Book Reviews and Highlights

Tokyo Ueno Station

Miri Yū

  • Asian
  • Fiction
  • Historical
  • Homelessness
  • Literary
  • 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.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 1
  • There was never a time I was not tired.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 2
  • Not when life had its claws in me and not when I escaped from it. I did not live with intent, I only lived.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 2
  • My reticence and incompetence troubled me more than my appearance, but worst of all was how unlucky I was. I had no luck.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 3
  • Convenience stores, too, would put bentos, sandwiches, and pastries past their best-before date in the area next to the dumpster, so if we went before the trash was collected, we could claim anything we wanted.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 8
  • I never carried any photos with me, but I was always surrounded by people, places, and times gone by. And as I retreated into the future, the only thing I could ever see was the past.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 17
  • “With the economy this bad, they treat you like shit wherever you go—big companies, small companies, doesn’t matter,” said an old woman with white hair like a bird’s nest, her layered, tattered skirts fluttering. She lit up a Hi-Lite cigarette and took a drag.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 26
  • Now noises, colors, and smells are all mixed up, gradually fading away, shrinking; I feel if I put out my finger to touch it, everything will disappear, but I have no fingers to touch with. I can no longer touch, not even one hand to the other in prayer.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 34
  • If I don’t exist, I can’t disappear either.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 35
  • Raindrops suddenly began to fall, wetting the roofs of the huts. They fell regularly, like the weight of life or of time.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 35
  • The wages of that sin were poverty, a wage that 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.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 40
  • The American firebombing of Tokyo began at eight minutes past midnight on the tenth of March, 1945. Over three hundred B-29s flying at low altitude dropped seventeen hundred incendiary bombs on the most densely populated, working-class part of the city.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 45
  • In just two hours that night, over a hundred thousand people lost their lives, but there’s not a single public monument to them anywhere in the city, nothing like the peace parks in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 46
  • I was never home, because I was away working, so I didn’t take any pictures of the children. I never had my own camera either.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 48
  • I had no idea what my family had talked about for the twenty-odd years I’d been away from home.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 52
  • And I’d had no choice but to keep working in Sendai, to pay for Kōichi’s tuition and living expenses and to put food on my family’s table.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 52
  • I stood alone in the darkness. Light does not illuminate. It only looks for things to illuminate. And I had never been found by the light. I would always be in darkness—
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 55
  • Is death where space and the self are erased and only time continues?
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 57
  • Namu Amida Butsu, Namu Amida Butsu, Namu Amida Butsu . . . I heard my mother just next to my right ear chanting the nembutsu, and I tried to sing the hymns with the others.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 59
  • My children held little affection for me, the father they rarely saw. And I never knew how to talk to them either. We shared the same blood, but I meant no more to them than a stranger.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 69
  • I wasn’t crying. My face was frozen, as though I’d been slapped, and my mouth was so stiff it hurt.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 73
  • Freed from the shackles of doing anything for our wives, children, mothers, fathers, brothers, or sisters, we had to work only enough to be able to eat and drink, which was easier than putting up blinds.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 83
  • Nobody starts off life in a hovel made of cardboard and tarps, and nobody becomes homeless because they want to be.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 83
  • To speak is to stumble, to hesitate, to detour and hit dead ends. To listen is straightforward. You can always just listen.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 99
  • I thought then that Shige must’ve worked in a local government office or a school in his previous life; he was such a methodical person.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 102
  • I was not afraid of ghosts. Nor was I afraid of death or dying. I was afraid of living this life not knowing when it might end. It did not seem possible to resist this weight pressing down on my entire body, nor to bear it.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 129
  • In Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka, groups of youths were attacking homeless people for sport. Every time we heard another story, terror ran rampant through the people living in the park.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 135
  • To be homeless is to be ignored when people walk past while still being in full view of everyone.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 147
  • I saw a single black BB fall into a rain puddle. Was there a child somewhere with an air gun hunting homeless people sleeping in the open?
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 165
  • The calendar separates today from yesterday and tomorrow, but in life there is no distinguishing past, present, and future. We all have an enormity of time, too big for one person to deal with, and we live, and we die—
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 174
  • Where the sky and sea met, it was smooth as steel, but where the sea and sand met, the waves broke white and tiny foam bubbled up, the shells and seaweed and sand that had just been engulfed now gasping for breath.
  • Tokyo Ueno Station | Page: 177