All cities change, but the 20th century saw Tokyo undergo more destruction and rebuilding than in any other period since its founding.

The capital was devastated first by natural disaster and then aerial bombardment, and was subsequently re-imagined in the frenzy of construction that typically follows such calamity. Today, the city reads like a quilt, with new patches supplanting the threadbare structures of bygone eras.

Tokyo's traditional enemy is fire. On winter nights local volunteers still amble through residential beats in pairs or small groups talking quietly. As they walk they knock together two pieces of hardwood, sending sharp timber notes through the streets. It's an old tradition, a reminder for denizens of this huge metropolis to extinguish kerosene heaters, candles and other fire hazards before they sleep.