This is quite a strange story, in that our protagonist/narrator, Kazu, is dead. Before Kazu died, he was homeless and living in a cardboard and tarpaulin hut in Ueno Park, right next to Tokyo Ueno Station.
All too often we are shown the shiny-shiny capitalist face of Tokyo that those in power wish us to see, the Olympics, etc., but never do we see, or hear, those who are cast aside, unwanted and unneeded by a system that some just can’t keep up with. Tokyo Ueno Station is their story, told by a ghost of one of the many people that society has no place for any more.
I know it sounds all rather depressing, but i didn’t find it so because it’s a view of Tokyo that is told in such a unique and interesting way, keeping our attention when most writers would have lost it, making us realise, consider and re-revaluate. How many homeless people die on the streets every year and no one ever gets to hear their story, or realise the truth as to why they were homeless in the first place, this book makes you think about those things: they are important.
It’s certainly a fact in the UK, where i live, that the government deliberately maintains a homeless population in order to keep the threat in front of people of what will happen to them if they don’t comply with society’s demands. I presume this is the same in Japan: “Do you want to end up like them, Salaryman? Well you’d best work hard, do lots of overtime, and do as you’re told — or else you’ll be living in Ueno Park too!”