This is a sequel to Beauty and Chaos, which I reviewed last month, a collection of essays on what it s like for an American to live in Tokyo It s gonna be hard coming up with something I didn t say about the first volume, as this is sheer goodiness in the same vein Michael Pronko is one of those people who notices all the little things that most don t, like the intriguing relationship between mothers and daughters in public Considering what s in energy drinks here in the States, I sure as hell wouldn t try an energy bottle People don t lose their speaking inhibitions at the bars, but rather at the gym The author laments that train stations are now like shopping centers There s even a chapter on sweating basically, don t do it, or at least never let them see you doing it To point out how observant the author is, how many Tokyo natives would notice all the flowers Other than when the cherries blossom But for me personally the most important chapter was about smoking, where it s mentioned that despite all the prohibitions against certain behavior in Tokyo, lighting up is not one of them Boy, is he right I ve been in Romanian nightclubs that didn t have as much nicotine residue in the air as strolling along a sidewalk in Tokyo As I mentioned in the previous book, I read this almost like science fiction, as though I was receiving insights into an alien culture If you ever wonder how something like Hello Kitty could become so huge, this is the place to start.4.5 rounded up to 5 5 Is Tokyo Unknowable Mysterious Confusing Not In These Essays The Biggest City In The World Just Became Clearer Writing About Tokyo For Over Years, Essayist And Professor Michael Pronko Unlocks The Doors To Tokyo Life These Essays Reveal What S Hidden Behind The Gleaming Exteriors And Unconcerned Faces In The Largest, Most Crowded City In The WorldHow To Sweat Politely, Survive Noise Trucks And Glance Sideways Are Some Of The Many Skills Needed To Live In Tokyo, But These Tricks Of Daily Life Also Contain Deep Meanings Pronko S Essays Muse Over The Minutest Of Details, Everything From Window Flowers To Moments Of Eye Contact To The Gestures Needed To Navigate Crowded Spaces If You Re Traveling To Tokyo, Living There Or Just Thinking Of Going, These Essays Point You Toward The Rich Byways And Fascinating Undercurrents Of Tokyo LifeEssay Topics Include Compact LifeTokyo ExhaustionThe Lunch RitualMothers And DaughtersTokyo DoubledAs In His First Collection Of Essays, Beauty And Chaos, Pronko Examines Tokyo As A City, A Culture And An Overpowering Experience Tokyo S Mystery Deepens Explores The Enigmatic Sides Of Tokyo With Humor, Delicacy And A Large Dose Of Healthy ConfusionPronko 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 Jazzinjapan He Teaches American Literature And Culture At Meiji Gakuin University In Tokyo And After Class Wanders Tokyo Contemplating Its IntensityPraise For His First Collection Of Essays, Beauty And Chaos Japanese Who Are Used To Tokyo Are Caught Off Guard By His Conclusions Derived From Careful Observation, And Are Struck Dumb Tokyo, The City We Are So Careless Of, Suddenly Starts To Become Glorious It Is A Wonder Chunichi Shimbun Newspaper Giving Up The Bias And Seeing The City With Completely Different Standards, You Will See The Unexpected, Attractive Face Of Tokyo This Book Is A Guide For Rediscovering Tokyo That Lets Us See The City With Unique New Features Nikkan Gendai Newspaper Japanese Version Available From KADOKAWA Publishers As This is a collection of essays about living in Tokyo Pronko is insightful and expresses himself very well. This is a Goodreads First Read Got off to a marvellous start a beautifully wrapped package arrived containing this book and I wanted to start reading it straightaway Having been to Japan many years ago, I was curious to know about the traditions, etc I got off to a bad start when I arrived there suffering from a very bad bout of bronchitis and knowing how the Japanese are paranoid about infection Have only read a few chapters but am really loving it Have now finished it and it was a wonderful read anyone who wants to know a lot about Tokyo and its people, this one is for you. If Michael Pronko s prior Beauty and Chaos captured the exquisite essence of the urban heartbeat that is Tokyo, then this follow up essay collection, Tokyo s Mystery Deepens, is its soul, offering up pieces of Tokyo s psyche through the observations of a visitor who became immersed in its culture.Perhaps the bigger question here is how has Tokyo adapted to Pronko The answer lies within pages that reveal not only Tokyo s heart and soul, but the process whereby visitors become not just observers, but participants in the city s pulse.As chapters flow through Tokyo cultural experiences, readers receive a rare glimpse of the structure and nature of Tokyo s underlying psyche, whether it be adaptations to rainy seasons, the new culture of youth dragging shopping in wheeled bags and disrupting unspoken public train etiquette