TOKYO CITY ATLAS: A Bilingual Guide, supervised by Atsushi Umeda. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 2004, 124 pp., 2,205 yen (paper).

Here is the third revised, updated edition of the handiest of all Tokyo atlas guides. Since the 2001 edition came out, there has been, as always, an amount of change in this most protean of cities, much of it here accounted for.

The cover indicates this. That of the second edition featured the dowdy Imperial Palace, but the cover of this new publication features in all of its glitzy glory the Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills. This latest of Tokyo sights is also now located on the corrected maps, along with the reconstructions of such areas as Shinagawa and Shiodome.

Other additions include a number of new towns and train/subway stations due to the extension of existing lines and the inauguration of new ones such as the Haneda-bound Keikyu Kuko. These numbers help swell the index from 3,600 to 4,000 designations.

Other changes are wrought by reforms — all of them geographical — in the government. In Kasumigaseki, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has now taken over the whole building it used to share with the ministries of culture, sports, etc. I don’t know where they went.

Other typical changes involve the number of bank-name alterations. As financial disaster threatened, the Asahi became the Resona, the Dai-Ichi Kangyo became the Mizuho, and all has been accounted for by changes and additions on the maps.

The original maps themselves remain, however, and the pagination of the new edition is as it was in the old. Other than recent stations, nothing new has been added to Tokyo’s admirable public transportation systems, and some things have been left out. The new Maruzen in front of Tokyo Station is not there while the Kinokuniya supermarket in Aoyama is there, even though it has now moved blocks away.

The things that have made this guide so valuable remain. There are 21 maps of metropolitan Tokyo, and not only the chome numbers but also the banchi (block) numbers are indicated. Supporting these are 18 maps of central Tokyo that include all sorts of helpful details.

Station entries are indicated, and subway station exits are numbered to correspond to those numbers actually in the subway.

I suppose it would be too much to expect the escalators and elevators of the various stations to also be listed. (You spend more time on the escalator in the very deep Oedo Line than you do in the subway car itself.) That this inclusion is too much to ask is indicated by there being no such information at all.

There are, however, seven extra maps of central Yokohama and Kawasaki and “access maps” to the three remaining bits of the Allied Occupation that otherwise ended in 1952 — Camps Yokota and Zama, and Yokosuka U.S. Navy Base. There are also a number of distracting arrows, for the convenience of anyone foolish enough to drive in Tokyo, that indicate ways to escape to the expressways.

In addition there are two detailed transportation maps — one of the Metropolitan Tokyo Rail System and one of the Tokyo Subway System. There is, however, no indication that not one but two subway systems exist in Tokyo and that you are expected to pay different fares for each, or else you will be balked while trying to transfer, or even exit.

All the maps are boldly color-coded — stations are red, parks are green, hotels tend to be pink and all the rest seems done up in shades of tan. This does not lend precision, but then Tokyo is not a very precise place. It is so big and so sprawling that it no longer has real borders. Landmarks from the past are more difficult to locate than they are in most modern capitals.

On the other hand, the different shades do discriminate. I am reminded of poet Elizabeth Bishop’s remark that “topography displays no favorites; north’s as near as west. More delicate than the historians’ are the map-makers’ colors.”

Some help is necessary as one explores this vast, fascinating, confusing city, and this new edition offers the best assistance.

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