certainly a fact in the UK, where i live, that the government deliberately maintains a homeless population in order to keep the threat in front of people of what will happen to them if they don't comply with society's demands.   I presume this is the same in Japan:   "Do you want to end up like them, Salaryman?   Well you'd best work hard, do lots of overtime, and do as you're told -- or else you'll be living in Ueno Park too!" ( )
  5t4n5 | Aug 9, 2023 |
The sad observations and reminisces of a lonely ghost who was a lonely man. Born the oldest of 8 children he still pretty much lived on his own since early adolescence, working away from his wife and two children. While he retains his internal connections to his remote home and family, he never enjoys real companionship. ( )
  quondame | Jul 30, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Miri Yūprimary authorall editionscalculated
Giles, MorganTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Peters-Collaer, LaurenCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
Dedication
First words
There's that sound again.
Quotations
"I thought what a thing of sin poverty was, that there could be nothing more sinful than forcing a small child to lie. The wages of sin were poverty, a wage that one could not endure, leading one to sin again, and s long as one could not pull oneself out of poverty, the cycle would repeat until death."
22%
"I was a father looking down at his son for the first time, and yet I felt like a baby looking up at his mother's ace. Suddenly I wanted to cry."
23%
"If time could pass so slowly that its passage was imperceptible, then--is death where time stops and the self is left all alone in this space? Is death where space and the self are erased and only time continues?"
31%
"To speak is to stumble, to hesitate, to detour and hit dead ends TO listen is straightforward. You can always just listen."
54%
"To be homeless is to be ignored when people walk past while still being in full view by everyone."
80%
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"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"--

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