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The Bells of Old Tokyo Reviews

The Bells of Old Tokyo by Anna Sherman

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

Anna Sherman

Score pending

1 review

Imprint: Picador USA
Publisher: Picador USA
Publication date: 13 Aug 2019
ISBN: 9781250206404

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."

5 stars out of 5
25 May 2019

"a masterpiece"

Anna Sherman looks for evidence of the time bells of Edo in modern Tokyo. She describes a map that shows the sound-ranges of the bells as circles, ‘like raindrops’, that contain areas of the city and travels around and inside these circles... Listening is what Sherman is best at. Her passage around Tokyo is a form of listening, as she traces the sound-ranges of the bells. She wonders what has survived of the old soundscape of Tokyo, and of the city’s stories and histories... It points us to the diversities and complexities of Tokyo, and of Japan’s histories and systems of belief. It is a masterpiece. Sherman’s Tokyo, populated by Japanese voices — authors, artists, museum stewards, people in bars, cafes,or on the street, the religious and unreligious — is mesmerising and brimming with life.