ABOUT THE BOOK

Raised in the tumult of Japan’s industrial powerhouse, the 11 men and women profiled in A Different Kind of Luxury have all made the transition to sustainable, fulfilling lives. Based on Andy Couturier's popular articles in The Japan Times, this lushly designed volume has a wealth of stories about real people who have created an abundance of time for contemplation, connecting with the natural world, and contributing to their communities. In their success is a lesson for us all: live a life that matters. Read an excerpt of the book here or here. Read a review of the book here, here, or here.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

"It's all Buddha" Zen Abbot Takaoka on Death


A short talk with Abbot Shucho Takaoka on his work during funerals.  I had just seen the movie Departures, which I recommend very strongly, and it deals with this topic.  I asked him about it.  

(Takaoka was mentioned in many chapter of A Different Kind of Luxury.  He inspired many of the people in the book. Please read about him in the book to find out more.) 

Shucho Takaoka, Abbot of Tokurinji Zen Temple


"Everyone thinks of the dead body as dirty, a disgusting thing.  They don’t want to touch it.  But in the case of a loved one, the dead body is also the body of the person they were very close to.  So that creates a psychological distance or imbalance.  And people have the need to “circulate” those feelings.  In Japan, we have a word, hotoke for the people who have died, and it means that they have become a Buddha.

As Buddhist priests conducting a funeral, it’s our job to bring the people from one place to another.  There’s a business of decorating the body, making it pretty, and that may be part of the same impulse, to bridge the distance, and to help people move from the feeling of “dirty” to “clean”.

But we know that every single person dies—there is no one who doesn't die. You will absolutely and without fail die.   But usually it’s not from fully alive to utterly dead in an instant though.  Things in the body break down bit by bit, in small steps.

From my point of view,  I want to show people that it is all hotoke.  Living, dying, and dead.  It’s all Buddha. 
This drawing is by Hideo Ito of Akira Ito,
who passed away some years ago.


 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Film screening of Masanori Oe's movies in Santa Cruz, Sat Mar 8, 7PM

I will be offering a free film screening of a few short experimental movies made in 1967 and 1968 by Masanori Oe, who I profiled in Chapter 11 of  A Different Kind of Luxury.  The screening will be at 7 PM at my writing studio in Santa Cruz CA, at 147 SOUTH River Street, above Mobo Sushi, by the Trader Joe's parking lot.  It's upstairs in room 203, and the entry code to the outside door is 0497* (that's STAR at the end), you may have to try it twice. 

The studio is relatively small so most people may have to sit on the floor, although we do have some chairs. PLEASE RSVP so I know you are coming. andy@theopening.org  Please bring your own popcorn or snacks if you want them, or just come as you are. 
Screen Shot from The Great Society

Screen Shot from Head Games

I describe these films in the book but have never shown them in public before.  You can read a description of the movies below, but they are intense, beautiful, powerful and in the original sense of the term "psyche-delic", "to open the soul".  This is a rare opportunity, and I'm not sure if I will do it more than once.  

The films are "Head Games" about the Great Be In in Central Park in the spring of 1967, "No Game" about the protest at the Pentagon in 1968, and "Great Society" a true masterpiece looking back at the entire sixties, DURING the sixties--no after filter-- projected on six simultaneous screens, with a wrenching musical score.  These are intense movies of intense times.  After the movies, we can talk, and if time permits, I will show some slides about Mr. Oe's life today in the mountains of Japan. 

Here are some quotes from the book, the first by Marvin Fishman, who was Masanori's filmmaking partner.

EXCERPT FROM A DIFFERENT KIND OF LUXURY
(Do you have a copy of the book yet?  Please buy it so that it remains in print)

“We filmed the Great Be In in Central Park in the spring of that 1967. We titled the film Head Games to indicate that even though the event had the idea of protest of the Vietnam war to it, this kind of thing, a Be In, was not the answer to the war. Everyone was in costume.

