A tribute to one of the world’s great capitals, the book is also a critical history, a candid, realistic account of a city whose past is often obfuscated by the distortions of nostalgia. Tracing the chronology of the city from pre-settlement times to the present age, the book ponders the nature and function of history as applied to Tokyo, a city predicated on the “im-persistence” of the past.
The world’s most provisional city, the combination of a weak preservation ethic with the absence of memory landscapes, requires the writer to exercise a degree of imaginative reconstruction, a process transforming impartial analytical commentary into interpretative history. The author will discuss how Tokyo A Biography initially evolved as a riposte to writers, who have characterized the metropolis as “more like a machine than a city,” or, to quote another view, “an allegory to warn (about) an abnormal metropolis, feverish and discordant, hysterical, hybrid and chaotic.”
Polycentric in its geographical parts, the final chapter of the book concerns the inevitable transformation of Tokyo as it emerges, albeit reluctantly, into an age of pluralism and multicultural urbanism. The author will talk about the challenges in making sense of a city that defies standard orthodoxy in regard to what constitutes a contemporary metropolis, and speak briefly about the compromises involved in getting this particular title into print.
Stephen Mansfield is a British freelance photojournalist based in Japan. His work has appeared in over 60 publications worldwide. He is the author of 17 books, including Lao Hill Tribes: Traditions & Patterns of Existence, Tokyo: A Cultural And Literary History, Japanese Stone Gardens: Origins, Meaning, Form, and Japanese Master Gardens: Lessons in Space & Environment. He wrote the text, a political commentary, for Birmanie: Le Temps Suspendu, in collaboration with the French photographer Michel Huteau.
The library committee is offering a cocktail party – "Meet the Author" – starting at 6:15 pm, followed by dinner at 6:45 pm (Menu: Salad/ Sautéed Swordfish with Herbs and Tomato Sauce/ Chiffon Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream /Coffee or Tea). Drinks can be ordered on a cash basis from the bar in the room. Book Break charges are 2,100 yen/3,500 yen (members/non-members) per person. The member price is applicable to members’ guests.
To FCCJ members: Sign up now at the reception desk (03-3211-3161) or on the FCCJ website. To help us plan proper seating and food preparation, please reserve in advance, preferably by noon of the day of the event. Those without reservations will be turned away once available seats are filled. Reservations canceled less than 24 hours in advance will be charged in full.