and paths of movement, or how compact living in small spaces is achieved.This collection along with Beauty and Chaos should be required reading for any Westerner bound for Japan It s a powerful, intimate consideration of many aspects of Japanese culturet hat is difficult to locate elsewhere much less in a series of lively inspections handily presented under one cover. Received as a Goodreads giveaway.Collection of essays from Tokyo Provides a lovely insight into life in Tokyo, Most enjoyable. This is my second armchair venture into the land of the rising sun and this time around maybe due to knowing what to expect somewhat enjoyable Mind you, Tokyo still doesn t seem appealing in the slightest to me nor would it constitute a fun place to visit all the reason to read about it, of course , but this time around Pronko s essays come across a tad personable It may be difficult for me to see the appeal objectively, but Pronko s subjective affection for his adopted city is explicit Interesting quick read that offers much in a way of cultural and sociological observation Recommended. Book ReviewTitle Tokyo s Mystery DeepensAuthor Michael PronkoGenre Non fictional Slice of Life EssayRating Review I wanted to say before I begin this review is going to be slightly longer than some of the other ones I do because this book is a collection of essays on life in Tokyo and therefore cannot be reviewed using the same process I use for the average novel.I loved this book before I even opened it because it is written about life in Japan, Tokyo in particular and it s a place I have always wanted to visit live experience I loved the introduction as Michael Pronko living in Japan still feels like a tourist at times because of the mysterious and slightly confusing nature of life in Japan And these sorts of introductions are the best because it gives you a rounded sense of the author before the essays start which is needed otherwise they can feel very clinical and detached.The books itself is split into 4 parts, the first being the Essentials of Tokyo ism This part focuses around little things that Tokyoites do like apologizing a lot I loved that chapter because it shows that foreigners can adjust to a different way of life Apologizing in the UK is mainly used for higher transgressions, for example standing on someone s foot on the train, in the UK whether we did the stepping or got stepped on we would ignore it but the Japanese are very quick to apologize in this situation to anticipate and prevent larger serious problems which is something other countries should adopt.I also liked the fact Michael Pronko feels extremely protective of his city even though he s a newcomer compared to most people and he doesn t really like the fact he runs into a lot of foreigners It almost feels like he was born and raised there.Michael Pronko talks about the cultural and social norms in Tokyo and Japan in general, as how the different from the Western world i.e America and the UK My favourite norm is the surgical masks we see a lot of Japanese people wearing and how it offers not just protection for germs but offers a way of distancing oneself from everyday stresses like work and social interaction.I loved his writing style its personal, interesting and at the same time informative and formal written It s fun, upbeat and never boring even when talking about the most mundane things like street lighting, bank form etc.My favourite chapter was Testimony in Red purely because of the way Pronko talks about hankos or little red rubber stamps used instead of signatures I loved the enthusiasm and panic he feels filling out forms and signing like an American and having to fill in the same form several times I just loved how it is something so mundane yet it makes him feel so special and a important, it conveys an ultimate sense of wonder of our everyday lives that we normally forget in our autonomy.I also enjoyed the way he talked about the newer generations losing the cultural norms of the previous generation and their gestures becoming western An example of this is the new generation laugh and smile openly where the previous generation would indicate these emotions with slight hand and head gestures.I really loved being about to learn about the cultural and social side of my favourite country in the world, some of the things Pronko talks about like the hanko, slight hand gestures and social awareness I never knew before but reading this book has helped me understand better things that I found strange about Japan When reading this you understand that their social norms seem strange from a western point of view but ours are just as strange to them.The second section of the book focuses on the society as a whole although still looking at small things like the noise level of the city compared to other, questionnaires given out almost everywhere you go and how these fit in and what purpose they serve I like the fact we are looking at Tokyo through the eyes of a foreigner technically