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Beauty and Chaos (Essays) Tokyo--City of Contradictions? Yes and no! The largest city in the world teems with chaotic energy and serene, human-scale beauty. Want to know the real city? Writing about Tokyo for over 15 years, essayist and professor Michael Pronko opens up Tokyo life and reveals what’s beneath the gleaming, puzzling exterior of the biggest city in the world. Whet Beauty and Chaos (Essays) Tokyo--City of Contradictions? Yes and no! The largest city in the world teems with chaotic energy and serene, human-scale beauty. Want to know the real city? Writing about Tokyo for over 15 years, essayist and professor Michael Pronko opens up Tokyo life and reveals what’s beneath the gleaming, puzzling exterior of the biggest city in the world. Whether contemplating Tokyo’s odd-shaped bonsai houses, endless walls of bottles, pachinko parlors, chopstick ballet or the perilous habit of running for trains, the 45 essays in Beauty and Chaos explore Tokyo from inside to reveal the city’s deeper meanings and daily pleasures. In turns comic, philosophic, descriptive and exasperated, Pronko’s essays have been popular with Japanese readers for more than a decade. Essay Topics Include: Waiting to Blossom Cherry Tree Maps The Shout of English T-Shirts Hanging Menus Inside the Smallest Places Standing Libraries If you’re traveling to Tokyo, these essays enlarge the significance and illuminate the contradictions of this fast-paced megalopolis. Part travelogue, part comparative culture, and all creative essay, Beauty and Chaos taps the mysteries of Tokyo and lets the meanings flow. 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 (www.jazzinjapan.com). He teaches American Literature and Culture at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo and after class wanders Tokyo contemplating its intensity. Praise for the Japanese version: “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: 僕、トーキョーの味方です マイケル・プロンコ


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Beauty and Chaos (Essays) Tokyo--City of Contradictions? Yes and no! The largest city in the world teems with chaotic energy and serene, human-scale beauty. Want to know the real city? Writing about Tokyo for over 15 years, essayist and professor Michael Pronko opens up Tokyo life and reveals what’s beneath the gleaming, puzzling exterior of the biggest city in the world. Whet Beauty and Chaos (Essays) Tokyo--City of Contradictions? Yes and no! The largest city in the world teems with chaotic energy and serene, human-scale beauty. Want to know the real city? Writing about Tokyo for over 15 years, essayist and professor Michael Pronko opens up Tokyo life and reveals what’s beneath the gleaming, puzzling exterior of the biggest city in the world. Whether contemplating Tokyo’s odd-shaped bonsai houses, endless walls of bottles, pachinko parlors, chopstick ballet or the perilous habit of running for trains, the 45 essays in Beauty and Chaos explore Tokyo from inside to reveal the city’s deeper meanings and daily pleasures. In turns comic, philosophic, descriptive and exasperated, Pronko’s essays have been popular with Japanese readers for more than a decade. Essay Topics Include: Waiting to Blossom Cherry Tree Maps The Shout of English T-Shirts Hanging Menus Inside the Smallest Places Standing Libraries If you’re traveling to Tokyo, these essays enlarge the significance and illuminate the contradictions of this fast-paced megalopolis. Part travelogue, part comparative culture, and all creative essay, Beauty and Chaos taps the mysteries of Tokyo and lets the meanings flow. 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 (www.jazzinjapan.com). He teaches American Literature and Culture at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo and after class wanders Tokyo contemplating its intensity. Praise for the Japanese version: “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: 僕、トーキョーの味方です マイケル・プロンコ

30 review for Beauty and Chaos: Slices and Morsels of Tokyo Life

  1. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Sherriff

    What a relief it was to read Michael Pronko's gentle slice-of-life essays on Tokyo, not because this collection was particularly profound (it wasn't) or particularly scathing (not at all) but because his observations of an ex-pat's opinions on life in Tokyo rang true to my own experiences. I found myself nodding in agreement at his attempts to see the bigger picture in the little details that make living in Japan so interesting and often so frustrating. I laughed out loud over his observations a What a relief it was to read Michael Pronko's gentle slice-of-life essays on Tokyo, not because this collection was particularly profound (it wasn't) or particularly scathing (not at all) but because his observations of an ex-pat's opinions on life in Tokyo rang true to my own experiences. I found myself nodding in agreement at his attempts to see the bigger picture in the little details that make living in Japan so interesting and often so frustrating. I laughed out loud over his observations about why all Japanese TV dramas feature a shot of the hero or heroine running a long distance in slow motion, why you can judge a Tokyo restaurant's quality by the shoddiness of its signs, and the gentle zen-like beauty of the absurdly worded T-shirts you see on hip young Tokyoites. Download my starter library for free here - http://eepurl.com/bFkt0X - and receive my monthly newsletter with book recommendations galore for the Japanophile/crime fiction/English teacher in all of us.

