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  • Location: Tokyo, Japan

The Bells of Old Tokyo

The Bells of Old Tokyo

Why a Booktrail?

2000s: An outsider’s guide around Tokyo and its many stories

  • ISBN: 978-1529000450
  • Genre: Biography/memoirs, Travelogue

What you need to know before your trail

For over 300 years, Japan closed itself to outsiders, developing a remarkable and unique culture. During its period of isolation, the inhabitants of the city of Edo, later known as Tokyo, relied on its public bells to tell the time. In her remarkable book, Anna Sherman tells of her search for the bells of Edo, exploring the city of Tokyo and its inhabitants and the individual and particular relationship of Japanese culture – and the Japanese language – to time, tradition, memory, impermanence and history.

Travel Guide

Travel BookTrail style around Japan then and now with “The old Bells of Tokyo”

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 presents a series of hauntingly memorable voices in the labyrinth that is the metropolis of the Japanese capital.

It’s a  guide around the city, its people and its history. And of course, the bells. These eight lost bells once surrounded the city. They marked the city’s neighborhoods and kept time for its inhabitants before the introduction of Western-style clocks. These aren’t just old bells however, but the tangible vestiges of a much older Japan—one that believed in time as represented by animals and the zodiac, rather than minutes and hours, a circle rather than a forward line.

A few places of interest:


A lively area of the city named after its 17th-century canal bridge. The well-known Mitsukoshi Nihonbashi department is also located here as is the Tokyo Stock Exchange museum. If that’s not enough, there’s plenty of izakaya bars where many Japanese workers  go after hours at the office.


This has the strangest shape of all Tokyo’s wards we are told in the book.  Seen from above, it looks like a cartoon monster apparently.  But the most interesting fact is that it’s Tokyo in miniature –  golf courses, canals, power stations and baseball grounds.

Kodenmacho Prison Museum

Now a children’s park but  Denma-chō was once a place where commoner and samurai could both be found. It was the perfect place to display severed heads and to showcase those slated for execution.

BookTrail Boarding Pass: The Old Bells of Tokyo

Destination: Tokyo, Japan  Author/guide: Anna Sherman Departure Time: 1945 – 2011

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