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Cities are intrinsically inviting subjects for a writer. Part human, part natural; arena of history and mantelpiece of memory — cities provide the setting for the archetypal encounter of the individual with the masses.

With its conjunction of vast and intimate scales, its turbulent history and ever-shifting landscapes, Tokyo offers an inviting subject for the urban portraitist. In “Tokyo: A Biography,” Stephen Mansfield, a prolific author, photojournalist and longtime British resident of Tokyo, is the latest author to take on this challenge. With it, he joins a long line of illustrious interpreters whose readings of the city are available in English, including Edward Seidensticker, Donald Ritchie, Paul Waley, Ai Maeda and Hidenobu Jinnai.

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