Motions and Moments

More Essays on Tokyo

Non-Fiction - Travel
265 Pages
Reviewed on 01/04/2016
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Author Biography

Michael Pronko writes about Japanese culture, art, jazz, society, architecture and politics for Newsweek Japan, The Japan Times, Artscape Japan, as well as other venues. He has appeared on NHK and Nippon Television and runs his own website, jazz in Japan ( He teaches American Literature and Culture at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo and after class wanders Tokyo contemplating its intensity.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Ryan Jordan for Readers' Favorite

Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo by Michael Pronko is a collection of essays about life in Tokyo, and particularly how it deviates from the life Western people might be used to in engaging with Eastern culture. Each essay is like a self-contained explanation of one facet of life in the context of a grander conversation, and each one is a complete work in its own right. They all flow very well together and contribute to the whole, some discussing behavior in Tokyo, or demeanor, or social norms, and how to interact effectively. All are told through the lens of one man and his interactions which gives it a narrative flow. This makes it almost feel like a fictional novel of short stories and vignettes rather than a collection of essays.

Each of the essays has an interesting tidbit to share and the quality of them is quite impressive. A lot of similar works don't have the same conversational quality of this work where the author says a lot of interesting things and also sounds like he knows what he's talking about. It was easy to read and contained powerful messages that don't necessarily apply only to life in Tokyo, but pertain to life in general, and this elevates the work to new heights. Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo by Michael Pronko is a real winner and worth reading by anyone who is interested in conversational essays by a talented and experienced author.

Jack Magnus

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.

Rabia Tanveer

Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo by Michael Pronko is a collection of essays that describe life in Tokyo. To be honest, this book actually cleared up some of my misconceptions about Tokyo and how people live in Tokyo. I thought people lived the high life, that they lived in the fast lane, and their lives are easier than most. After reading Michael Pronko’s essays, I realized how wrong I was. The people of Tokyo are not as different from us as we believe. Granted, they live in one of the most technologically developed cities, but they do have their own challenges.

I found “A Meal in the Hand” very interesting. Imagine your work day, imagine how you are working through your lunch, and you quickly gobble down a bag of chips or Doritos. Well, in Tokyo, they eat onigiri, a much healthier snack. And for readers who might think that the fast-paced life in Tokyo has no place for religion, “Tokyo's Traditional Pauses” will tell them what religion is really like for the people of Tokyo.

There was another essay in the book which describes the earthquake and tsunami of 2011. The essay talks about the gruesome effects of the earthquake and how it shook the city. This book is perfect for people who, like me, enjoy reading about different cities and their cultures. Tokyo is a passionate city and I am glad I read this book and now realize that. A well written and eloquent account of life in Tokyo. I really liked it.

Faridah Nassozi

Tokyo is not only the Japanese capital and largest city, but is also one of the world's most dynamic places. Probably one of its most fascinating attributes is how it has managed to go ultramodern without abandoning the beautiful traditions and ways of its people. Through his third book about Tokyo, titled Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo, Michael Pronko presents yet another amazing insight into this magnificent city and its lifestyle. From fashion, entertainment, food, nightlife, ultramodern facilities, or some good old-fashioned Japanese culture, Tokyo has got it all and Michael Pronko captures its blends perfectly. With each new essay opening yet another window into life in this magnificent city, the book vividly captures the depth and beauty of Tokyo, bringing to life the city and the lifestyle.

Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo by Michael Pronko perfectly captures the surreal feel and allure of Tokyo. It is an unbiased in-depth view of Tokyo from someone who not only lives in the city but has formed a deep personal connection with it. By using his personal experiences to tell the story of one of the world's most dynamic cities, Michael Pronko put a human touch to the ever so vibrant scenery that is Tokyo. It is a perfect example of how to adopt the new without abandoning the old. The traditions bring a certain balance and serenity into the commotion and chaos of this ultramodern city and the two blend together impeccably; a feeling that is perfectly portrayed through Michael Pronko's narrations and descriptions. Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo by Michael Pronko is a captivating read that flawlessly captures the spirit of Tokyo.

Mamta Madhavan

Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo by Michael Pronko is a book that throws light on Tokyo, Japan, Japanese culture and the country as the whole. Written in five parts as essays, the author covers the place extensively and expansively, giving readers interesting details about Tokyo and his time there. The 42 essays capture the vibrancy of the city and life there through the author's eyes, making it come alive. All the topics are engaging and will make readers look at Tokyo with a new perspective and ponder on the culture that defines the Japanese.

It's a book for all those who are interested in knowing more about Tokyo, the Japanese, and their culture. The book touches upon many interesting facts, capturing the essence of the land beautifully. The idea of presenting these thoughts as essays is clever and readers don't get bored. The writing style is simple and crisp, making all the essays appealing. The glossary at the end of the collection is helpful for readers to comprehend any difficult words.

The author's wanderings and musings on Tokyo will make readers want to travel to the city to savor and experience all that the author mentions during his time there. The author's words and experiences make it visual and get readers close to Tokyo and its uniqueness. The book will definitely help readers learn the finer details about the place. I enjoyed these essays. This book helps readers learn a lot more about Tokyo than what one usually gets to read.