Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri, translated from the Japanese by Morgan Giles
Published by Riverhead Books, 2020
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Employing a touch of the supernatural, Tokyo Ueno Station explores the very real problem of poverty, highlighting willful ignorance towards widespread homelessness in modern-day Japan.
Kazu is a ghost, seemingly condemned to haunt one of Japan’s busiest train stations, the grounds of which served as a makeshift home to him throughout his final years. Observing those who come and go on a daily basis, he reflects on the events that led him to a tragic end: dejected, alone, with nowhere and nothing to call his own.
Our narrator was born into poverty in the same year his country’s emperor was born into luxury. Throughout the narrative, author Yu Miri juxtaposes the very different paths their lives took from that moment. This allows for a simple yet powerful look at class divides in Japan: the privilege and safety gifted to the imperial family by their wealth sitting in stark contrast with the financial hardship that is passed to each subsequent generation of Kazu’s family.
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