February 24, 2016
Reviewed by Lauren Cannavino
In his third book of essays about living in Tokyo, Japan author Michael Pronko provides an insider’s view of the city, with the perspective/respect of a one-time outsider. As an American writing and teaching at the University level and living in Tokyo for over eighteen years, Pronko has learned how to navigate the city, the customs and all of the quirks, while still being open to adventure and new discoveries. Always ready to explore and discover something new, Pronko is proud of his residence in Tokyo, proud of the citizens, his students and the hustle and bustle. This hustle and bustle is explored in a deeply intimate and well thought out manner and Pronko’s perspective, often reflected through observations made at the train station or on the train, show that there is much more to the city and its inhabitants than just harried/hurried professionals running about.
Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo is a collection of short essays, each focusing on a certain topic, rich in images, careful explanations of customs, the culture and all of the complexities associated with the city. There are essays on food, gifts, train rides, social norms, nightlife and more. The pride of the city and the culture is reflected in all of the essays. The author has also included a glossary at the end of the book for easy reference and the book immediately is a warm, personal narrative that allows the reader into Pronko’s life. In spite of his years spent in Tokyo, the author readily shares his own struggles or confusions about the way of life in his new home and all of his discoveries along the way. The language barriers, the small spaces, the constant stream of people, long days and more, sometimes unfamiliar and daunting, are also rather comforting. The essays discussing the earthquakes that have rocked Tokyo in recent years were raw, heartfelt and speak volumes on the importance of home, even if that home is somewhere far away or unfamiliar.
Motions and Moments is not a street by street guidebook for a potential visitor or resident of Tokyo, but is instead an engaging and insightful look into a culture full of traditions, quirks, warmth and far more. Pronko’s well-crafted words show the utmost respect for the Tokyoites that have adopted him and have shared their beautiful culture with him.
Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.