  2. 4 out of 5

    John

    I've never been to Japan, although I've read a lot of books that are set there, both fiction and non fiction. Pleasantly surprised to learn that I could appreciate his observations, rarely feeling that I had heard what he had to say before. Looking forward to his other essay collections! I've never been to Japan, although I've read a lot of books that are set there, both fiction and non fiction. Pleasantly surprised to learn that I could appreciate his observations, rarely feeling that I had heard what he had to say before. Looking forward to his other essay collections!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    The pleasant and diverse travel essays in this collection draw on Pronko’s 15 years living in Japan. Anyone who has seen Lost in Translation will retain the sense of a glittering, bewildering place that Westerners wander through in a daze. He notices the kinds of things that might be taken for granted by the Japanese and overlooked entirely by visitors, such as the prevalence of vending machines and bottle displays or the popularity of store bags, loyalty cards and truck deliveries. See my full r The pleasant and diverse travel essays in this collection draw on Pronko’s 15 years living in Japan. Anyone who has seen Lost in Translation will retain the sense of a glittering, bewildering place that Westerners wander through in a daze. He notices the kinds of things that might be taken for granted by the Japanese and overlooked entirely by visitors, such as the prevalence of vending machines and bottle displays or the popularity of store bags, loyalty cards and truck deliveries. See my full review at The Bookbag. (I also did an interview with the author.)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Book

    Visiting Tokyo is an experience that is hard to forget, something that, no matter how experienced world traveler you are, is not comparable with anything else anywhere in the world. Michael Pronko has lived and wrote in and about Tokyo for fifteen years. Working as a professor at Meiji Gakuin University and teaching American literature, culture, film, music, and art, Pronko is a man that rightly, regardless of his origin, can be called insider. As he nicely wrote -fielding questions from his stud Visiting Tokyo is an experience that is hard to forget, something that, no matter how experienced world traveler you are, is not comparable with anything else anywhere in the world. Michael Pronko has lived and wrote in and about Tokyo for fifteen years. Working as a professor at Meiji Gakuin University and teaching American literature, culture, film, music, and art, Pronko is a man that rightly, regardless of his origin, can be called insider. As he nicely wrote -fielding questions from his students about Jackson Pollock or Kurt Vonnegut and then wandering through Shinjuku's neon mayhem always puts ideas for writing into his head, while teaching also keeps him searching for the heart of life in the world's biggest city. The essays Pronko published in his book ‘Beauty and Chaos: Slices and Morsels of Tokyo Life’ were originally published in Newsweek Japan in Japanese and then they were collected in a single book almost ten years ago. Two additional collections that were also made in Japanese followed – ‘The Other Side of English - An Anti-Grammar Manifesto’ and ‘Tokyo's Mystery Deepens’, both soon available in English, as well. With ‘Beauty and Chaos’ the author managed to perfectly convey the spirit of this extraordinary Japanese city in a series of interesting, humorous and yet extremely educational essays. Or as Pronko says 'writing about Tokyo is like catching fish with a hollow gourd.' Speaking about the subjects of his essays, the most of them made in several pages are different, some of them even unexpected with its topics. As a man raised somewhere else, Pronko manages to observe things not as noticeable to locals, but also overlooked by people that visit Tokyo. The author succeeds to take reader to the places one will not hear about in tourism ads, providing a different view of this unordinary megalopolis. Therefore, if you plan to visit Tokyo for the first time or know someone else that soon will travel to the Far East, I recommend to surprise yourself or that person with the great book gift - except that coming home will be with a bit different memories, Tokyo will be experienced in much deeper and more personal way. I was given a copy of this book by the author for the purpose of unbiased review, while all the presented information is based on my impressions.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sophie Cayeux

