Book Review: 无家可归的中学生 (The Homeless Student) by 田村裕 (Hiroshi Tamura)

The Homeless Student
The Homeless Student

Read the Chinese translated Taiwanese version of this book sometime back. The Homeless Student (无家可归的中学生) is an autobiography by famous Japanese comedian, Hiroshi Tamura (田村裕) on his unusual childhood.

One normal day, upon returning home from school, Tamura was assembled by his father, together with his other siblings for an important announcement – that their father was broke and all of them will be homeless from that moment onwards.

Tamura was just a 13-year-old junior high school student then. Following his father’s strange order, Tamura moved to live in a public park alone, going through all sorts of hardship like eating cardboards and bathing at public taps.

Movie version - the slide in this picture is modelled after the one which Tamura lived in when he was homeless
Movie version – the slide in this picture is modelled after the one which Tamura lived in when he was homeless

This best-selling book in Japan was also developed into a Japanese drama serial and movie. I caught the movie version while on a flight to Japan a while back. It wasn’t too bad, but I still prefer the book as it was able to cover more depth. The movie trailer as below:

Strange that such things can happen in a developed nation like Japan isn’t it? Moreover, it was not too long ago. Tamura was born in 1979 – which means he is just a year older than me. When he was living in the public park, I was busy preparing for my PSLE examinations.

The real Tamura
The real Tamura

Somehow, I can relate to some of the situation that Tamura described. There are always people from relatively well-to-do background who will proclaim such ideals as “money is not important”. It is a lie. If one has been really poor before, you would never endorse such a statement.

Money always matter. At least to a certain comfort level whereby family get to stay together and would not quarrel over monetary issues.

My family was poor when I was young. I remember a point in life when we were living in my mom’s dressmaking shop. I was around five or six years old then. My mom was just starting out her business and cash was tight. My sister and I had no beds. Instead, we slept on the cold, hard dressmaking table, sometime waking up in the morning to find my mom’s students busy with their craft and scissors around us.

Tempers were snappy when money was short and I recalled my parents quarreling over minor money issues then.

Back to the book again… it’s not a tear-jerker or inspirational book by the way, as what is usually expected of a book with a title like this. Instead, Tamura reflected on this curious part of his life with self-depreciating humour, marveling at how he managed to live through such harsh conditions with a gungho attitude. This is what I like about this book – it do not portray the poor in a condescending light of misery, but instead, depict how life just goes on as usual for the poor like everyone else. That’s the way life should be dealt with isn’t it? 🙂

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