although he has adjusted to life in a city whose cultural and societal norms are almost completely backward to the western world I found it a surprisingly refreshing new insight to Eastern society.Also in the section Pronko also briefly talks about Japanese politics, infrastructure and technology and they effect and invade everyday life, meaning the day doesn t quiet or slow down until the evening And reading through this section you can build a detailed picture of the city and city life in Tokyo in your mind, you can see the new fantasy like skyscrapers, hear the noise and almost feel the beating heart of the city.Pronko also talks about saving face in a way He talks about how Tokyoites are constantly trying to present the perfect image by having the right clothes, hair and make up They focus highly on their outward appearance and social etiquette rather than their own personal opinions and preferences Which is completely different to the UK where I live as we westerners pride ourselves on individuality rather than sartorial homogeneity.I also loved the fact he pointed out Tokyo unlike most cities can be divided into male and females halves, and these halves live, work and survive parallel with each other but hardly even interact I loved this comparison as he sees mother daughter and father son although they may be friends not direct relations The only time you really see a male female pairing is if they are a couple i.e girlfriend boyfriend or husband wife you don t really see F M pairing otherwise the only exception to this would be colleague outings.I admired the way he talks about little things and how they become big staples in the everyday life of a Tokyoite, like smoking mainly circumstantial and energy power drinks and how almost every person in Tokyo can use these things on a daily basis, especially the energy drinks I also respect the amount of work Pronko must have gone through to create this book and give us the reader just a glimpse into the mysterious world of the Orient, that is as fragile and wondrous as it has always been, and how it refuses to conform to the ever changing world.Despite refusing to conform to the global changes Japan goes above and beyond becoming a futuristic fantasy like city but in pursuing this they are beginning to lose their own history Once this history is lost it can never be regained.One of my favourite topics was how in Tokyo the pursuit and acquisition of knowledge has become the ultimate guide determined one s rank and position in society Delving deeper into this he also talks about how the pursuit has taken away the pleasure and wisdom gaining from slow absorbing not cram learning.The third part entitled Seasons in the Labyrinth was one of my favourites because it brings a sense of warmth to the soul I loved the way Pronko talks about the temples, various festivals, the emergence of the cherry blossom in the spring and even allergies, he does it in such a way that absolutely everything even a man sneezing on the train, fireworks is so wondrous that it cannot be ignored.Reading this section also made me rather sad as I realised I have a huge longing to visit Japan even if for a short while but I ll probably never see it with my own eyes As somewith with little formal education and years of experience in dead end jobs I doubt I ll ever have the oppourtunities to witness the mysteries and life in the Orient But I also feel happy and proud in a way for the author for getting there, living there and understanding the cultural wonders of such a impressive place on this ever shrinking Earth.The final section of this book talks about life deep within the beating heart of the city When reading this section you can feel the book drawing to a close and you don t want it to end, you want just one page to envelop of these wonders The one thing I would have like in this book would have been a few pictures just to solidfy some of the points Michael Pronko was making especially when he talks about the changing seasons relating to the cherry blossoms and oak trees.Michael Pronko is an amazing writer He can make you see and feel something in this case a city, in a way you have never experienced before or will again I own two of his books, both of which he personally sent to me and I can t wait to read Even though is books are collections of essays and I don t normally read non fiction I can t get enough.I do believe though if Pronko wrote a fictional novel with the same passion and devotion as this one, it would be an absolutely astounding read.
Michael Pronko is an award winning, Tokyo based writer of murder, memoir and music His writings on Tokyo life and his taut character driven mysteries have won critics awards and five star reviews Kirkus Reviews called his second novel, The Moving Blade, An elegant balance of Japanese customs with American style hard boiled procedural and selected it for their Best Books of 2018 Michael also
- Tokyo's Mystery Deepens
- Michael Pronko
- 02 July 2017 Michael Pronko