The Stationmaster examines the lives of the downtrodden, finding redemption in the strangest places. Extremely popular in Japan, this short story collection is about marginalized people: the stationmaster of an obsolete train station; petty criminals; a clothing salesman; a dying sex worker. According to Margaret Atwood' s introduction, Jiro Asada' s combination of "daily time in all its humble and often harsh detail with the hidden, haunted psyche- how people see themselves from the outside, contrasted with their knowledge of their own wounded inner selves- is a potent achievement." Often a ghost or other supernatural element comes in to help right previous wrongs, allowing these characters to find some semblance of peace.
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May 23, 2013
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Excerpt from The Stationmaster by Jiro Asada
At the sound of tapping at the ticket window, Otomatsu lifted his head. A teenage girl, her hair in braids, was brushing the snow from her gabardine coat.
"Hello, Mr. Stationmaster!"
Her polite bow reminded him of someone. Then he realized this must be an older sister of the two girls who had come yesterday, and instantly his heart lightened.
"You, you must be the older sister..."
"You recognized me?" Holding her mittens to her cheeks, she smiled.
"What's not to recognize? Your voice, your face--just the same as the other two girls."
"I have to apologize about yesterday. I'm so sorry, Mr. Stationmaster."
"Nothing to be sorry about. It was all just good fun. Come on inside for a minute. It's drafty out there."
She looked around the waiting room in wonder and gave a little gasp of surprise at the stout rafters and the old-fashioned stained glass. Her profile was radiantly beautiful.
Railroad men never cried, they just blew their whistles. They didn't shake their fists, they waved their flags. They never shouted out in anger but put that energy into the voice they used for calling out the signals. That was how railroad men made it through their troubles.
"All this talking, where has the time gone? It's time for the last train. When I'm done here I'll see you home to the temple. Take care you don't catch cold. Here, put this on."
Otomatsu put the quilted cotton house jacket over her shoulders and stepped down into the office. He draped his coat over his own shoulders, fastened the chinstrap of his cap, raised his lantern, and exited the station building. The clock on the post struck seven.