"By the time we went on to film the protest at the Pentagon in October of 1968, things had changed a lot. You could see how much the focus changed in the difference between the films. We called that No Game, to say that this was not a game anymore: this was violent. It went on to became a major film. The demonstration was a mind-shattering experience for all of us.


“The film shows how a nonviolent demonstration became violent. The question was how do you take care of each other, and how do you film violence and not get hurt.

There had been a change in the mood of the country. I don’t know what we expected, but the police became less tolerant; there was a lot of talk of ‘lawlessness’ and here we were invading the Pentagon, the center of U.S. military might. They brought in a lot of U.S. Marshals: you’ve seen those images—redneck thugs with pot bellies, crew cuts, and truncheons.

“That movie we made was a real shocker. We were trying to make a statement that this government was becoming repressive of free speech, and we were trying to make it in as stark and shocking a manner as possible. The black and white gave us a grainy look, and then we made it more high contrast. We wanted to say, “Here is your government.”



Marvin Fishman and Masanori Oe filmakers in the 1960s


[LATER IN THE CHAPTER, MY VOICE]
Masanori now sets up the screen and projector, turns down the lights, and then all of a sudden I’m plunged back into another world. Even though I’m in this mud-walled house in the mountains of Japan, I am able to witness the immediate and vibrant, chaotic ’60s counterculture world in full blossom, “as is.”
People parade with signs and painted faces, dispersed on the streets of a late-winter New York, some perhaps high, or angry, or just playing guitar on the grass. It’s a slow-motion movement of carnivalesque faces with soap bubbles floating in the air in the war-torn fever dream of the Us-versus-Them, red-scare, Gulf-of-Tonkin, daily-body-count sixties. These are more than documentaries, though. They are art. It’s a controlled kind of wild: the hand-held camera shots at cockamamie angles and the syntax of rebellion inherent in the cuts between police batons and street protest, the voices shouting each other down. Yet neither are they gratuitously shocking, or easy, or pat.

The camera movements don’t startle, but neither do they settle. What’s next? What’s next? Who knows? Flashing lights, throbbing and dreamlike, and absolutely unresolved, like dreams are.  

The lights come up just slightly as Masanori prepares another film, this one entitled “Great Society.” He says that his studio was asked by the national CBS people to 
do a major project, an overview of the entire decade, for the annual CBS network convention in New York, with permission to use footage from the CBS archive. He explains that it was made with six different screens going simultaneously in order to show the many-sided nature of the times.

Now we’re into the fast-cut, jump-at-you images, one after the other. The screen splits into six, strobe lights flashing, soldiers marching, JFK shot, Oswald shot, miniskirts, Vietnamese POWs, space walks, napalm-burnt children, fighter jets dropping bombs, the American flag, LBJ driving home a point forcefully at a lectern. Too much is happening at once for the mind to perceive. The soundtrack is riveting and disturbing: heart beats, guitar distortion, gurus chanting, a woman screaming as someone is shot, a koto twanging as a mushroom cloud fills the sky.

The images jumping from race riots to liquid light shows to atomic blasts are all in present tense here, not an artifact, or shorthand for “the sixties” digested by some future generation. The images are contemporary, and are rendered as such by the hallucinatory film grammar, prompting again the dilation of the psyche.

When the lights come back on, I am transformed. Only sixteen minutes. The film is a masterpiece, and everyone in the room knows it. None of us can speak. He’s captured the overlapping movements: a new spiritual consciousness not separate from the very political, antiwar immediacy of the moment.

Masanori says that CBS refused to show it again, and there were threats from affiliates to drop out of the network if this was the kind of thing that CBS wanted to spend their money on. He explains the idea of having six different screens was to show how everything was happening all at the same time. “The overwhelm and disorientation break down barriers and open people to the possibility of a change, a change in consciousness.”

Talking afterwards together, drinking tea, Masanori says, “Today people think the word ‘psychedelic’ means just taking drugs, but the main meaning is from the Latin roots of the words, psyche-delos ‘to open the soul.’ So if the method for doing this was drugs, that was OK, but it also included yoga, meditation, and the exploration of thought itself.”