    Enjoyable. Interesting to read before or after a travel to Japan. Review at http://www.snowbeachpublications.com/... The book will definitely enhance one’s experience of Tokyo. I am a lover of Japan so this is why I picked this book to read. It is a series of short essays. What I find good about the book is that it doesn’t have to be read all at one time. One can pick up a topic of interest at random and enjoy the author’s essay about it. The prose is faultless, clear and easy to read. It offers Enjoyable. Interesting to read before or after a travel to Japan. Review at http://www.snowbeachpublications.com/... The book will definitely enhance one’s experience of Tokyo. I am a lover of Japan so this is why I picked this book to read. It is a series of short essays. What I find good about the book is that it doesn’t have to be read all at one time. One can pick up a topic of interest at random and enjoy the author’s essay about it. The prose is faultless, clear and easy to read. It offers a personal view but the author has a great insight into the life of that city and the behaviour of its inhabitants. It has opened my eyes to some aspects of that amazing city that I didn’t know. The next time I visit Japan, I will certainly observe what I’ve read about and not noticed before and this will definitely enhance the pleasure I derive from my trip. The Island Girl

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    I really liked this a lot. It took me a long time to finish because I only dipped into it when I had not much time to read. This book works well for those that want to just read a little at a time. Lots of good stopping places, though the material is so interesting it is hard to put down. These short essays are a wonderful look at a very different society. Michael Pronko does a terrific job of observing without strong prejudices for or against what he sees. A very good reporting job and a fascin I really liked this a lot. It took me a long time to finish because I only dipped into it when I had not much time to read. This book works well for those that want to just read a little at a time. Lots of good stopping places, though the material is so interesting it is hard to put down. These short essays are a wonderful look at a very different society. Michael Pronko does a terrific job of observing without strong prejudices for or against what he sees. A very good reporting job and a fascinating topic. I will definitely be looking for more by Mr Pronko.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    When you think of Tokyo, what images come to your mind? High rise office buildings? Flashy electronic gadgets? Kimono clad women? Cherry Blossom trees? You’re likely to see them all if you ever get a chance to visit the capital although as a tourist you won’t touch more than the surface of this city. Journalist and university professor Michael Pronko has spent 15 years living and working in the city. The result is a collection of articles first published in Newsweek Japan and now published in Eng When you think of Tokyo, what images come to your mind? High rise office buildings? Flashy electronic gadgets? Kimono clad women? Cherry Blossom trees? You’re likely to see them all if you ever get a chance to visit the capital although as a tourist you won’t touch more than the surface of this city. Journalist and university professor Michael Pronko has spent 15 years living and working in the city. The result is a collection of articles first published in Newsweek Japan and now published in English for the first time as Beauty and Chaos: Slices and Morsels of Tokyo Life. Through more than 40 pieces he delves beneath Tokyo’s mask, reflecting on the idiosyncracies of its inhabitants and their predilection for maps, drink vending machines, noodles and posh shopping bags. Michael claims he’s not a Japan specialist nor is he very good at the language. Reading these articles however it’s clear that what he does have in abundance is an inquisitive mind and an ability to make the commonplace interesting and often funny. Through him we’re forced to re-evaluate objects and scenes that would otherwise escape our attention, from the narrowest alleyway to the slogans emblazoned on t shirts and the rituals that accompany the handling of money.. Trying to navigate his way to an unknown part of the city, for example, he’s mystified by little pink circles on his street map. Eventually he works out they mark the location of cherry trees in blossom. It’s not the kind of thing that maps in the west would ever convey — the seasonal colour of trees. Yet. along streets, canals, streams and in parks are the maps indicting the probably rather exact position of cherry trees. These symbols come to represent for him, not simply an example of the city’s obsession with detailed maps but a deeper desire of its inhabitants to escape, if only for a short time, “to turn away from the ordered angles of mapped-out, boxed-in lives to walk and sit by flowers with friends, colleagues and family.” Perhaps its that same desire to escape controls and a regulated life (whee rules and guidelines, instructions and regulations are posted on every conceivable surface) that explains why residents happily toss out their rubbish into the narrow passageways between buildings. In a city with the best-swept gutters in the world, where neighbours spend as much time netting their trash as reading the morning paper, those gaps are piled with tossed out crap. Broken household appliances waiting for recycle coupons, buckets and mops left over from osoji spring cleaning, unused kerosene containers, and ripped-out PVC piping ally amid some of the world’s toughest, most adaptive urban weeds. Many of the articles in this collection point to the contradictory nature of Tokyo life. The same people who recklessly dump their unwanted goods meticulously follow a bookshop etiquette of choosing only the wrinkled copies of magazines and books to read while standing, carefully avoiding disturbing the pristine copies at the back which are for purchasers not browsers. The same people carefully choose bags in which to present gifts to friends and family, taking considerable care before leaving the house to find just the right bag, matching their bags to outfits and treating them as important an accessory as a necklace or scarf. It would be fascinating to discover why this is a city of such contrary habits. but the closest Michael Pronko gets is to point to its elusive nature. Tokyo is an imaginary construct and does not really exist in any single place or in any exact way. It’s a city whose hugeness refuses even metaphoric understanding. Tokyo slips through words like water through a net. An intriguing collection that I enjoyed dipping into and will be sharing with some of my colleagues in Tokyo to get their reactions.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jodie "Bookish" Cook

