Tokyo Ueno Station – Yu Miri

A beautiful, unassuming book. The narrator Kazu lives in a camp for the homeless near Ueno station. He tells the story of his life. Born in the same year as emperor Hirohito he lived a humble life paralel to that of the emperor. He was born in a small village of farmers and fishermen. He has worked all of his life as a builder for large building projects like the Olympic Stadium for the Olympic Games of 1964. He spent most of the time of his working life away from home. He did not get to see his children grow up. He only came home to his wife and children for festival days. A lonesome life marked by suffering and poverty. First his son dies suddenly as a young man, and then just after his pension his wife dies and soon after his parents. He’s left alone with just his granddaughter Mari who comes in every day to prepare his breakfast. But he does not want to be a burden and leaves for Tokyo so his granddaughter can live her own life. He only leaves a note. This is a story of life, suffering, death and the passing of time. The fragments about the funerals of the son, and of the parents take up a substantial part of the book. 

The narrative is in a way like a meditation, impressions from the life of the narrator are intermingled with conversations of visitors of the park and museum, people on their way to work,  and fragments of dramatic episodes from the history of Japan as told by Shige, another inhabitant of the camp of the homeless. The homeless do not have a quiet life, they have to find food each day, and the camp gets vacated at times by the city council, in case of state visits or similar occasions.

February 2023

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