I’m back! In case any of you were wondering, no, I’m not a technology wizard. My site has some technical issues so I had to call for back up. And then something about errors and bugs. But we’re officially good to go and I have A LOT to catch you up on! The internet may fail us but books never do.
Let’s start with Yu Miri’s Tokyo Ueno Station. A stunning read about Japan, technology, royalty, and fate.
This is my last London read (sad). I walked into Foyles and saw it at the front of the store, on a display of must read new releases. As my faithful readers know, I love to switch it up. Any and all books are on the table for me. Seriously, I’ll read almost anything.
Books are such an incredible opportunity to learn about other cultures and people and teach us to be empathetic and creative and- ok. Off the soap box, get back to the book.
I read this on the train to and from Oxford. It’s such a short book, you wouldn’t think it would take hardly any time to read it. But I went slow on purpose because it’s pretty rich. Which was different for me, I’m generally a pretty quick reader, but it was so worth it. Flying through the lush green British countryside and reading a stunning book is officially my new favorite way to spend time.
So, the book. Kazu, our protagonist, is remembering his life and reflecting on how things change. We follow him as he wonders through the homeless community where he now lives and listen as he tells us many stories. Also, he’s dead.
Born on the same day as the Emperor, Kazu was born in Fukushima, a relatively rural area a ways north of Tokyo. He grew up in a poor family, then got married and had two children, a son and a daughter. But the only way he could support his family by moving far away and working manual labor jobs. He sent them the money he eared, which allowed them to live, but also meant he skipped most of his children’s lives.
We know very little about his children because of this. But one of the things we do know, and we know is important to point out, is that his son was born the same day as the Emperor’s. And on that day, the nurse mentions to him what a blessing that is. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
As we continue to learn about Kazu, we see the contrast between his life and the Emperor’s couldn’t be more stark. There is lots of hardship and death in store for Kazu. And a city that he helped build ultimately left him with nothing.
I’m rereading what I’ve written so far and I’m having a hard time doing this book justice. It’s so beautifully written, in some places it feels more like poetry than fiction. And the social commentary is done subtly but it’s also glaringly obvious. The composition of opposites is so impressive. Just because it’s short doesn’t mean it’s not jam packed.
And I truly do think you should take the time to read this. I never thought about what something like hosting the Olympics could do to a country and to a people. Or what fate and tradition mean when a child dies. But seeing a whole life, played out and finished, through Kazu’s eyes is both enlightening and heartbreaking. This is an incredible story. SO READ IT.