Sunday, December 8, 2013

"Ordinariness in how they live, but complexity in how they view their lives." Guest Blog Post

Ted Taylor 
Many readers of A Different Kind of Luxury may not know that there live a tough and inquiring cadre of expatriates who have made their home in Japan and spend the days of their lives exploring the riches of rural culture there.  (I myself have returned to California to teach my writing classes and to write new books, and also because I feel more at home here--I haven't lived in Japan since 2000.)  Many of these expats have shared experiences with each other by blogs and via a Countryside Living forum (which I believe is no longer online).  Of the blogs, Ken Elwood's is a great example.

Another one is by the steadfast Ted Taylor called "Notes from the Nog." Ted and I have been in contact for several years and I invited him to submit a guest blog post.  It's great. You can read it below. Ted is a contributing editor at Kyoto Journal.  He is currently at work on a series of books about walking Japan's ancient highways. 







It was alternative culture that led me to Japan.  In my final couple years as a university student, I found myself ducking classes more and more in order to read the works of those whose viewpoints didn't necessarily align themselves with the conservative mainstream 1980's microcosm that was my school.  Despite this, their words were available on the shelves of the campus library, and it is from this berth that my imagination began to sail in directions at odds with what I was learning in the classroom.

The "radical" ideals of many of these writers had been honed in the temples of Asia, so it was only natural that I would gravitate there.  When I arrived in the Japanese countryside in the very-much-analogue year of 1994, I found myself in an environment similar to the University I'd left a few years before, an environment of materialism and conformity.  I learned quite early that even the people on the street who looked to be counterculture were most often merely dressing the part, and that eventually they too would be absorbed back into the greater society at large.  I did eventually find a few artist-types or those who "aspired to" a simpler way of life (and there were also rumors of interesting happenings down in Kyoto), but for the most part I settled into this cultural outback of the countryside.

Little did I know that this was exactly where where the kindred spirits dwell.  In the late '90's, an article began appearing in The Japan Times, an article called "Alternative Luxuries."  I would read Andy Couturier's pieces with great relish.  I had found over the years that in Japan, people are allowed to have dreams, but it is only the brave few who actually act on them.  Yet here in print were people who had not only followed their dreams, but had let those dreams shape their very way of existing.



A handful of years later, I once again came across Andy's articles in this very blog.  Not only had the articles been fleshed out further, but so had my own relation to them and to Japan itself.  Some of the inspiration had rubbed off to the extent that I too had crafted my own semi-alternative life here (Not being Japanese in the first place, this isn't terribly difficult.).  Like Andy, I had built my own friendships with people to whom a simple life is simply common sense.  Though a few are based in cities, most live deep in the countryside, and share with the men and women in Andy's book not only the ordinariness in how they live, but the complexity in how they view their lives and their interconnectedness.

I had a glimpse of the latter one autumn night, a few weeks before I was leaving Japan, a departure that had I assumed at the time was to be final.  The night that my wife and I finished the Shikoku 88 Temple pilgrimage, we were put up by a few young people living in a valley in deep Tokushima.   As the evening went on, my hosts and I found that we had many friends in common, and I began to sink into a certain melancholy, saddened to be leaving this country in which I had built strong friendships over 15 years.  But then it dawned on me that I wasn't stepping away from the circle.  In moving back to the States, I was helping that circle to expand.

And there, upon arrival, I found Andy's book, a book I'd been waiting all of those 15 years to see published.  And in rereading those familiar voices, and in reading the comments of those who praise this book, the circle continues to expand.  




Based in Kyoto, Ted's work has appeared in The Japan Times, Kyoto Journal, Kansai Time Out, Skyward:JAL's Inflight Magazine, Outdoor Japan and Elephant Journal, as well as in various print and online publications.  A Contributing Editor at Kyoto Journal, he won the top prize in the Kyoto International Cultural Association Essay Contest.   He is currently at work on a series of books about walking Japan's ancient highways.
www.notesfromthenog.blogspot.jp/
  


 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Want to live off the grid? Look to traditional cultures.