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Book Review Title: Beauty and Chaos: Slices and Morsels of Tokyo Life Author: Michael Pronko Genre: Non-Fiction/Essays Rating: ***** Reviews: I have done a few reviews for Michael Pronko but his essays on life in Tokyo are by far my favourites and I couldn’t wait to dive into Beauty and Chaos. As this is a collection of essays I am going to review the book in its parts to make it easier to read. Part One: Fastidious Refinement, A Meticulous Love of Life Michael Pronko’s writing style is definitely real Book Review Title: Beauty and Chaos: Slices and Morsels of Tokyo Life Author: Michael Pronko Genre: Non-Fiction/Essays Rating: ***** Reviews: I have done a few reviews for Michael Pronko but his essays on life in Tokyo are by far my favourites and I couldn’t wait to dive into Beauty and Chaos. As this is a collection of essays I am going to review the book in its parts to make it easier to read. Part One: Fastidious Refinement, A Meticulous Love of Life Michael Pronko’s writing style is definitely realistic in the truest sense of the word. He discusses the hectic lifestyle of most people who live in Tokyo and how difficult something as simple as navigation can be in the city. While most people would find this disorientating, Pronko finds it to be magical with little moment of calm and quiet that often come when you need them most before jumping back into the flow of life. One of my favourite things about this section is how Pronko talks about how he came to be in Japan and why he continues to live there and like most people who don’t have a plan, he just thought it would be interesting and it was, so he continued to stay there. I myself, would love to move to Japan at some point in the future and I am studying to get a degree in order to get on the JET program. Part Two: A Beautiful Confusion I can’t stress how much I love Michael Pronko’s writing style as it really conveys a sense of normalcy, what I mean by this is that when he writes it really comes across that he is just an ordinary person like you or me and I really enjoy that. What I also enjoyed was that Pronko can take something really ordinary like slogans on T-shirts, advertising and normal everyday things and make them so interesting especially for someone who has never been to Japan themselves. Pronko draws so amazing comparisons between the Western, mainly American culture to Japanese culture which is astounding to read. From the way they celebrate holidays like Christmas to simple things like eating in a ramen shop, the differences from the individualistic societies of American, the UK and most of Europe to the collectivist society of Japan are mind-bending at best and completely impossible to understand until you have actually immersed yourself in the culture and experienced it first-hand. I loved how Pronko really highlights thinks like the handling of cash and how it is different between American and Japan. As a Brit, I can honestly say I don’t really think about the way I hand over money in a store, I just do if I carry cash at all, whereas Japan is a cash economy and money is treated with the upmost respect. This section really focused on some of the large differences Pronko has witnessed between Japan and the West even if these differences come from something rather small and insignificant. Part Three: Scenes from the Train As most would guess from the title of this part it focuses on not just trains but transport in general. Most who know anything about Japan will know that trains are a huge part of life in Japan and one of the easiest way to travel. Being on the train allows you to notice things that you wouldn’t have before and Pronko does just this. As a teacher he was worried that with the rise of technology, specifically mobile phones, reading culture would decline and was proven drastically wrong on a train where the majority of people seemed to be reading rather than using their phones, which I would love to see. As a huge reader myself, I am majorly invested in reading culture which I can see taking a major decline in the UK and the illiteracy among teens and young adults is rapidly rising and it is nice to see even in one of the technology capitals of the world, they haven’t lost their love of the written word. Pronko in Scenes from the train really highlights the duality of Japan and he does this in two major ways. The first is how Japan can keep a tight hold on its history and works fastidiously to preserve its history and yet strives to keep with the times and remain a modern and innovative country. The second is my favourite and it is how everyone schedules everything and yet most of the time they arrive late, and this is because scheduling is more an ideal and the actuality for Japan but rather than abandoning it they actually work a lot harder to achieve it even though it may be impossible. I must really highlight how different Japan is from the rest of the world, especially for me in the UK some of the things Japanese people do seems absolutely insane but at the same time makes so much sense, the confusion and awe I am feeling right now is inspiring. Part Four: Beauty and Chaos, Slices and Morsels of Tokyo Life In part four Pronko introduces us to the pure duality of both the city and the human mind. He manages to convey how certain stores can perfectly mimic the chaos of the city around him while the mind naturally seeks out order and structure where none are found. He also emphasises this duality in everyday life in mundane tasks like eating. Eating by its very nature is mundane we do it over and over everyday in order to keep on living yet the art of eating with chopsticks – which I have yet to master – is balletic, beautiful and even sensual. These small yet significant dualities appeal to us as humans who are drawn in by the chaos even though we will seek to order it, in some cases this is impossible, and it also destroys the mystery that drew us in the first place. The duality of human nature is summed up in two short chapters which is utterly astounding for me, the amount of self-awareness someone needs to have is immense but Pronko showcases this in a divine manner. One thing I love about this collection of essays is how human they feel, I know that might sound weird but stick with me. In most non-fiction I read no matter how personal the subject always feel quite clinical but Pronko injects his writing with real moment of humour, frustration and awe which makes it feel alive like I could close my eyes and be in Japan only to have the illusion shatter the moment I open my eyes. One thing I would have liked is for these books to be available in audiobook format, preferably read by the author himself, while Motions & Moments as well as The Last Train are already available in audiobook format I would love to see these essay collections in the near future read by the man who wrote them and truly understands the meaning behind the words. Part Five: A Maze of the Mind In part five, Pronko continues to demonstrate the dualities that Japan has to offer, from the traditional versus the modern, the order versus the chaos and strangely the straight versus the circle. This part is quite short and focuses on some elements that would naturally appeal to foreigners as Pronko gives advice on some things he found challenging upon moving to Japan and how by visiting other countries like China, he can see the clear and quite stark differences. However, many native Japanese are born with an almost innate instinct that allows them to navigate the country with ease while foreigners don’t have this Pronko proves that it is possible to develop this instinct over time. Part Six: After Words Part six is the shortest part in the book with only just over 20 pages but I was keen to see how Pronko would wrap up this collection of essays. This final part adds a few more insights about Tokyo and Japan in general, but on the whole it is far more personal. After Words contains Michael Pronko’s personal journey of how he came to life in Japan and what he had done with his life. Pronko’s life is the one I personally want, filled with travel and personal discovery hopefully ending with me living in Japan as well. If I ever get the chance I’d love to meet Michael in person and discuss so much with him about the practicalities of living in a country like Japan. Overall, whether you’re like me and love everything about Japan or just want to learn something about the Land of the Rising Sun I highly recommend you pick up Pronko’s essays.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Katie/Doing Dewey

