Episode 16: Writing about Japan’s “Have-Nots”

Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri

Check out Episode 16 of the Read Literature podcast.

In this episode…

Post-bubble Japan.

The history of socially-conscious Japanese literature.

And Yu Miri’s Tokyo Ueno Station, a powerful examination of Tokyo by one of the most invisible people imaginable—the ghost of a homeless day laborer.

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Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri (translated by Morgan Giles)

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This episode also recommends:

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Unseen Japan. Among many topics, Unseen Japan provides English-language news coverage about under-represented communities in Japan, including Zainichi Koreans and the homeless.

ETHOS Typology on Homelessness and Housing Exclusion

The Japan Foundation New York Literary Series: Yu Miri and Morgan Giles. Yu Miri and her translator Morgan Giles talk about Tokyo Ueno Station. Other guests include moderator Stephen Snyder, interpreter Bethan Jones, and Strong Women, Soft Power member Allison Markin Powell.

“Marxist Literary Criticism: An Introductory Reading Guide” at HistoricalMaterialism.org.

JFNY Literary Series: Yu Miri x Morgan Giles. An hour-long video interview and discussion about Yu Miri’s work and Tokyo Ueno Station, hosted by the Japan Foundation of New York.

The National Book Award Page for Tokyo Ueno Station. This pages includes the judges’ citation:

This deft translation by Morgan Giles of Korean-Japanese writer Yu Miri’s Tokyo Ueno Station is a welcome and necessary addition to the translated Japanese canon, which unfolds in the memories of a deceased narrator occupying the eponymous train station. The book is an observation of Japan at the gateway of its capital, at multiple thresholds of shifting eras, told in the bardo of a mourning father and compatriot, reciting his surroundings and circumstances as if a prayer, a mantra.

“Her Antenna Is Tuned to the Quietest Voices” in The New York Times. This article, written after the English translation of Tokyo Ueno Station won the National Book Award, contains more information about Miri’s biography.

“Why the World Needs Literature” in Metropolis. Morgan Giles talks about Tokyo Ueno Station and translating Yu Miri.

“Literature” at Japanese Wiki Corpus

Japanese Literature at Facebook

Japanese Literature at Goodreads


Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory: An Introduction. U of MN, 2008.

–. Marxism and Literary Criticism. U of CA, 1976.

“ETHOS—European Typology on Homelessness and Housing Exclusion” at Feantsa.org, 2005. (free)

Goto Hiroshi, et al. “Why Street Homelessness Has Decreased in Japan: A Comparison of Public Assistance in Japan and the US” in Selected Works of Dennis P. Culhane, 2022. (free)

Harris, Thalia. “Metalist DaiGo and Anti-Homeless Sentiment in Japan” at UnseenJapan.com, 2021. (free)

“JFNY Literary Series: Yu Miri x Morgan Giles” at Jfny.org, 2021. (free)

Keene, Donald. Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature of the Modern Era—Fiction, 4th ed., 1999.

Marcus, Marvin. Japanese Literature from Murasaki to Murakami, Association for Asian Studies, 2015.

Rich, Motoko. “Her Antenna Is Tuned to the Quietest Voices” at NYTimes.com, 2020. (free)

Scott, Simon. “Ball and Chain: Gambling’s Darker Side” in The Japan Times Online, 2014.

Weickgenannt, Kristina. “The Deemphasis of Ethnicity: Images of Koreanness in the Works of the Japanese-Korean Author Yū Miri” in Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies, Conference and Seminar Papers: Images of Asia in Mass Media, Popular Culture and Literature, 2001. (free)

Wender, Melissa L. “Introduction” in Into the Light: An Anthology of Literature by Koreans in Japan, U of HI, 2011.

–. “Yū Miri” in Into the Light: An Anthology of Literature by Koreans in Japan, U of HI, 2011.

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