Writer Yu Miri wins 5th Berkeley Japan Prize

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yu Miri holds a copy of her book “Tokyo Ueno Station” at the Full House book store and cafe in Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, in January.

Writer Yu Miri has won the fifth Berkeley Japan Prize, which is awarded to individuals who have made significant contributions to spreading Japanese culture and enriching understanding of Japan on the global stage, publishing firm Kawade Shobo Shinsha said on Sept. 12.

Yu will receive her prize from the Center for Japanese Studies of the University of California, Berkeley, at an award ceremony to be held on Friday in Berkeley. Yu, 54, lives in Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture. The city provides part of the setting for her 2014 novel “Tokyo Ueno Station,” which won acclaim for highlighting contradictions within Japanese society from a minority viewpoint.

The award — established in 2008 — is presented every several years. The previous four recipients were writer Haruki Murakami; animated film director Hayao Miyazaki; musician Ryuichi Sakamoto; and Takaaki Kajita, a Nobel Prize laureate in physics.

The center said Yu’s work often depicts people in difficult circumstances or extreme situations, but also shows that there is hope amid suffering. It said Yu continues to provide the world with powerful messages from Japan aimed at building societies where individual freedom is respected.

Yu moved to Minami-Soma in 2015 and opened a bookstore and cafe called Full House three years later.

“Tokyo Ueno Station” follows the trials and tribulations of a seasonal laborer from the city who goes to Tokyo to seek work. An English translation of the book won the U.S. National Book Award in the translated literature category in 2020.