    I've been a bit down on short stories lately, so I was thrilled to find a short story collection in which I truly enjoyed every story. I loved the focus on the little details of life in Tokyo. By the time I finished the story, I felt as though I knew what life was like in Tokyo in a way that books about travel rarely manage. It also made me want to step back for a moment and appreciate the little details in my life. Even though I enjoyed all the stories, the following stories particularly stood I've been a bit down on short stories lately, so I was thrilled to find a short story collection in which I truly enjoyed every story. I loved the focus on the little details of life in Tokyo. By the time I finished the story, I felt as though I knew what life was like in Tokyo in a way that books about travel rarely manage. It also made me want to step back for a moment and appreciate the little details in my life. Even though I enjoyed all the stories, the following stories particularly stood out to me: Automatic Tea Ceremony - the blending of the modern and traditional in this description of Tokyo's tea vending machines made me smile. What's Your Bag - I love the idea of lending things in bags, thoughtfully chosen. The meaning invested in these bags and the enjoyment people get out of collecting them from stores made me want to adopt this tradition. Waiting to Blossom - The inclusion of cherry trees on city maps discussed in this story seems delightfully whimsical. Clothing That Shouts - T-shirt Words - Reading this section, I felt that the slogans people choose to wear on their clothes can say a lot about a culture. I'd to love see a similar analysis of writing on clothing around the world. Bonsai Building - Although I don't think I'd want to live in one of the small, strangely shaped buildings that have sprung up in every spare space in Tokyo, this was another story where I enjoyed the whimsy of the idea. It reminded me a bit of hobbit holes. Looking back over my favorite stories, I find that the correspond to the aspects of Tokyo that I liked the most. There things that made me happy, some of which I'd like to live with and others which I'd just like to see. All of the author's stories were well-written and thoughtful, so I suspect that like me, everyone will find some stories in this collection that cover little details that make them smile.This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Paul Franco

