“What slows me are small shrines tucked alongside the sidewalks of Tokyo. These shrines are ignored by most passersby, but are tucked into small lots all over the city. I always stop to look, because I love the way they insist, against all contrary evidence, that some places in this ever-changing megalopolis remain sacred.”
For foreigners, some cultures are much more difficult to immerse oneself in than others. Americans can find more in common often with some European cultures than Asian ones. I can verify that firsthand as I’ve lived in both cultures. However, I always found the Japanese culture the most fascinating of any I have experienced. They do many things in a very different way and for very different reasons than we would in America.
Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo gives one man’s perspective about life in the Japanese culture. Michael Pronko grew up near Kansas City, but teaches at a university in Japan and has lived there for 15 years. He has written short essays about his experiences for newspapers and magazines and has compiled them in three books with Motions and Moments being the third book. I was given a copy of the ebook to review by onlinebookclub.org.
Pronko explores topics such as the lack of eye contact by the Japanese, the cleanliness of the city, the kiosks found on every corner and living through an earthquake. He uses several common Japanese words, but offers a list of them with definitions in the back. The most memorable essay for me was his one about space and how the Japanese only have a certain amount of space to live in, work in and worship in. Many use a futon to sleep on so that a room can be a living space during the day and a sleeping area at night. He describes the rush of life before the new year and the slow time of enjoying the cherry blossoms blooming.
Pronko’s writing style will take anyone into the world of Japan and see what the culture looks like on a person-to-person level. I really enjoyed this book because I could see where he was since I lived near Tokyo for four years in my childhood. For me, it was a walk down memory lane and reminded me how much I loved living there and experiencing the culture. I don’t think you’d have to have been to Japan to enjoy this book, though – just have a love for learning about different cultures.
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