Travels to Tokyo and Kyoto have given me and Jay a flavor for urban living in Japan, and in the Kyoto area the surrounding mountains and countryside suggested a rural way of life. And as we know from living on an island where some of us call the mainland “America” – remote, rural areas attract independent thinkers and alternate ways of life. So for a mix of reasons, when I heard that author, Andy Couturier, was visiting our local independently owned bookstore, Darvill’s, I was interested.
Andy’s latest book: A Different Kind of Luxury: Japanese Lessons in Simple Living and Inner Abundance, tells 11 peoples journeys. Artists, philosophers, and farmers who reside deep in the mountains of rural Japan living simply yet surrounded by the luxuries of nature, art, contemplation, healthy food, and an abundance of time.
As I learned at the book reading, many of the folks in the book spent years living in India and Nepal, and “what they learned there powerfully influenced everything from from their emphasis on making things with their own hands all the way to their spiritual and philosophical orientation toward life.” Now back in Japan they are living out their philosophy – providing for their needs with minimum interaction with the huge economic system that surrounds them and realizing great freedom.
As I read the chapters and savor the stories, I find myself thinking – what is my philosophy? and how can I live more simply and joyfully while reducing my footprint on our planet. Good food for thought, and, as Andy says of his book, “even if it only serves as a window onto a different set of possibilities and lets you meet some very extraordinary people, and perhaps gives you a smile or a laugh, that will have been enough.”
About the author: Andy Couturier 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 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.