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

Picador. Aug. 2019. 352p. ISBN 9781250206404; ebk. ISBN 9781250206411. $28. BIOG
Sherman has written a beautiful debut of creative nonfiction that explores cultural interpretations of time, tracing the history of Tokyo from the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603–1867), when the city was known as Edo, to the 21st century. During the Shogun’s time, eight bells were placed at various locations throughout the city; their purpose was to keep time in an era before clocks. Sherman explores a variety of neighborhoods and districts in Tokyo in an effort to locate these bells. The author not only describes her personal journey, but also tells the history of the areas she visits. Despite the fact that this work frequently jumps between time periods, it is an enjoyable read that is easy to follow. Throughout Sherman’s adventures in Tokyo, she periodically seeks respite at her favorite coffee shop, Daibo, which unfortunately is no longer in operation.
VERDICT Highly recommended for anyone who has visited or is planning to visit Tokyo. Readers will gain insight into the history, culture, and language of Japan as well as ideas on city hot spots.
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