    Here’s a book of essays on Tokyo, told by an American who’s lived there for a while now. It reads like blog entries, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s certainly better written than most blogs. I’ve been to Japan a half dozen times, but never for more than a few days, certainly not long enough to gain the type of insights he has on the culture. His is an interesting point of view, a Westerner in Tokyo but someone who’s lived there for years, more than just a tourist, so he fills the inb Here’s a book of essays on Tokyo, told by an American who’s lived there for a while now. It reads like blog entries, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s certainly better written than most blogs. I’ve been to Japan a half dozen times, but never for more than a few days, certainly not long enough to gain the type of insights he has on the culture. His is an interesting point of view, a Westerner in Tokyo but someone who’s lived there for years, more than just a tourist, so he fills the inbetween. There’s a whole chapter on how people hold themselves up on trains; he says women have better balance, even in heels, holding on to the straps with their fingers, while men use the whole palm. That’s the kind of close detail you can expect in this book. There’s also a piece on why Japanese women go even more overboard with pink than American women, yet the color is also used to attract men to sex stuff. And everything else is white, black, or grey. Hmmm. . . This book is filled with interesting tidbits that most people, including the residents, wouldn’t notice. There’s a chapter on how ubiquitous maps are, which I certainly don’t remember from my trips to Tokyo, and I would have remembered, cuz I love maps. . . which is why I’m enjoying this anyway, vicariously. Another entry talks about shopping bags, including how they would save civilization in a major earthquake; that’s too silly even for Japan. But for someone who’s never been there, or only for a short time as a tourist, it gives a sense of wonder, almost like science-fiction, reading about a whole new world. And isn’t that what travel books are supposed to do? 4.5/5

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bandit

    Seasoned armchair traveler tries various destinations. Even ones they would probably not go to in real life. Or maybe especially those. Hence this selection. Pronko knows his subject having lived in Tokyo for great many years. He's a literature teacher and this book very much reads as such, it's very literary and very serious, the latter not my preference, I do prefer my travelogues humorous, but I digress. Pronko's essays are cinematically vivid and are very much of a sociophilosophical nature. Seasoned armchair traveler tries various destinations. Even ones they would probably not go to in real life. Or maybe especially those. Hence this selection. Pronko knows his subject having lived in Tokyo for great many years. He's a literature teacher and this book very much reads as such, it's very literary and very serious, the latter not my preference, I do prefer my travelogues humorous, but I digress. Pronko's essays are cinematically vivid and are very much of a sociophilosophical nature. He ponders every day things such as gift bags and escalators from a perspective of an intelligent observer/thinker. And so the results are sometimes dispassionately intellectual, which isn't to say the author is, since he obviously loves the culture and the city. I did enjoy learning more about Tokyo in an informing, edifying and reasonably entertaining (or nonfiction anyway) manner. I received this as an advance copy from netgalley, and while thanks are definitely in order, the book apparently due to copyrights was made very difficult to read since ever tt, f and ft were substitutes with symbols. You get used to it after a while, but it certainly detracted from the reading pleasure. This is my first time encountering a technique like that with advanced copies and I hope it doesn't become a popular practice. Arigato.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ishita

    Ranked as the number 1 city of the world, Tokyo is a city that will always be fascinating for travelers and tourists; the quiet elegance and dignity of the nation with serene beauty forms quite a contradiction to the latest fashion fads and large, glowing advertisement boards. This is a brilliant book which takes the reader through a virtual journey. And, I think that is my favorite part of this book. The book has been divided into 6 parts with 6-8 chapters in each section; each chapter has been Ranked as the number 1 city of the world, Tokyo is a city that will always be fascinating for travelers and tourists; the quiet elegance and dignity of the nation with serene beauty forms quite a contradiction to the latest fashion fads and large, glowing advertisement boards. This is a brilliant book which takes the reader through a virtual journey. And, I think that is my favorite part of this book. The book has been divided into 6 parts with 6-8 chapters in each section; each chapter has been given a captivating title which makes you want to read more and live the Tokyo life over and over again. Each chapter details out a small part from your daily life that people usually tend to overlook. They may seem like something odd to pick on, but somehow the author has managed to make a connection between the subject and the culture of the nation. The language used in quite simple and yet descriptive enough to portray the image of Japanese way of life successfully and make the reading experience truly enjoyable. The cover image did come off a bit garish and loud before I requested for this book, however as you delve further into the book you are able to see the justification in using this certain image. My opinion: I think I actually love this book. However, the book lacks a bit of visual impact which could have made it more delightful. My rating: 4.5 out of 5

