The Bells of Old Tokyo: Meditations on Time and a City

The Bells of Old Tokyo: Meditations on Time and a City

by Anna Sherman


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An elegant and absorbing tour of Tokyo and its residents

From 1632 until 1854, Japan’s rulers restricted contact with foreign countries, a near isolation that fostered a remarkable and unique culture that endures to this day. In hypnotic prose and sensual detail, Anna Sherman describes searching for the great bells by which the inhabitants of Edo, later called Tokyo, kept the hours in the shoguns’ city.

An exploration of Tokyo becomes a meditation not just on time, but on history, memory, and impermanence. Through Sherman’s journeys around the city and her friendship with the owner of a small, exquisite cafe, who elevates the making and drinking of coffee to an art-form, The Bells of Old Tokyo follows haunting voices through the labyrinth that is the Japanese capital: an old woman remembers escaping from the American firebombs of World War II. A scientist builds the most accurate clock in the world, a clock that will not lose a second in five billion years. The head of the Tokugawa shogunal house reflects on the destruction of his grandfathers’ city: “A lost thing is lost. To chase it leads to darkness.”

The Bells of Old Tokyo marks the arrival of a dazzling new writer who presents an absorbing and alluring meditation on life in the guise of a tour through a city and its people.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250206404
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 08/13/2019
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 501,628
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

ANNA SHERMAN was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. She studied Greek and Latin at Wellesley College and Oxford before moving to Tokyo in 2001. The Bells of Old Tokyo is her first book.

Table of Contents

The Bells of Time 1

Hibiya 7

Nihonbashi: The Zero Point 13

Asakusa: The Mythic Kanto Plain 31

Akasaka: The Invention of Edo 43

Mejiro: A Failed Coup 55

Nezu: Tokugawa Timepieces 65

Ueno: The Last Shogun 81

The Rokumeikan: The Meiji Restoration 103

Tsukiji: The Japanese Empire 113

Yokokawa-Honjo: East of the River 123

Marunouchi: New Origins 133

Kitasuna: The Firebombs of 1945 143

Shiba Kiridoshi: Tokyo Tower 163

Daylight Savings Time: The Occupation 179

Ichigaya: Postwar Prosperity 185

Shinjuku: Tokyo Tomorrow 199

Hibiya: The Imperial Hotel 211

Notes 227

Bibliography 317

Acknowledgments 333

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