Woodcutting chisel with illustration of
how to make a forge for iron (I saw many of these in India just 3 years ago)
drawing by Osamu Nakamura (chapter 2) 
One of the things I admire so much about the people I profiled in the book is how they looked to Nepal and India and traditional Japan to learn, to re-learn, to reskill themselves, about ways to accomplish basic necessities.  If we won't have petroleum forever, or if it is killing the other animals, which it is, and if reducing all actions to the action of one finger pushing a button diminishes our humanity, we don't have to reinvent the wheel.  We can go to traditional cultures and learn from their ways.  The people in the book did this by drawing what they saw.  It's not the same as taking a photo.  Forcing yourself to draw shows you where you are not paying attention.  It teaches you how to make it yourself.
Left side, a water-powered wheat grinding wheel, drawing
by Osamu Nakamura (chapter 2)


Butter churns sketches by Gufu Watanabe (chapter 8)

Carrying bundles of handmade paper woodcut by Akira Ito (chapter 6) 



Akira Ito working a wooden tea press that he had built.

Nepali rocket stove from Kathmandu, by Gufu Watanabe

Paper making tools.  Drawing by Akira Ito.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Your book provided the last little kick in the butt I needed to sell my house and move into the hills.


Asha Amemiya (chapter 5) with her daughters at rice harvest.

There are many ways to radically simplify your life. It really DOES result in deeper fulfillment. Rita from Arkansas wrote to me:
Andy - I heard about your book from a commenter on Nature Bats Last. Yesterday I posted a comment there recommending the book again. 

I live in Arkansas - in a little cottage in the historic part of Fayetteville, with a permaculture garden where the lawn once was. I liked the idea of using wood ashes in place of dish soap. I hand wash everything and have no appliances or air conditioning/furnace. I heat and cook with wood or a camp stove. My electric bill is under $20 year-round. But your book provided the last little kick in the butt I needed to sell my house and move into the hills. I am not yet certain which hills those will be. I am 64 with four grown daughters. I live like a Zen monk in many ways, though I spend more time reading and writing than meditating.

 Fukushima is even more grievous to me now. I can only imagine the anger and despair for all who are tied to that land.

My friend Steev wrote me after reading this blog post in which I wrote that he "spent 3 years living in the forest behind a university campus, and snuck into the woods late at night, living under a tarp in the rain or the cold, and now he can live within any means at all."
Steev Odell, of Rabbit's Moon Tea Arts
Thank you Andy. That was very beautiful article. A few corrections, just so as not to romanticize my suffering too much. I didn't live under a tarp for three years. I lived in a very well built yurt structure made from wire, twine and large 12-feet-tall redwood branches that I reverse engineered from a friend's shelter I took down and rebuilt it exactly as was 100 yards away. It was cross-hatched and very complicated and when I took it down after three years I thought to myself, "How did I ever do this?"

 It was very well maintained and had enough space for me to have a futon bed on top of crates on top of plywood on top of four sheets of foam so the futon was extra comfy. Like, deeply comfortable. I would get excited going home because I knew I had a extremely comfy bed in the forest. I also had five blankets. It was warm even in the winter.

 The roof was actually thick clear plastic sheets, it was malleable like a tarp would be but far more durable and long lasting. I had to tend to it in the rain, like one would a ship in a storm at sea, to make sure none of the riggings loosed themselves, but it was an integrity that I am still astounded by to this day.

 Not much suffering at all. And especially, just for clarity on the subject of living situation. Not just a trap in the rain. Lots of people did that.  I had a curiosity cabinet, a tea area, two book shelves, all within this little yurt.

