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Just Enough: Lessons in Living Green from Traditional Japan Hardcover – February 1, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"As we all look forward with hope for a cradle-to-cradle world, Azby Brown honors us with the great gift of seeing the past of Japan with fresh eyes. I was born in Japan and know firsthand what inspiration can be found in its history of exquisitely elegant and effective solutions to everyday needs as we create the designs of the future." —William McDonough Designer, winner of the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development and co-author of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things
"Just Enough should be required reading for anyone who wants to help make today's world more sustainable. Brown has drawn from a source that most of us would never consider—Japan in the early 18th century. This society went through desperate times, and came through them successfully because the Japanese learned how to use the natural systems of life to work with them, not against them. With his wonderful distillation of lessons learned, including my personal favorite—"Build homes that are inspirational" —he translates this ancient weaving of human ingenuity and natural systems analysis into a blueprint for sustainability today. This is an extraordinary book that holds the keys we're looking for to rebalance both our planet and our own lives. Read it, please." —Sarah Susanka Architect and author of The Not So Big House series, and The Not So Big Life
"Azby Brown's book, using excellent examples from Edo-period Japan, proves that we have surrounded ourselves with many things that we don't need to live sustainably and happily. This is an important warning for the future, one that should make us all stop and think." —Shigeru Ban Architect, recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Medal in Architecture, designer of the award-winning Hanover Pavilion for Expo 2000.
"The people of the Edo period intelligently managed their homes, fields, and forests, developed innovative designs for the things they needed, and maintained a sustainable society for three hundred years. This book conveys the secrets of that society with great clarity in text and sketches—knowledge that has great meaning as we face the immense challenges of our time." —Dr. Terunobu Fujimori Award-winning green architect and architectural historian. Professor at the institute of Industrial Science, University of Tokyo Truly an eye-opener.
"Brown takes us behind the scenes, revealing the complex and ingenious tech-niques that put Japanese traditional life in harmony with nature. An indispensable reference for anyone wanting to know the secret formulae that made old Japanese life what it was." —Alex Kerr Author, Dogs and Demons, Lost Japan
"This timely and inspiring book reminds us how an advanced culture in the past that faced similar challenges to our own was able to live sustainably. We can all learn from a society that encouraged humility, considered waste taboo, suggested cooperative solutions, and found meaning and satisfaction in a beautiful life." —John Thackara Director, Doors of Perception Design Conference. Author, In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World
"Brown's elegant and accessible text with its lucid illustrations make this a wonderful companion for students and professionals in the fields of design, civil engineering, farming, construction, or Japanese history, or any person interested in leaving a more delicate footprint on the planet."ForeWord Magazine

About the Author

AZBY BROWN was raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. He studied architecture and sculpture at Yale College, graduating in 1980. In 1985, he received a grant from the Japanese Ministry of Education to do research at the Department of Architecture of the University of Tokyo, where he received a master's degree. He is the author of The Genius of Japanese Carpentry, Small Spaces and The Very Small Home, all published by Kodansha International. He became an associate professor of architectural design at the Kanazawa Institute of Technology in 1995, where he has also accepted a position in the Department of Media Informatics. In 2003, he opened the Future Design Institute in Tokyo, and currently serves as director.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 231 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha USA; 1 edition (February 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 4770030746
  • ISBN-13: 978-4770030740
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,199,778 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Olaf Zimmermann on October 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This a broad and deep book on all things software architecture except the architecting process (for process, one recommended read is "Process Software Architecting" by Eeles/Cripps). Several readerships will benefit from "Just Enough Software Architecture":
- As an experienced IT architect, I do not necessarily agree with everything in the book (this does not come as a surprise, as architects have opinions). That said, I certainly learned a lot that I can apply immediately on my projects and some of the more provocative statements challenge me to leave my comfort zone (or at least consider doing so).
- Junior architects can use the book both as a tutorial and as a reference when/while growing in their profession.
- Developers with a "who needs architects" mindset (hopefully) will understand architects and modelers much better after having read this book, and appreciate the value of archtecture.

Things I liked in particular:
- Overall vision and message of pragmatism sent
- The risk-driven approach increases chances to get accepted both in agile development and in more traditional architecture communities
- There is a lot of practical advice e.g. in Chapters 10, 11 and 15
- The author is in command of a large body of relevant related work (both industra and academia) and puts them in perspective adequately
- Editorial quality: structure, figures, command of the English language (some words and expressions a bit be hard to comprehend for non-native speaker)

Some room for improvements (2nd edition?):
- Not all metaphors and analogies work internationally, e.g.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was brought up in Japan (born in China), and most of my playground was in my aunt's farm house.
Many beautiful pen sketches throughout the book brings back my childhood memory. The Old "Edo" period
began in 1600 and ended in 1868, but the type of things depicted in the book were seen until just 50 years
ago in Japan. So-called modernization , or Americanization, has wiped out eco-friendly, waste-nothing
culture completely. I hope people will realize that we can live happily without many modern amenities.
I bought 2 additional copies and gave to my Americal friends in my neighbourhood.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There's many reasons to recommend this book, depending on your interests.

The goal of this book is to analyze Edo Japan's sustainable practices and apply them to modern life. It does this by taking a fictionalized journey through the country, starting at a farming village and ending at the home of a lower-level Edo Samurai. As we travel with the narrator, the story points out various things we'd notice and what they mean. Between chapters different levels of society and locations are analyzed for useful lessons.

Thus you'll read about the energy-saving virtue of pickling, the value of latrine outputs, the life of traveling city pottery repairman, and samurai who farm on their small estates. It's actually a bit dizzying, and the author packs in a lot - almost a bit too much to be frank, but he's got a lot to cover.

This human-level look at a sustainable culture, why it evolved, and what it means is very intriguing and has high impact. Backed by illustrations and research, giving these fictionalized but historical examples of efficiency, good construction, food production, etc. helps one understand what we can learn and apply to our lives. This varies from ethical/personal approaches to serious thoughts about material usage and land.

The book will make you think, will help you see the value of history, and will give you ideas.

Despite it's many triumphs of stability, efficiency, and literacy, the book doesn't set the Edo period as something to emulate entirely. The Edo period was also a time of social immobility for most, high taxes for farmers, the practice of infanticide for some, and a samurai class whose comparative wealth were constrained by propriety and social policy.
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Format: Hardcover
There are many books with recommendations for living a more sustainable lifestyle. This one is very attractive, with its drawings and descriptions of Edo houses and technology. Farming and land management was wise and the use of simple, natural materials was aesthetically pleasing as well (as you would expect in Japan).

Early on, however, I had some problems with the glorification of the Edo period even though in a material way it could be called superior to ours. The author says that it fulfills the Hanover Principles for sustainable design (Hanover Expo, 2000) but he says that human rights and "open communication among stakeholders" are among those principles. He also tells us that population control in the form of infanticide was part of the Edo program for sustainability, as well as the prohibition of marriage for younger sons. (Of course they didn't have modern birth control.) There was a strict caste system in the land of Edo, with the Samurai half of the population using most of the land for their private homes. Frugality and humility were said to be important and necessary cultural values, but greed and arrogance must have been widespread too (as in most cultures). Is sustainability possible without some very serious sacrifices of human rights? (And I don't mean the right to buy or do everything you want.)

It would be interesting to see a comparison of the Edo culture with others of that period, such those of rural Europe. I expect there were many similarities.
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