Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo is a collection of nonfiction travel essays written by Michael Pronko. The author, a professor of American literature, has been writing essays about this city for fifteen years, beginning in his capacity as a reviewer of jazz for an online magazine. He’s since written some 200 essays on Tokyo’s culture, food, nightlife, and just about anything he can think of, and yet he still finds more to write about. Hence these essays as he continues to discover that there’s still so much more about this city that he’s lived in for the last 18 years to enjoy and make his own. The essays in this collection range from the enjoyment of ramen noodles and onigiri and the intricacies of establishing a common conversational language in his everyday interactions, to the difference between loose and tight public body language that is so hard for non-Tokyoites to acquire; the verticality of Tokyo with its many layers and levels; and the mood of its denizens in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Michael Pronko’s collection of nonfiction travel essays, Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo, is an extraordinary travel guide to a culture I had previously known next to nothing about. Each of his essays brought me closer and closer to an appreciation of the complex and complicated place Tokyo is, and the lifestyles of those who call it home. His writing style is conversational and smooth, and I found that after finishing one essay I was eager to dive into the next one right away. I particularly enjoyed his essays on Tokyo nightlife and the jazz clubs he frequents. There are lots of reasons why Pronko has made this city of crowds and concrete and hidden little shrines his home, and he shares so much of that affection and enthusiasm in each of these essays. This is the first of his collections of Tokyo essays that I’ve read, but it won’t be the last. Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo is most highly recommended.