  13. 5 out of 5

    Al

    These essays were originally written in Japanese and published in Newsweek Japan for a Japanese audience. Describing these as “travel essays” would probably seem strange to that original audience, yet once the author translates them to his native English for a non-Japanese audience, this label fits. As with any good travel writing, Beauty and Chaos explores what is different about or makes a particular place unique. Many of these essays look at something the author has noticed, often with his th These essays were originally written in Japanese and published in Newsweek Japan for a Japanese audience. Describing these as “travel essays” would probably seem strange to that original audience, yet once the author translates them to his native English for a non-Japanese audience, this label fits. As with any good travel writing, Beauty and Chaos explores what is different about or makes a particular place unique. Many of these essays look at something the author has noticed, often with his theory as to why Tokyo has this particular idiosyncrasy, that while sometimes obscure (indicating where blossoming cherry trees might be found at the right time of year on otherwise typical maps), says something about the city and its culture. What stood out for me when taking these essays as a whole is not just how unique Tokyo is when compared to other cities, but how different Tokyo is from itself. I’m thinking specifically of the contrasts and sometimes contradictory faces of the city, which is captured perfectly in the title, Beauty and Chaos. An entertaining and insightful read that I enjoyed much more than I anticipated. **Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. **

  14. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    Anyone with an interest in Tokyo will want to consider the fifteen years of experience that's gone into Michael Pronko's Beauty and Chaos, an essay collection that comes from a professor with much experience in the city, who can bring it to life through flowery written descriptions. Just what is so special about Beauty and Chaos, and what sets it apart from your usual Japanese cultural observation or travelogue? Plenty! For one thing, many of the essays center on the ironies and inconsistencies Anyone with an interest in Tokyo will want to consider the fifteen years of experience that's gone into Michael Pronko's Beauty and Chaos, an essay collection that comes from a professor with much experience in the city, who can bring it to life through flowery written descriptions. Just what is so special about Beauty and Chaos, and what sets it apart from your usual Japanese cultural observation or travelogue? Plenty! For one thing, many of the essays center on the ironies and inconsistencies of Tokyo. Readers thus gain a much clearer vision of the city's incongruities and attractions than your usual where-to-stay and what-to-see one-dimensional survey. To truly know Tokyo and plan for a visit there, Beauty and Chaos should be right there at the top of the travel guides and trip planners. Without it, it would be all too easy to miss the city's unique attractions and unique cultural attributes - and that would be a shame. Beauty and Chaos is a rare gem of exploration that holds the ability to sweep observer/readers into a series of vignettes that penetrate the heart of Tokyo's fast-paced world. Anyone planning a trip to the city (and many an armchair reader who holds a special affection for Japan) must have this in hand - and, in mind. Very highly recommended.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nicki

    This is a series of essays offing small insights and observations about the Japanese way of life from a gaijin living and working in Japan. I have visited twice, so a lot of this was familiar, while other parts wouldn't have occurred to me at all. For example, presentation - it was obvious that shops give a lot of attention to wrapping and bags for purchase. I had no idea about people having drawers of them for different occasions at home. Very different to here in Australia where many retailers This is a series of essays offing small insights and observations about the Japanese way of life from a gaijin living and working in Japan. I have visited twice, so a lot of this was familiar, while other parts wouldn't have occurred to me at all. For example, presentation - it was obvious that shops give a lot of attention to wrapping and bags for purchase. I had no idea about people having drawers of them for different occasions at home. Very different to here in Australia where many retailers don't even offer a bag! This book offers many small observations and sheds light on behaviours which aren't immediately obvious to someone who is just on holiday. I found it extremely interesting. The only thing that would improve this book is if it also included photos to go with the essays. However, I read an arc I downloaded from netgalley, so perhaps the actual release does. Thank you so much for the chance to read this. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Japan.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Absurd Book Nerd

