This latest read has been a departure from the style I’d usually go for, but nonetheless I’ve really enjoyed it. The book I’m talking about is “Motions & Moments; More Essays on Tokyo” by Michael Pronko, to which a link will be included at the end of this post.
This book is comprised of a set of essays which discuss different aspects of life in Tokyo, from public transport, to food, to social lives. As I’ve never been to Tokyo, I found it fascinating to read about the many ways in which their culture differs from ours, or anything I’ve ever experienced.
This book consists of five sections; Surfaces, Miniatures, Constructs, Quaking, and Serenities, each section giving the reader insight into life in Tokyo in a different way. It begins with an anecdote of how the writer always gets asked “you like ramen?” when eating out in Tokyo, even after living there for many years. He perceives that this is the Japanese native’s way of claiming their culture, while including others in it too.
My favourite essay in this book is by far “Urban Speed Poetry” – in this story the author describes how t-shirts with slogans in English on them become very prevalent in Summer. He discusses how, around ten or twenty years ago many of these slogans would have been in broken English, and wouldn’t have made sense to us, whereas in more recent years this has changed completely and they all read perfectly. He also contemplates the activity of reading them and interpreting the meaning before the wearer moves away, which can sometimes be a challenge. I found this anecdote to be particularly entertaining as it showed an aspect of life in Tokyo I would never have thought of before.
Another part of life in Tokyo which is discussed largely in this book is public transport. As my daily interactions with public transport consist only of getting one bus, this depiction was something that differed wildly. In Tokyo, not only is one required to navigate horizontally but also vertically. Trains are a non stop hub of human activity, and when someone forgets something necessary instead of going home, it is all available in vending machines and tiny shops – all which can be availed of without even stopping one’s stride.
Overall I found this to be a very interesting read. It did take me longer to read than other books usually do, as a result of the format it is written in with lots of short stories. Nonetheless, it was well worth reading and something I’d recommend to anyone with an interest in learning more about other cultures and ways of life!