#BookReview #20booksofsummer Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri

Guess what?! I’ve just read a book for 20 Books of Summer that was on my original list!! It can be done!!  And book #3 was another ‘little’ stunner and one I’m very glad to have finally picked up and read!

ABOUT THE BOOK

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 days, living in the park’s vast homeless ‘villages’, traumatised by the destruction of the 2011 tsunami and enraged by the announcement of the 2020 Olympics.

Akutagawa-award-winning author Yū Miri uses her outsider’s perspective as a Zainichi (Korean-Japanese) writer to craft a novel of utmost importance to this moment, a powerful rebuke to the Imperial system and a sensitive, deeply felt depiction of the lives of Japan’s most vulnerable people

published by Tilted Axis Press

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK  £9.99

hive.co.uk  £8.75

whsmith  £7.19

MY REVIEW

Beautifully tragic! I think that’s the best way I can sum up this stunning little book that tells the haunting story of Kazu as he looks back over his tough life, his family that he rarely saw because he was always away working to try and get money to live day to day, and how certain events affected their lives and shaped the way he lived.

Set around Ueno park he comments on the sights and sounds he witnesses, the way that the homeless around him are treated, often not seen as humans and just ‘vermin’ to be moved away anytime the Emperor of Japan and his family were in the vicinity. You’re also made well aware of the division between his lifestyle as a homeless person, and those of the visitors to the park with snippets of their snatched conversations and it really makes you sit up and take notice of just how unfair life can be.

He’d been working away from his family from a very young age, his children only saw him twice a year but that bond to his family never faltered and tragedy hit the family which was heartbreaking and the portrayal of grief that hangs over him was captured so eloquently.

This is a book that speaks of the struggles in life, the poverty, the grief, memories, death but in that despair it is the little things he remembers – those lasting moments that brought him some joy albeit fleetingly – and those are forever treasured in his memory.

It’s a beautifully descriptive book – the sights and sounds of Tokyo and surrounding areas are brought so vividly to life – and I think it’s going to be one of those books that will stay with me for a long time.

★★★★

#BookReview The Last Children of Tokyo by Yoko Tawada

about the book

The Emissary – American Title

Yoshiro thinks he might never die. A hundred years old and counting, he is one of Japan’s many ‘old-elderly’; men and women who remember a time before the air and the sea were poisoned, before terrible catastrophe promted Japan to shut itself off from the rest of the world. He may live for decades yet, but he knows his beloved great-grandson – born frail and prone to sickness – might not survive to adulthood. Day after day, it takes all of Yoshiro’s sagacity to keep Mumei alive.

As hopes for Japan’s youngest generation fade, a secretive organisation embarks on an audacious plan to find a cure – might Yoshiro’s great-grandson be the key to saving the last children of Tokyo?

Published by  Portobello Books

Purchase Links

hive.co.uk  £7.75

waterstones  £9.99

MY REVIEW

A quirky and fascinating little book! It’s beautifully written, a little confusing at times and a little scary too as it takes a look at life in a dystopian Japan, where the elderly are the carers for a generation of youngsters who are prone to illness, disease and no understanding of life ‘before’ the isolation policy was brought in around the world.

The scenario of a time where countries have such serious problems that they are all shut off to one another so they can solve their own issues, is something so alien to us but many in this Japan have grown up knowing no other way. They don’t know foreign languages, no idea what telephones are, no transport, less food – it’s all the norm for them. But the old-elderly do remember and they are the strongest and fittest in society. 

The devotion shown by Yoshiri to his great grandson Mumei is touching and endearing. Knowing that certain foods are just too tough or bad for his great grandson has him going to extreme measures to find the right balance for him. 

The way Yoshiri looks back at the old times is quite poignant especially knowing that it means so little to those younger than him, and when we get to hear the perspective of Mumei you are just struck by how innocent he is, but appreciative of all that his great grandfather does for him.

Packs a lot in for such a short novella – 138 pages – and gives you as a reader plenty to think about and worry about for the future we may all face!

🏯🏯🏯🏯