Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri, translated by Morgan Giles [in Booklist]
“I did not live with intent, I only lived. But that’s all over now.” Kazu is dead, but his spirit can’t rest. As he wanders through Tokyo’s Imperial Gift Park – where he last lived as a homeless wanderer – memories, visions, and hauntings reveal his past. That his 1933 birth coincided with Emperor Akihito’s, followed by the birth of their respective sons on the same day in 1960, was supposed to be a “blessing,” but tragedy repeatedly marked the decades: “I had no luck,” Kazu unblinkingly insists.
Driven by necessity rather than autonomy, Kazu worked as a laborer to provide for his family, resulting in years of disorienting isolation and demanding separation from the very people for whom he longed for most. Then death came too early for his son, and again too soon for his wife, depriving him of the comfortable companionship that should have been his reward in retirement. Difficulty and detachment marked his final years.
Yu Miri (Gold Rush, 2002), an ethnic Korean in Japan, is no stranger to modern society’s traps driven by nationalism, capitalism, classism, sexism. Her anglophoned latest (gratitude to translator Morgan Giles for providing fluent accessibility) is a surreal fable of splintered families, disintegrating relationships, and the casual devaluation of humanity.
Published: 2014 (Japan), 2020 (United States)