 Wish you could have seen it.
Steve
Simplifying your life does NOT mean deprivation.  The rich life of the Oizumi family.  I wrote about them in Chapter one.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Meet Atsuko Watanabe in Berkeley, CA, once-only chance Wed Oct 16th


The Opening, A Center for Courses in Writing
in conjunction with
Present

An Evening with Atsuko Watanabe
and author of A Different Kind of Luxury,  Andy Couturier
Wednesday October 16th, 7-9:30 PM
A fundraiser for Fukushima children
at
Far Leaves Tea,  2626 San Pablo Ave 

Come join us for a warm evening with Japanese environmentalist and anti-nuclear activist Atsuko Watanabe, profiled in Chapter 3 of A Different Kind of Luxury: Japanese Lessons in Simple Living and Inner Abundance.

This is a once-only opportunity to meet and ask questions of this pioneering activist, organic gardener and zero-waste crusader, and key collaborator in the production of this book. Ms. Watanabe will be leading a delegation of environmentalists from the village of Kamikatsu in Shikoku island, the first Zero Waste village in Japan.  Since making this declaration a decade ago, Kamikatsu has become nationally known and a destination for people studying how to reduce their garbage.  (You can read an article about Kamikatsu by the BBC here )

Ms. Watanabe will be coming to Northern California on a research tour to visit recycling, waste recovery, solar energy and natural building sites.  As part of this tour we would like to offer fans of A Different Kind of Luxury the chance to meet her, ask questions and engage in discussion with her and other people in her delegation.  We will start with a short slide presentation by author Andy Couturier, who spent four years researching and 15 years writing this book.

The event will be held as fundraiser to bring children from the stricken Fukushima region to the much less toxic area of Kamikatsu--400 miles to the west--where their bodies can have a chance to heal and recover somewhat. The project is being facilitated by the village of Kamikatsu, where Ms. Watanabe is a town councilor. They are arranging to bring children out of the irradiated zone and house them for a short time in the village.  We request a donation of $20 or more at the door.  Please consider being as generous as you can afford. 

As part of the evening, we will provide organic tea from Kamikatsu, Awa Bancha, a rare rustic tea produced with a 'lacto-fermentation' method unique to this one small region of Japan.

We will also be serving some delicious appetizers made from seasonal, organic & locally-sourced ingredients provided by Raise the Root Cooking Collective.  Raise the Root is a group of culinary educators that use food as a springboard to cultivate community & inspire conversation.


LOCATION:  2626 San Pablo Ave  
Berkeley, CA 94702
(510) 665-9409  MAP here

PLEASE TRY TO COME ON TIME.  THANK YOU IN ADVANCE.

Ms. Watanabe has not left Japan in more than 10 years, and many of the other people profiled in the book rarely leave their villages.  This is really a one time only opportunity.


 If you cannot make the event but would like to make a donation to this fund you can click on this link:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A picture, a plate and a pot, a flute, some vegetables, cooking a meal, reading a story.

A few nights ago I went to a concert.  It was a big splurge for us, and really meaningful. Hugh Masekela is a jazz great, who played with Miles Davis in the early 1960s, and who got a personal gift of his first trumpet from Louis Armstrong when he was a boy in South Africa. 

The reason I'm bringing it up here is that I was shocked by the actions of a few people in the audience.  Here was this dignified man, a true master and he had personally asked people not to record or to take photos or especially flash photos. The MC had announced it twice and had practically begged people to give this respect to the musicians. And all around the audience people had their iPhones out some surreptitiously, but some, in the front row no less blatantly recording the concert, pointing their flashes in the musician's face.  

And I couldn't help thinking about HUMAN DESIRE.  How much more do people really need?  What an incredible honor to see this man, a true legend, giving us a fantastic virtuoso performance, and a great showman as well, and people couldn't just let themselves bask in the privilege.  They had to have more.  Even if that meant insulting the man, to his face.  He squinted, shielded his eyes, and finally had to interrupt the show to tell people to stop it.

Here's one of my favorite passages from A Different Kind of Luxury.  It's a translation I did of a piece of writing by Koichi Yamashita who I profiled in Chapter 9.

Koichi Yamashita

In Sikkim, in India, there is an aboriginal tribe
of people called the Lepcha. One time, leaving
the university for some time off, we spent about
three weeks with a family in one of their villages.

