Review Of "Edo, The City That Became Tokyo: An Illustrated History" By A. Naito, Translated By H. M. Horton

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Nominally a history of the city of Tokyo, the book kaleidoscopically describes the cultural life of the whole Tokugawa (or Edo) period: 1603 to 1868. Naito skillfully condenses his erudition into 87 short essays, each only two to six paragraphs on a two-page spread. The text, though introductory, is responsibly informative. But the profusion of personal and place names that make sense only to specialists must baffle general readers. The special attraction of the book is the large illustrations by Kazuo Hozumi; they are lively, meticulous drawings based on period screen paintings. The free translation by Horton reads well, and his introduction is masterful. Edo, a castle town, was already a metropolis with 1,300,000 inhabitants in 1721 when London's population was not even 900,000; Naito tells us that its unique spiral plan accommodated rapid growth. He leads us to marvel how as a metropolis, like New York later, it was congested, energetic, fast, and fashionable, and provided rich cultural amenities, both vulgar and refined. Naito's account, however, is descriptive, rarely critical or interpretative, leaving such comparative deductions to individual readers. The bibliography, in Japanese and English, is excellent. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers; lower- and upper-division undergraduates.


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