TOKYO RISING: The City Since the Great Earthquake by Edward Seidensticker

TOKYO RISING: The City Since the Great Earthquake

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An eccentric, far-ranging account of the changes in Tokyo since the 1923 earthquake. A sequel to Low City, High City (1983), which described the transformations in Tokyo from 1867-1923, Seidensticker now documents the final shift from the culture of Old Edo to modern Tokyo through a detailed record of the destruction, over the past 70-odd years, of old buildings and neighborhoods. Instead of an economic or sociologic determination, he focuses on the effect upon society of the disappearance of this theater building that cafe, those geisha houses, markets, and other landmarks, and their replacement stores, subways, and so on. Seidensticker's intimacy with the topography of the city is both so intense and so diffuse that it produces a work almost private in its complexity, as he shuttles back and forth between modern and historic times in a sort of free, sometimes disorienting, association. Nevertheless, he creates an uncommonly vivid evocation of the city, its history, people, and current directions. Seidensticker himself--a longtime resident and devotee of Tokyo, a professor of Japanese at Columbia Univ., and a notable translator of Japanese literature--is the ultimate observer, relaxed enough in the originality of his own scholarship to offer only the most sparse references and annotations, able to comment unashamedly that the violent antiwar demonstrations of 1968 were ""fun to watch."" But he can also make such insightful observations as that, for all the physical changes he records (and regrets), Tokyo ""has not changed much since the centuries when the shoguns kept all foreigners out. . . and sometimes it seems that the workings of an international economy making it possible for the Japanese to buy the world and next to impossible for the world to buy the tiniest part of Japan, may work toward seclusion every bit as successfully as the policies of the shogun did."" Packed with original material and insights, invaluable to scholars, students, and Tokyophiles.

Pub Date: March 29th, 1990
Publisher: Knopf