A Man with No Talents: Memoirs of a Tokyo Day LaborerA Man with No Talents: Memoirs of a Tokyo Day Laborer by Oyama Shiro

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

wow, what a perspective-bending book.

the author is a man who worked as a day laborer in tokyo. not just for a few weeks or a year in order to write a book. he’d done so for 13 years before he penned this book.

and it wasn’t some misfortune or a lost job that landed him in that position–he chose it quite freely despite other opportunities. he’d had “normal” jobs for years, and decided that he just wasn’t made for the salaryman life.

for 13 years, then, working day labor jobs, living pretty much hand to mouth. then, when japan’s real estate bubble burst, he found himself with rather too much time on his hands, and so he wrote this book.

the man’s observational skills are a master class for writers. or i suppose for anyone who needs to see people minutely. perhaps when you are at the bottom of the heap, these skills sharpen–they’d have to, as a matter of self-preservation. when you do not have a door you can lock, or indeed any door or walls at all, you’d best have a really good grip on what the guy in the next bunk is all about.

his attitudes toward society and towards many of the things that most normal people live and work for are quite breathtaking. he’s not disrespectful, but he also has no use for material greed or social approval or many of the bedrock values we (both east and west) live by.

he’s not at all arrogant or disdainful. he doesn’t proselytize. he’s not trying to convert anyone, and he’s not mentally ill. in fact, he seems to me to be someone who has considered his own life philosophy with a depth and care that most people never take.

i am in awe, and even more so after reading the afterword.

read the book.