The Little Book of Tokyo is timeless, and yet it is a valuable source of visual information for contemporary Tokyo. This seemingly contradictory statement is based on having lived in Tokyo for around five years, ending 23 years ago. There is much I recognize, but much has changed in the time that has passed. Fashion and trends for one thing. Architectural wonders another. I know this largely from the images compiled in this book, as I have not been back. (I’m planning a return soon.)
The author and sole photographer, Ben Simmons, was a well-known photographer in Tokyo while I was in there, and had one work publish with the text written, as I recall, by none other than Donald Ritchie, and early Japan hand. Hence, I eagerly anticipated the publishing of this book. It does not disappoint, to say the very least. It is compact, but covers an enormity of areas in Tokyo and the surrounding Kanto Plain, some of which I am learning of for the very first time. The photographs are arranged with fastidious attention to detail; each page’s complement each other well, and are accompanied by concise but rich captions that complete each story.
The photographs themselves are quiet, subtle, beautiful, exciting, boisterous, and sublime, depending on the particular topic area, of which there is quite a range: such as the Shibamata Temple Town, the well-heeled neighborhood of Hibiya, the raucous youth center of Shibuya, and the Tsukiji Fish Market. The sites of which Tokyo is famous for, such as the Meiji Shrine and Kiyosumi Garden among others are included in Chapter 4. In short, anyone in need of a book that is packed with information on Tokyo, and yet can fit in a small piece of carry-on luggage well do well by acquiring this book. Plus, it is a lot easier to use than scrolling up and down a smart phone.