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Tokyo Ueno Station

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3.65  ·  Rating details ·  3,973 ratings  ·  629 reviews
Born in Fukushima in 1933, the same year as the Emperor, Kazu’s life is tied by a series of coincidences to Japan’s Imperial family and to one particular spot in Tokyo; the park near Ueno Station – the same place his unquiet spirit now haunts in death. It is here that Kazu’s life in Tokyo began, as a labourer in the run up to the 1964 Olympics, and later where he ended his ...more
Paperback, 197 pages
Published March 4th 2019 by Tilted Axis Press (first published March 19th 2014)
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Average rating 3.65  · 
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Marchpane
Mar 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Each time I read a novel translated from Japanese to English I’m struck by its elegance. The best way I can describe it is a kind of stillness, no matter how much is going on in the story; a calming effect.

Tokyo Ueno Station is a very short, gentle, mournful book, following Kazu, a recently deceased homeless man whose spirit lingers in Ueno Park. Kazu reminisces on his life and the cruel twists of fate that first led him to sleep rough. That he is incorporeal has little impact on the events of t
...more
Amalia Gkavea
‘’I used to think life was like a book: you turn the first page, and there’s the next, and as you go on turning page after page eventually you reach the last one. But life is nothing like a story in a book. There may be words, and the pages may be numbered, but there is no plot. There may be an ending, but there is no end.’’

Our journey starts in a park near Ueno Station as Tokyo is preparing to host the 2020 Olympics. A voice is heard above the buzzing streets of the metropolis, a voice whis
...more
Paul Fulcher
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Now a deserved winner of National Book Award for Translated Fiction 2020

My review from April 2019, when it was originally published in the UK by Tilted Axis Press:

Tokyo Ueno Station is the latest book from the wonderful Tilted Axis Press, translated by Morgan Giles from Yu Miri (柳 美里 / 유미리)'s 2014 novel JR上野駅公園口 and a powerful exploration of the other side of economic development and prestigious projects.

The novel begins with a lament part of which reads:

Left behind—
Like a sculpted tree on the v
...more
Henk
Sep 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
Sad, still and rather uneven. More interesting as a concept than as an executed novel
To be homeless is to be ignored when people walk past, while still being in full view of everyone

If I don’t exist I can’t disappear either.
We follow in a non-linear fashion Kazu, who appears to be a ghost based on the blurb on Tokyo Ueno Station. His ghost like status might be a symbol of how homeless people are not noticed by passing salarymen and “people with homes” in general.
His life story tells a tale of po
...more
Meike
Mar 23, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan, 2020-read
Now Winner of the National Book Award for Translated Fiction 2020
To be poor means to be invisible: "Tokyo Ueno Station" tells the story of a laborer who had to work hard all of his life in order to support his family only to end up homeless in Ueno Park near the title-giving railway station. Our protagonist Kazu Mori was born into a poor family in Fukushima and when he himself gets married and has children, he has to spend most of his time away from them, trying to earn enough money in far-away
...more
Jr Bacdayan
Apr 30, 2020 rated it liked it
The mesmerizing glow of deep melancholia emanates from this little book. I felt its slow pull deep in my bones. This should come with a word of precaution for those of us that are fragile, those among us barely holding on.
Elyse  Walters
Dec 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Kasu was born in 1933 the same day as the emperor of Japan.
When he was in his 30s he left his wife and children in Fukushima for Tokyo to find work.
Poor and homeless—Kasu lived in the park near the Ueno Train Station.

There are numerous major museums nearby, and beautiful cherry trees. I found myself looking up the history and area on google...which was a pleasure in itself.

