Michael Pronko shares his detailed observations of the culture and life of one of the busiest cities on the planet.
Every city has its daily practices, yearly schedules, and small quirks. As an eighteen-year resident of the bustling city of Tokyo, Michael Pronko shares his experiences and thoughts of his long-time home. Using visual descriptions and intimate thoughts, the English teacher offers a direct connection into what makes Tokyo tick. From overcrowded commutes, tiny living spaces, and carefully thought outfits to sluggish summers, busy holidays, and terrifying earthquakes, Pronko’s essays offer a unique perspective that neither tourists nor life-long residents can offer.
MOTIONS AND MOMENTS appeals to both readers that have never been to Tokyo and readers that have lived in the city their whole lives. Pronko’s ability to shift between being a “Tokyoite” and a “Westerner” allows him to make connections and comparisons between the Japanese city and other cities he has visited around the world, including the lack of visual appeal that Tokyo has and its constant vertical expansions. Though he now calls the city his home, Pronko’s love for Tokyo does not prevent him from making honest observations, such as Tokyo’s inability to cope with snow and the ever-present fear of earthquakes.
With so many insightful comments, a few sections brought observations that seemed almost too keen. The chapter on T-shirts with English phrases written on them or the story of Pronko stubbing his toe and gingerly navigating through the city felt like extraneous details that do not necessarily enrich readers on Tokyo’s culture. Additionally, the entire sections on earthquakes felt out of place. Whereas most of the collection of essays were only loosely tied together and a few pages long, Pronko devotes several chapters to earthquakes, keeping the reader on one subject for a much longer period of time than anything else in the novel. While this might make sense in a narrative novel, its length within a series of very short essays disrupted the flow of the collection.
Ultimately, Pronko’s essays are intriguing, reminding readers of the importance of immersing in other cultures beyond surface-level tourism. Cities, beyond landmarks and destinations, breathe with the life of its culture and its residents.
MOTIONS AND MOMENTS captures the personality and vigor of Tokyo with its thoughtful and perceptive essays.