    I found Michael Pronko's collection of short stories about his time in Japan fascinating. It reminded me of the stories I heard from my brother-in-law from the year he spent in Japan studying and teaching English. I loved the focus on the little details of life in Tokyo and felt it gave me a feel for Toyko that normal travelogues don't come close to conveying. I think anyone who is interested in travel or Japanese culture would like this book. I received this book for free from ARC in exchange f I found Michael Pronko's collection of short stories about his time in Japan fascinating. It reminded me of the stories I heard from my brother-in-law from the year he spent in Japan studying and teaching English. I loved the focus on the little details of life in Tokyo and felt it gave me a feel for Toyko that normal travelogues don't come close to conveying. I think anyone who is interested in travel or Japanese culture would like this book. I received this book for free from ARC in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rhonda Lomazow

    This is a fascinating group of essays by an American who has lived&taught there for 15 years.each essay is a little snap shot of Tokyo from ramen houses his favorite food to all the steps in the city which can be dangerous.His essay on observing people on the train reading rather then playing with their cell phones surprised him.This is a real glimpse into the city&its people.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Maire

    A collection of essays pointing out the sometimes missed, misunderstood, or just plain unique about Tokyo. If you've never been, this gives a nice taste of the local flavor. If you have been, this is a nice reminder of what makes this city so great. A collection of essays pointing out the sometimes missed, misunderstood, or just plain unique about Tokyo. If you've never been, this gives a nice taste of the local flavor. If you have been, this is a nice reminder of what makes this city so great.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Luke

    I'm a bit of a fan of Japan. I've learned some [terrible] Japanese, and have travelled there several times, for holidays and for music competitions. I like the contradictions of the place, and am always looking for an excuse to journey back. This, Michael Pronko's first collection of essays on Tokyo, offers a pretty good trip. Pronko is an academic who has lived in Japan for a number of years, teaching American literature, music, art and film at Meiji Gakuin University. He is a Tokyoite now, and I'm a bit of a fan of Japan. I've learned some [terrible] Japanese, and have travelled there several times, for holidays and for music competitions. I like the contradictions of the place, and am always looking for an excuse to journey back. This, Michael Pronko's first collection of essays on Tokyo, offers a pretty good trip. Pronko is an academic who has lived in Japan for a number of years, teaching American literature, music, art and film at Meiji Gakuin University. He is a Tokyoite now, and a thoughtful one. This gathering of essays isn't hugely profound: it doesn't attempt to address politics, or argue for or against the place of the city in the world. But that's not to say they're not valuable. Through examining the prosaic, the author presents things one would pass by without comment, shining a different light on them. It's a delightfully everyday take on a city that often seems too large to scale down to manageable size: here we find explanations of the simple joy of drink vending machines (hello, BOSS COFFEE!), the elegant semaphore of signage, and the ease with which Tokyo denizens can experience freedom in the midst of millions. After all, Tokyo is overwhelming. It's the sort of place that dazzles and fills up your senses. It's busy, and confusing and exciting. Tourists have their minds blown and residents compartmentalise to survive. But both find solace in moments of small focus, and these are what Pronko writes about. As he suggests, I do not think my essays will transform anyone’s deepest beliefs about Tokyo, but I hope they will defamiliarize what is close but commonly overlooked. I hope readers can see, together with me, the extraordinary in the ordinary. That's a good enough goal: to get people to look again, and to perhaps consider such things as the Hachiko crossing and rush hour from a slightly different angle. There's always something new to be found, from the delights of a stolen moment to the pleasures of a visit to Don Quixote's metropolitan microcosm. These essays are moreish. I want to read the next volume of Pronko's thoughts, for the escape to Tokyo they offer. Maybe I should check airfares...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Chris C

    Earlier essays were quite good while the latter ones tended to be much more ephemeral and loose. Still a great introduction to Japan.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chris Bull

    Very Wordy As a journalist the author must be used to being payed by the word. The essays are verbose. There are few nice turns of phrase here and there. Bye and large the writing I found padded.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Shay

  23. 5 out of 5

    Iin Ndah

  24. 5 out of 5

    Darrell

  25. 5 out of 5

    David Foss

  26. 5 out of 5

    Roger Worrell

  27. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Bodri

  28. 5 out of 5

    Javier

  29. 4 out of 5

    Aisha

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brittany Moore

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