Excerpt from Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Tokyo Ueno Station

by Yu Miri

Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri X
Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2020, 192 pages

    Paperback:
    Jun 2021, 192 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
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Print Excerpt

Excerpt
Tokyo Ueno Station

There's that sound again.

That sound-

I hear it.

But I don't know if it's in my ears or in my mind.

I don't know if it's inside me or outside.

I don't know when it was or who it was either.

Is that important?

Was it?

Who was it?
-

I used to think life was like a book: you turn the first page, and there's the next, and as you go on turning page after page, eventually you reach the last one. 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.

Left behind-

Like a sculpted tree on the vacant land where a rotted house has been torn down.

Like the water in a vase after wilted flowers have been removed.

Left behind.

But then what of me remains here?

A sense of tiredness.

I was always tired.

There was never a time I was not tired.

Not when life had its claws in me and not when I escaped from it.

I did not live with intent, I only lived.

But that's all over now. 
-

I watch slowly, like always.

It's not the same scene, but it's similar.

Somewhere in this dull scene, there's pain.

In this seemingly familiar time, there are moments that hurt.

I look closer.

There are lots of people.

Each and every one different.

Each and every one with different minds, different faces, bodies, and hearts.

I know that, of course.

But seen from a distance, they all look just the same, or similar.

Each and every face looks like nothing so much as a small pool of water.

I'm watching for myself on the day I first set foot on the platform at Ueno Station, in the throng of people waiting for the Yamanote Line inner-loop train to arrive.

I used to look at my appearance reflected in mirrors, glass panes, and pictures, and I had no confidence in myself. I do not think I was especially ugly, but I never had the kind of looks that would have attracted anyone's attention.

My reticence and incompetence troubled me more than my appearance, but worst of all was how unlucky I was.

I had no luck.

I hear that sound again. Just that sound, like it's blood coursing-like a vivid current flowing-back then I heard nothing but that sound, rushing around inside my skull, like there was a hive in my head and hundreds of bees were trying to fly out all at once, it buzzed and burned and hurt, I could think of nothing anymore, my eyelids twitched and trembled as if they were being hit by raindrops, I clenched my fists, all the muscles in my body tensed-

It ripped me to shreds, but the sound wouldn't die.

I couldn't catch it, and trap it, or lead it far from me.

I couldn't close my ears to it, and I couldn't get away.

Ever since then that sound has lived with me.

Lived ... ?

"The train now approaching Platform Two is for Ikebukuro and Shinjuku. For your safety please stand behind the yellow line."

 

If you go out the ticket gates at Ueno Station's park exit and look over the road to the grove of ginkgo trees, you'll always see homeless people there.

When I sat there, I felt like an only child who had been orphaned, despite the fact that both of my parents had lived into their nineties, never leaving their village in Sma, Fukushima Prefecture. And following my own birth in 1933, my parents had four daughters and three sons: Haruko, Fukiko, Hideo, Naoko, Michiko, Katsuo, and Masao.

The fourteen years between Masao and me made him more like my child than my brother.

But time had passed.

And here I sat, alone, growing older-

During my brief, light slumbers, I would snore, exhausted, and when my eyes opened now and then, the netlike shadow traced by the leaves of the ginkgoes would sway, and I felt that I was wandering directionless despite being here, despite having been here in this park, for years-

Excerpted from Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri. Copyright © 2020 by Yu Miri. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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