Each homeless group in the park had their own section, their own territory, but they looked out after each other.
Yu Mir
...more
Darryl Suite
Nov 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read this twice. This is a beautiful and sad little book. It's a quiet character study exploring homelessness, poverty, and grief. And also manages to explore a bit of Japanese history, particularly tidbits about the Emporor's family. Even though the prose and vibe are understated, there are several moving moments that will punch you in the gut. Also, expect vivid imagery. There are a few images that will certainly stay with me for a long time. Oof. ...more
Phoenix2
Jul 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: japanese short stories
Shelves: history, japanese, asian
Tokyo Ueno Station centered around the tragic figure of the male narrator, who takes the reader through the historical events that took place in Japan after WWII, and they were somehow related to his own life.
You never really had luck, his mother told him once and, truly, the hero seems to be running out of it till the very final pages of this novella. His life was full of struggles and tragedies, while correlating with the big events in the Emperor's shiny life. And yet the narrator doesn't se
...more
Alice Lippart
Like the setting and the historical aspects. Some parts of the story were really engaging but a lot of it was not.
Tanya
Aug 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This short novella on cultural memory narrated by a homeless man whose spirit lingers on in Ueno Park after his death was the first translated work where I was struck by the simple and fluid elegance of the language, something I had all but given up on based on the other translations of Japanese works I'd sampled so far.

"I used to think life was like a book: You turn the first page, and there's the next, and as you go on turning page after page, eventually you reach the last one. But life is
...more
Elena Sala
"Before, we had families. We had houses. Nobody starts off life in a hovel made of cardboard and tarps, and nobody becomes homeless because they want to be. One thing happens, then another.” These are Kazu's words, who ended his days as a homeless, migrant worker. He is a ghost now, a ghost who haunts Ueno Park, one of Tokyo's busiest train stations.

TOKYO UENO STATION describes the experience of being homeless in a modern megalopolis, but at the core of the novel lies Kazu's story of loss and g
...more
Katie Lumsden
Jul 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Maybe 3.5. I enjoyed this one - an intriguing, curious and sometimes confusing read. There were some really powerful moments, though it did take me a while to get into it.
Elizabeth Cruikshank
I preferred the concept of this book to its execution (though I’m sure I didn’t fully appreciate everything the book accomplished). Yu Miri set out to shed light on the lives of unhoused people living in an encampment in the park outside the Tokyo Ueno Station, adopting the perspective of the ghost of a recently deceased construction worker who had lived in the park. The story is told through extended flashbacks to the narrator’s difficult life, depictions of other members of the encampment, sni ...more
Kusaimamekirai
Jul 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-japan
My first instinct after reading Yu Miri’s “Tokyo Ueno Station” is to ask why horribly random and tragic things happen to good people.
How does somebody become homeless, subject to the whims of weather, police always moving you around, or random violence?
Why do our loved ones die sudden, occasionally painful, deaths?
Why do the majority of people you encounter look at you but never really see you?
Our narrator experiences all of these things and more and yet to answer the fort part part of th
...more
Emily M
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

A short, quiet book that nonetheless needs to be read with attention. I expected to whiz through it in a day, took three, and I think I’m going to reread it.

This is part of the literary sub-genre in which the individual’s story is entwined with the story of urban development. Here, Kuzu is a former labourer who was brought to Tokyo as part of the construction phase of the 1964 Olympics. He finished life living rough in Ueno Park, and is now a ghost observing the daily comings and goings
...more
Rachel
Tokyo Ueno Station is a short, sparse book which follows the life of Kazu, born in 1933, the same year as the Emperor.  Kazu's life (mostly characterized by tragedy and poverty) is thematically entwined with the Emperor's through a series of coincidences that tie their families together - and it's also closely connected to Ueno Park, a historically significant site in Tokyo that Kazu's spirit now haunts after his death.

This is a mournful, elegant book that ultimately didn't leave much of an impr
...more
JimZ
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
Was mostly boring…she went on about description of roses or cherry blossoms. But it was sad/interesting to read about what it was like to be homeless. I could picture it. People ignoring you, although you had a life. You were a human being but you were not treated like one. More like a dog, a mangy dog...a stray.
June
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5, rounded up. Thoughts to follow.
Alan
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
‘I was always lost at a point in the past that would never go anywhere now that it had gone, but has time ended? Has it just stopped? Will it someday rewind and start again? Or will I be shut out from time for eternity? I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.’

