Michael Pronko

My new collection of essays, Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo, just out in December 2015, covers different ground from the first two collections. I look at the structures inside Tokyo’s cultural life, but also at the flow of life here, the pleasures, which always seem entangled with aggravations, and the odd instances and situations the city drags me into. From what I can tell from past reviewers, and from old friends on Facebook, picking up your life and setting it down in Tokyo is kind of a strange thing for a boy from Kansas to do! I have lived, taught and written in Tokyo for eighteen years now. I work as a professor at Meiji Gakuin University teaching American literature, culture, film, music, and art. Living here all seems so natural to me, though, but not always. My essays spring from that precarious balance of familiar and unfamiliar, from life lived in an intense place. I love having a day job that’s engaging, where students ask questions about literature, art, music, film and life. Going from the classroom out to Tokyo I get even more questions. The city asks me as many questions as the students do. In that sense, I’m definitely with Thoreau, even though I can’t think of anyplace more different from Tokyo than Walden Pond. Thoreau captured it right when he said: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Tokyo life teaches me a lot of essentials, too. Over the years, I have written for many publications in Japan: The Japan Times for a dozen years, the once-great Tokyo Q, a learner-oriented weekly ST Shukan, Winds magazine, Jazznin, and Jazz Colo[u]rs (in Italian!). These days, I write about Japanese art for Artscape Japan. That gets me out to galleries, museums and odd cultural spots. My other writing is for my own website Jazz in Japan (jazzinjapan.com). I go out to jazz clubs as often as I can, which isn’t as often as I want. The new book forms a trilogy of sorts with the first two, Beauty and Chaos and Tokyo’s Mystery Deepens. The essays in those two collections were mostly culled from my regular column in Newsweek Japan in Japanese. Many of the new essays come from that Newsweek Japan column, but many are completely new.

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