Continuing on from his previous book, Beauty and Chaos: Slices and Morsels of Tokyo Life, Michael Pronko presents more stories and snippets of life in Tokyo from the perspective of an expat American. Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo reflects on the unique flavors, distinct cultures, and the functional paradoxes of the Japanese capital in 42 more essays from Pronko’s 18 years of Japanese life. Altogether, the book provides a light, solemn, and amusing collection of autobiographical moments and views on the vibrant and fascinating Land of the Rising Sun.
Pronko has an intriguing outlook on his surroundings: his writing is very observational, yet still colored by his particular personality, one of good humor and of a commitment to understanding and improving. Pronko’s style of writing is charmingly conversational and hard not to find yourself drawn into. His stories are fairly brief, anecdotal snatches of what often comes across as a fairly usual experience, especially for Western natives who are both overwhelmingly catered to as well as left completely clueless for some of even the most basic functions of daily life. The supremely relatable small struggles and equally small victories of language barriers, culture shock, and pure happenstance are a joy to read about. Beyond sheer novelty and the simple joy of learning these facts and stories, every piece has a poetry to it and a deeper meaning to dwell on, which Pronko seems to understand perfectly as elements of a good autobiographical collection.
There’s very little to nitpick here as the premise is very simple and the book really delivers on all expectations. The cover is a beautiful, simple image that gives the piece a beautiful, subdued coat of polish and advertises the feel of the book nicely. The design would fit nicely alongside any regular Japanese language print book, yet stand out from all others in its gentle plainness. It’s a great example of gorgeous simplicity that counters and compliments its predecessor’s colorful, chaotic nature, just as the contents of the collection does as well. The interior of the book is clear, concise as it needs to be, and there’s a glossary of terms pointed out early on in the publication that notes that all loan-words and terms, helpfully italicized, are explained at the back of the book. There’s a great deal of small-but-mighty features about the book and all of them take the collection above and beyond from great to excellent.
Anyone familiar with, or wishing to become familiar with the quirks of Japanese culture and Tokyo life, Pronko’s essays are a wonderful start or addition to a breadth of knowledge. Pronko is an insightful author capable of seeing a deeper beauty in everything he writes, and this collection is something to behold. If you enjoyed Pronko’s other writings, this is more of the same, and just as spectacular. 5 stars