September 20, 2006


"Walking the 41 lines of the old metropolitan railway", a nice overview of the old Tokyo streetcar system.

It doesn't really live up to it's claim to be a walking guide to streetcar Tokyo. Probably it wasn't meant to be such a thing, but publishers saw a way to cash in on the walking-guide craze in Tokyo.

For each of the 41 lines, the author presents a linear route map, a couple of pages of whatever's most worth mentioning, a great historic full-page photo, and a few present-day photos of spots along the line.

Inside the front and back cover is a wonderful 1962 map of the entire system in all of its glory. It's really a beautiful map of Tokyo on the verge of change. The monorail to Haneda and several subway lines were just completed in time for the 64 Olympics, and streetcar lines would not begin being closed until the following year. The map also follows classic mapping techniques. Like the Edo-era maps, south is to the left, and we are looking west towards Mount Fuji. Popular destinations are drawn in with nice pictures. During the Edo era they were almost exclusively temples and shrines, but now those are joined by sports arenas and other recreational spots. It's a sprawling map of streetcar spots, a disarming joining of classic techniques and extremely modern data.

Don't get me wrong, though. The photos of Tokyo from the 50s and 60s are just as good, and there are great nuggets of information.

My only complaints are that the per-line route maps only have the major stops on them, and there is no discussion of changes in stops during the life of each line. There are no hints on how best to walk the line or how long it might take.

It really is only an overview, though, and at that it succeeds.

Written at September 20, 2006 8:14 PM
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