Written by Books

Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri

A lot of Japanese novels that seem to get English translations can be quite similar, addressing universal themes of love or loneliness through outsider characters. I’m not sure if that’s a reflection on a society where the need to conform to norms is stronger.

This book is similar, but very much different. Tokyo Ueno Station and the park alongside it, is the setting for this story about Kazu, a man who was born in the thirties but who’s life fell apart until he ended up homeless.

Kazu takes much of what life has dealt him in his stride, but things have changed for the worse, and he struggles in this new world.

The story is told via flashbacks to other times, but we return to the park where he has somehow ended up – being turfed out of it at times, before the homeless can move back in. The Emperor shouldn’t be allowed to see homeless people!

This is a timely tale – with work going on in the background ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.