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A Different Kind of Luxury: Japanese Lessons in Simple Living and Inner Abundance Paperback – February 1, 2010
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More About the Author
Andy has studied Buddhist meditation and many other Asian philosophical systems, and has traveled extensively in Africa, Southeast Asia, and India. He has been a researcher for Greenpeace and has taught writing for more than a decade. He is the author of Writing Open the Mind: Tapping the Subconscious to Free the Writing and the Writer and has written for Adbusters, the MIT Press, Kyoto Journal, Creative Nonfiction, The North American Review, The Oakland Tribune, and Ikebana International. He directs his own creative writing center, The Opening, at www.theopening.org.
Andy welcomes your thoughts and comments on this book, either by mail to P.O. Box 881, Santa Cruz, CA 95061 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top Customer Reviews
Among those introduced are the exuberant Kogan Murata, who derives great joy playing ancient melodies on his bamboo flute. Murata lives with his partner and small son on an amazing $3500/year. They grow their own food ("It is a wonder to grow rice!" Murata exclaims. "Exciting!") and live without modern appliances.
While living on the fringes of Japanese society, many of these people are nevertheless engaged in community life and the world at large. Atsuko Watanabe, for instance, famously convinced her fellow villagers to separate their garbage into over 40 categories. She is also an anti-nuclear activist.
At best, this book will convince readers to make changes for the better in their own lives. At the very least, anyone who dips into these pages will meet some fascinating people.
The narrative pokes at the trappings of modern big-city culture, but the tone is refreshing because Couturier shapes his subjects' commentary so that it even-handedly rejects those trappings rather than railing against them in a purely negative way.
And, to be fair, not everyone in the book hates all things modern and convenient. Potter San Oizumi decides which "contradictions" he can live with and which he cannot, going on the offensive when something modern "threatens the kiseki (miracle) of life itself." Bamboo flute player Kogan Murata and painter Akira Ito indulge in beer and whiskey, and an overlying theme of the book is that having and enjoying STUFF is not a bad thing; chasing after STUFF at the expense of time and fellowship is.
Couturier is a good storyteller, painting pictures of the lush Japanese countryside and knowing when to sit back and let his friends speak about the way they live. He captures poignant moments and important ideas with descriptive sentences that enliven the imagination, and then drills them home with short, declarative sentences. My favorites:
"And again, the tactile nature of the actual work contributes powerfully to the effect. The strong but smooth paper backing and the heavy, black ceramic scroll posts around which it is wrapped both underscore for me its most striking aspect, the fact that this work exists only one place in the world.Read more ›
You might think this could be a sentimental tale of happy hillbillies in the hollers of Japan. It's anything but. It explores the notion of "what is most important in life" and arrives at a variety of answers, told through 11 biographies.
Author Andy Couturier explains that "the pressures . . .of money or social dissaproval are much greater in Japan than in the US" as an encouragement to consider taking some steps away from the rat race. It's a beautifully told work that I couldn't put down.
Among the non-conformists are San Oizumi, an anarchist and anti-nuclear protestor. Oizumi uses unconventional ways to raise awareness of the dangers of nuclear power such as making a cake from the flour of grain harvested around a nuclear waste site. There's some wisdom to taking on our bottomless demand for energy at all costs, especially in light of the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Spiritual seekers feature Atsuko Watanabe, with my one of my favorite lines of the book " . . .we are evolving, and also at the same time God is evolving, along with us."
What I enjoyed the most was the subtle subversion of people daring to step off the treadmill of capitalism, trying their hearts at craftsmanship, exploring spiritualism, sustainable farming, painting, and poetry... just daring to take the time to think and be in this world. Now that's a luxury!
I find myself going back and underlining the nuggets of wisdom in this book. I loved it!
This book is about those who not only dreamed but also fulfilled their dreams. About people who wanted to do a lot of things, and did all of them. About those who are governed only by their heart and not by the economic system. About those who, in their own little ways, make a big difference to the world by showing that there is tremendous beauty and excitement in simplicity. About people who have their own measures of success in their lives rather than measures imposed on them from society.
It's beautifully written. Especially for someone like me who is constantly toying with the idea of breaking free, living a life of self sustainance and yet of adventure, excitement, love and 'inner abundance'. While reading the book I felt that I was going through minds, very much like my own, only much more advanced than mine.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have given several copies away to good friends. This is a unique book, refreshingly down to earth in tone, respectful, non condescending, very interesting with rich details,... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Florence Nishida
I read this, gave to a friend. Then another friend bought it and he talked about it enough I may end up buying another copy. Read morePublished 10 months ago by David Monk
I highly recommend this book to anyone who gets that 'less is more'. What a lovely book written by someone who sees what matters and writes about people who are really living the... Read morePublished 14 months ago by jane harlow
This is one of those books I will treasure, re-read, recommend, again and again. Beautiful images, beautifully written, beautiful thoughts.Published 17 months ago by Cathy Johnson (Kate)
I love this book. I love each individual story of the lives of these unique individuals. I am happy Andy, the author got to befriend them and experience their lives of... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Deborah Tanaka
I highly recommend Andy Couturier's book profiling 11 unusual Japanese people, all artists or artisans, who live simple, alternative lifestyles in harmony with nature and... Read morePublished 20 months ago by David Kestenbaum