This is a hauntingly beautiful, desperately elegiac, and quietly angry novel from Yu Miri. The pervading sense of melancholy and the stark lyricism of the prose makes her story of Kazu a sweeping study of a nation and its history. Here, K
...more
Vonda
Jul 01, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: net-galley
A short heartbreaking story about a man that worked tirelessly taking care of his siblings, then his own family to only be forever homeless and starving. His ghost is homeless as well watching his life play out and where it really went downhill. The translation is a bit disjointed but still reads clear enough.
Jan
Dec 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
A short novel of one man’s life in contemporary Tokyo, realistic in its depiction of poverty but near poetry in some of its writing. Winner of the 2020 National Book Award for Translated Fiction.
Books on Asia
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japan
Although one can tire of translated Japanese books that dwell in pathos, we welcomed this story because of its point of view: that of a homeless person. "Tokyo: Ueno Station" is the life story of Kazu, who after a life of hard work and living away from his wife and two children, becomes homeless at an advanced age and ends up living in Ueno Park in a tent city. He lives in a cardboard structure with a blue tarp on top that he is required to disassemble before important events—such as when the Em ...more
Stefani Putria
Oct 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
" I used to think life was like a book: you turn the first page, and there’s the next, and as you go on turning page after page, eventually you reach the last one. But life is nothing like a story in a book. There may be words, and the pages may be numbered, but there is no plot. There may be an ending, but there is no end."

Menemukan buku ini dari kumpulan jurnal membaca nya mas Eka Kurniawan. I really love the opening sentence. Tokyo Ueno Station bisa dikatakan semacam slice of life khas bu
...more
Khai Jian (KJ)
Dec 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"I used to think life was like a book: you turn the first page, and there’s the next, and as you go on turning page after page eventually you reach the last one. But life is nothing like a story in a book. There may be words, and the pages may be numbered, but there is no plot. There may be an ending, but there is no end"

This short and powerful novel truly deserves to be crowned as the winner of the 2020 National Book Award for Translated Literature!

Tokyo Ueno Station illustrates the life of a
...more
A.K. Kulshreshth
Sep 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I listened to the audio book from my library in Singapore. I am very used to the format, but I found myself having to rewind very often, because I got sidetracked thinking about something in the story.

I am glad I had put this in my "Want to Read" list a while back, and got to listening without reading the back cover text. A most interesting thing about the narrator (view spoiler) became clear to me a bit late in the book, and I loved that. I had to rewind again
...more
Kim Lockhart
Jul 28, 2020 rated it liked it
I found this slim volume of almost poetic narration to be fascinating. If the reader is interested in learning about Japanese culture, and appreciates an introspective world view, this book will be intriguing. I suspect others won't like it all. The themes are dark: the deep well of grief, the feeling of being trapped as a living ghost, only made all the more painful when one is homeless and people look right through you. It's a portrait of everything we would rather avoid. It's an indictment of ...more
Esther Espeland
Jan 20, 2021 rated it liked it
Hmm I think a 3.5, extra points for the cover art and how preciously smol the book is, finally a book I can fit in my fanny pack. Melancholy and slow and sparse! Commentary on class and homelessness, some parts worked for me, some didn’t. I thought the growing eeriness was rly good, and the descriptions of Kazu’s routine were lovely to read. But I also think for a book abt the precariousness of housing/basic needs fulfillment, his own journey to living in Ueno park did not support this? Although ...more
Oscreads
Nov 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My wig is gone, obliterated
Callum McLaughlin
Employing a touch of the supernatural, Tokyo Ueno Station explores the very real problem of poverty, highlighting wilful 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 t
...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Please correct the page count 3 10 Feb 19, 2021 06:43AM  
Japanese Literature: 9/20 Tokyo Ueno Station 19 95 Sep 24, 2020 05:33AM  
TW Book Club: Our June Pick 1 21 Jun 10, 2020 09:12PM  

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Yū Miri is a Zainichi Korean playwright, novelist, and essayist. Yu writes in Japanese, her native language, but is a citizen of South Korea.

Yū was born in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, to Korean parents. After dropping out of the Kanagawa Kyoritsu Gakuen high school, she joined the Tokyo Kid Brothers (東京キッドブラザース) theater troupe and worked as an actress and assistant director. In 1986, she
...more

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“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 that sin were poverty, a wage which one could not endure, leading one to sin again, and as long as one could not pull oneself out of poverty the cycle would repeat until death.” 4 likes
“To speak is to stumble, to hesitate, to detour and hit dead ends. To listen is straightforward. You can always just listen.” 1 likes
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