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

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



The Pequod Review:

There is a calm and refined beauty to The Bells of Old Tokyo, Anna Sherman's profile of Tokyo's traditional neighborhoods — and especially her journey around the city in search of the large bells that were used to keep time in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Sherman's story is highly personal, as she explores the daily rhythms of the city's residents and unique aspects of Tokyo's history. She also considers the concept of time more generally:

Where English has a single word for "time," Japanese has a myriad. Some reach backward into the ancient literature of China -- uto, seiso, koin. From Sanskrit, Japanese borrowed a vocabulary for vastness, for the eons that stretch out past imagination toward eternity: ko. Sanskrit also lent a word for time's finest fraction, the setsuna: "particle of an instant." From English, the Japanese took ta-imu. Ta-imu is used for stopwatches and races.

There's not always a lot of substance to each profile — and Sherman's book could have benefitted from a map and/or photographs — but otherwise this is a very good blend of travelogue and history.