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Publisher's Summary

Winner of the 2020 National Book Award in Translated Literature

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

A surreal, devastating story of a homeless ghost who haunts one of Tokyo's busiest train stations.

Kazu is dead. Born in Fukushima in 1933, the same year as the Japanese emperor, his life is tied by a series of coincidences to the Imperial family and has been shaped at every turn by modern Japanese history. But his life story is also marked by bad luck, and now, in death, he is unable to rest, doomed to haunt the park near Ueno Station in Tokyo.

Kazu's life in the city began and ended in that park; he arrived there to work as a laborer in the preparations for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and ended his days living in the vast homeless village in the park, traumatized by the destruction of the 2011 tsunami and shattered by the announcement of the 2020 Olympics.

Through Kazu's eyes, we see daily life in Tokyo buzz around him and learn the intimate details of his personal story, how loss and society's inequalities and constrictions spiraled toward this ghostly fate, with moments of beauty and grace just out of reach. A powerful masterwork from one of Japan's most brilliant outsider writers, Tokyo Ueno Station is a book for our times and a look into a marginalized existence in a shiny global megapolis.

©2020 Yu Miri (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"Tokyo Ueno Station is a dream: a chronicle of hope, loss, where we've been and where we're going. That Yu Miri could conjure so many realities simultaneously is nothing short of marvelous. The novel astounds, terrifies, and make the unseen concrete - entirely tangible and perennially effervescent, right there on the page." (Bryan Washington, author of Lot and Memorial)

"Poetic.... How Kazu comes to be homeless, and then to haunt the park, is what keeps us reading, trying to understand the tragedy of this ghostly everyman. Deftly translated by Morgan Giles.... It is an urgent reminder of the radical divide between rich and poor in postwar Japan." (The Guardian)

"A radical and deeply felt work of fiction, psychogeography and history all at once, tapping us straight into the lifeblood of a Tokyo we rarely see: Tokyo from the margins, rooted in the city's most vulnerable and least visible lives - and deaths." (Elaine Castillo, author of America Is Not the Heart

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What listeners say about Tokyo Ueno Station

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Raw

Strips off my stereotypes of Japan and reveals a believable, perhaps common story of hardship and survival.

5 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Goods story, great translation, poor narration

The story is moving though a bit predictable. The translation is smooth and natural.
The narrator has trouble pronouncing Japanese words and names, making me cringe at times.

4 people found this helpful

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Good story but the reader ruined it for me.

If you’ve never visited or lived in Japan you wouldn’t notice. But the reader consistently mispronounced every single thing he could get his mouth around.

All of the city and region names were spoken in American English with a complete lack of effort applied to getting them even close to right. It was grating.

Other than that this story is wonderful and the translation was done well. You get a true sense of what life is like for the (absolutely not voluntarily) homeless in Tokyo. I’d recommend people read it and skip the verbal assault on location names.

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Moving novel by important writer

For Japanese speakers the mispronounced place names may be jarring, but good reading overall. Great short novel.

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Boring and cringe narration

I blame myself for expecting something else from this book. I expected this book to be a ghost-story but from the perspective of the ghost at a Japanese train station etc.. I was very wrong, but still gave it a chance because it’s not the book’s fault that I was full of assumptions.

Either way, the book was just super boring and couldn’t engage. I think it may have been due to the narrator whom is a white guy that sounds like a Latino trying to speak Japanese. Apparently he is very sought after for his voice; but due to the cultural aspect of this book it was just cringe. I almost guarantee my experience would have been a bit better if we had a different narrator.