They used to say I ragazzi di Torino sognano Tokyo poi vanno a Berlino (Kids from Turin dream about Tokyo then go to Berlin).
They even made a movie, about it.
Indeed, the kids in my generation were endlessly fascinated by the East, Asia, and yes, Japan and Tokyo – we were to the forefront of the first anime and manga invasion, after all.
Most of us dreamed about Tokyo, very few made it there for more than a quick package tour, and a lot of others went to Berlin – to this day, my brother’s favorite city.
I travel with books these days, and I had quite some fun with Micael Pronko’s Beauty and Chaos.
Michael Pronko’s book collects a series of sketches of everyday Tokyo.
Coupling the outsider’s view of the foreigner and the insights of someone well-acquainted with the Japanese capital, its people and its rituals, Beauty and Chaos explores some of the less evident facets of the metropolis.
Michael Pronko spent fifteen years in Japan, and can therefore provide ample insights and commentary.
From meditations on the spaces between buildings to a guide to reading not the word but the spirit of shop signs, the book is both a fun look at a great city and collection of notes on the anthropology and sociology of Japan and of Tokyo in particular.
And yet, it remains a light, fun read, and it’s highly recommended.
Also, Pronko’s book is one of those small, invaluable treasures – a book with enough insider info and minute detail that it will help anyone writing about Tokyo to fake it.
This book is a precious writer’s resource – much better than a tour guide or a heavy tome on Japanese culture.