The Bells of Old Tokyo is a meditation on the city; voices in a labyrinth. An aristocrat plays in Tokyo’s sea of ashes after the firebombs of 1945. A shrine priest remembers Mishima Yukio praying before he died. A scientist builds the most accurate clock in the world, a clock that will not lose a second in five billion years. A sculptor eats his father’s ashes (“We live in the Age of Mass Forgetting…”), and the head of the Tokugawa house reflects on the destruction of his grandfathers’ city (“A lost thing is lost. To chase it leads to darkness,”). The great artist Miyajima Tatsuo defines time as “not what we think it is. We are alive, therefore time exists. We animate time. We invent it.”


“I would take not the elevated expressway routes, or the Yamanote Line railway that rings the heart of Tokyo, but trace areas in which the bells could be heard, the pattern that on a map looked like raindrops striking water. Winds could carry the ringing notes far out into Tokyo Bay; or the rain silence them as if they had never existed.

A circle has an infinite number of beginnings. The direction I walked would change, just as the circles on the map could change.

There were boundaries, but they were not fixed.”