On Thursday March 10th, I went to the new site of the Tobacco and Salt Museum, to do some research for the forthcoming “Voice of the Jewel”, the explosive finale to the “Sword, Mirror, Jewel” trilogy. Tokyo residents have noticed that the old Museum disappeared from its Shibuya address a couple of years ago … well, this is where it went! The special exhibition itself is on the subject of the shipping industry along the Sumida river in Japan’s Edo period (roughly 1600 to 1850). “Not exactly blockbuster entertainment!” you might say, and you might be right, but this is all to check some background reference and make the events in the novel as fact-based as possible.
Although I picked up some valuable information from the Museum, I can’t really recommend the exhibition, because it’s too small. Nevertheless, this was the perfect reason for a long walk through another neighborhood of Shitamchi (downtown) – the oldest part of Tokyo. The Tobacco and Salt Museum is in the shadow of the Sky Tree, the new tourist attraction designed to give Northeast Tokyo’s economy a shot in the arm.
If you set off in the opposite direction from the tourists, however, there are some wabi-sabi architectural treasures to be found.
The exhibition gave me the idea to walk in the direction of Asakusa and call in on Nick, the owner of Infinity Books, and look for any works on the Sumida river he might have on the shelves. During the course of the conversation he mentioned Good Day Books, another venerable English-language Tokyo bookshop, and its uncertain future … for more information go here. It would be a very sad thing to lose Good Day Books, and I do hope they find a new owner, but in today’s online-centered market place that’s going to be difficult.
Infinity Books can be found here.
I ended the walk standing on Azumabashi Bridge, watching the sun go down on the river.
My appointment in Shimo-Kitazawa was waiting .. but that’s another story!