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A Different Kind of Luxury: Japanese Lessons in Simple Living and Inner Abundance Paperback – February 1, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

MA, essayist, poet, writing teacher. Writing in newspapers, magazines and literary journals including Adbusters, Creative Non-Fiction, Japan Times, North American Review, Oakland Tribune, Kyoto Journal, Fiber Arts, Writer, others. Taught writing at California State University, JFK University. Worked with environmentalists in Japan. Student of Buddhist philosophy. Years of rural living. Built own house with hand tools. Sustainable living advocate.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Stone Bridge Press; 1St Edition edition (February 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193333083X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933330839
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #509,441 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Suzanne Kamata on February 11, 2010
Format: Paperback
Around fifteen years ago, when Andy Couturier first conceived of this project, Americans were looking to Japan for ideas on how to run businesses and educate children. In light of the recent economic downturn and an increasing concern for the environment - even among conservatives - it seems that we would have been better off listening to the eleven individuals profiled in this book. These Japanese men and women have learned to live lightly upon the earth, with as little money as possible, and with an abundance of time. Having time allows them to grow their own food, revel in the beauty of nature, pursue creative endeavors, and contemplate the meaning of life and death, and the mysteries of the universe.

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.
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Format: Paperback
Andy Couturier's "A Different Kind of Luxury" is a journey into the depths of Japan's countryside through eleven unique individuals who have chosen a simpler way of life. Couturier's 11 are not hermits who are completely out of touch with the modern world; rather, most of them are very connected to their communities and all participated in mainstream society at some point in the past.

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.
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Format: Paperback
The word "luxury" might conjure up Robin Leach yammering on "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" at first blush, but the folks profiled in " A Different Kind of Luxury" are only ostentatious about one commodity: how they spend their time.

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!
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Format: Paperback
Andy's book is about exploring a feeling that is there in everyone - 'A desire to be free'. It's there in nearly everyone - very strong in some, to a lesser extent in others. But surely most people, at some point of time in their lives, have said to themselves 'I don't want to be part of this system. I don't want to live a drab routine life. I don't want to follow the usual pattern, go to school, go to university, get a high paying job and struggle all through life to make it big in our profession, retire and then die. There is something wrong with this system which intrinsically thrives on exploitation - of nature and of the poor. I want to break away from this system and live an independant life'. Most of us, however, dismiss this feeling as blasphemous. Some believe it may be possible but are weighed down by too many constraints in our lives.

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.
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