Award winning author, Miri Yu will give a talk about her latest novel Tokyo Ueno Station at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo on February 25th.

Tokyo Ueno Station was selected for top prize this year by the U.S. National Book Awards for translated literature. The English language translation is by Morgan Giles and was published to great acclaim by Tilted Axis Press, a small British publisher, in 2019. The novel was originally published in Japanese as JR上野駅公園 by Kawade Shobo Shinsha (河出書房新社) in 2014.

It tells the life story of the book's narrator Kazu, who left his family in Fukushima prefecture to work as a labourer on various building projects for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. He spends his last years living in a makeshift shelter in Ueno Park, from where he recounts the hard work and intense pain he experienced as a construction worker.

Tony Waghorn, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Tokyo Ueno Station is based on the conversations Yu Miri conducted over a decade with homeless people in Tokyo. In her dark brooding writing, she draws attention to the poverty that generations of working-class Japanese endured during the post-years, when Japan was in the process of becoming a rich country.

The novel recounts several deaths in Kazu’s family, and some readers may find the lingering focus on the details of funerary rites rather mawkish. Nonetheless, its portrayal of the homeless rings true, and there are some interesting passages about the earthquake of 1923 and the 1964 Olympics. The novel is also extremely readable and Morgan Giles’ translation is remarkably smooth.

Miri Yu 柳美里 is a Japanese-born Korean writer. Poverty is a theme she is familiar with, for her own family was poor, and also had to contend with the anti-Korean discrimination faced by many Zainichi (second and third-generation Koreans born in Japan). Yu has experienced racism because of her ethnic background, with some events at bookstores being cancelled due to bomb threats from far-right activists.

Miri Yu is a prolific writer, whose work includes plays, prose fiction, and essays. She has published over twenty books and won Japan’s most prestigious literary award, the Akutagawa Prize, in 1997 for her book Kazoku Cinema (家族シネマ Family Cinema). Her memoir Inochi (命 Life) was a bestseller and was made into a movie in 2002.

After the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami of 2011, Miri Yu hosted a radio show in Fukushima to listen to survivors’ stories. She relocated to Minami-Soma in Fukushima in 2015 and currently manages a bookstore and theatre space, where she continues to work with those affected by the disaster.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan has been running its ‘Book Break’ series of talks for many years. ‘Book Break with Yu Miri’ will be held on Thursday, February 25, 2021 from 5:00 pm to 7:30 pm. The talk will be in Japanese with English interpretation. Admission is ¥1,100 yen, which includes the price of a drink.

Due to emergency COVID-19 regulations, the schedule for the FCCJ’s Book Breaks has changed. Doors open at 5:00 pm and the presentation runs from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm. To adhere to social distancing guidelines, audience numbers are restricted to 20.

FCCJ members can sign up for the talk at reception. Please note that reservations cancelled less than 72 hours in advance will be charged in full. Non-members can make a reservation by e-mailing Payment must be made before Friday, February 19th, 2021 and refunds are not available unless the event is cancelled by the FCCJ. The organisers kindly ask guests to wear a mask whilst on the premises, in compliance with Covid-19 prevention measures.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan is a two-minute walk from Yurakucho station. The address is 5F Marunouchi Nijubashi Building, 3-2-3 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-0005.

If you prefer, you can join the audience on Zoom for ¥550. Please sign up by emailing and make sure you pay by Friday, February 19th. Notifications will be sent by email once reservations have been confirmed.

For more information, visit the following site.

By - George Lloyd.