They had no electricity, and the only things
they bought were sugar and salt. They pressed
their own oil, they grew their own rice, they had
cows and pigs and goats, and they knew how to
keep silk worms. Their way of life was the real
thing.

I’d like to get my life back to just the
simple things: a picture, a plate and a pot, a
flute, some vegetables, cooking a meal, reading
a story.

So! Here's a great essay on Enough, by my friends and colleagues Beth Meredith and Eric Storm.  Read it, please.  Try the exercise at the end.  It will help you.  I'm sure.

And if you are a fan of A Different Kind of Luxury, please insure that it stays in print and available by getting a copy for a friend, or yourself.  And telling others about it too. Here's how.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A quick taste of some of the wisdom in this book

A person identified only as "Sakuteiki" and who lives in Grants Pass Oregon pulled out a few of his or favorite quotes or scenes in an Amazon review.

Potter Oizumi creates Chernobyl shaped lanterns with permuted fenestrations of the date of the nuclear spill. A tea ceremony performed in a bomb shelter. Making pottery of clay from a nuclear spill site, bread from grain harvested near a nuclear facility, quietly gentling people to consider the meaning of polite behaviors which ignore the unpleasant, while cooperating in implied brutality and contamination.

Osamu Nakamura woodblock carver, hand bookbinder, cook: "I looked at my life, and I knew that I didn't want to wake up one day and find myself an old man filled with regret that I hadn't seen the things of this world."

Batik artist Asha Amemiya: "Maybe it's just that humans are that kind of animal; they don't really want to move toward satisfaction. Or maybe it's just that the place where I'm satisfied is different. . . ."





Akira Ito illustrator, writer, book designer: "The good things of the past, that's what we must preserve. They have passed through the hardships of history to become a tradition, and we who are alive today must treasure them, and take care of them for the future."

Gufu Watanabe potter, journal writer: "People in Japan used to make quality things too because the artisans didn't have any skills. . . . There was power in it. But then they learned all kinds of techniques and the energy and force disappeared."

The reviewer described the book like this: "Thoughtful humble lives of simplicity if one is seeking alternatives, or merely inquiring about possibilities.  A Different Kind of Luxury is a gift of friendship from creative, generous people who engage fully in their communities and have lives full of meaning."

And here are some words of mine that he or she chose to highlight: "There is a larger world surrounding us, not just the resplendent world of nature, but also our own potential as people to live well, to connect with each other, to do meaningful work, and to forge a different kind of future for ourselves and for the next generation."

Please, if you want to get the book for yourself or for a friend or family member, I would like to ask you to get it directly from the publisher here. You will get a beautiful gift card of a piece of calligraphy from Wakako Oe that is not included in the book, with two great quotes on the back of the "folding screen" card from her as well.  Here's that image. You may find that the more you gaze at it, the more you see.... 

Monday, April 29, 2013

"I am practicing being talentless, but I find it very hard to do"

Potter Gufu Watanabe spoke to me about his ideal of achieving a flavorful line.  Read more about him in Chapter 8.  

Here are some of his illustrations, from his hand-painted New Years cards that he sent me.  Beautiful as these are, the ideas and philosophy behind them are even more amazing.

"I'm practicing being talentless.  But I find it almost impossible to do. If I could actually get bad at it…but to imitate being bad at it, that just won't work."  We both start laughing.
            "Those pictures from a thousand years ago in Persia came out of the life of poor people then.  So if I lived a similar way, then maybe I could draw such pictures, but I…I live in Japan.  I grew up poor, actually, but all around me, the culture was at a sophisticated level.  That's why no matter how I try, I can't draw a picture like they did.


            
"My goal is to draw a line with some 'flavor' to it.    But somehow, I just end up drawing a clean and pretty line, 
that is to say, a boring line.  I have to destroy that habit."

A flavorful line.  Such a small thing, but such a big thing if you are trying to make good art.





Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Calling on you to be part of Community Supported Publishing


Here's a big request to all the friends of this book. PLEASE share this widely. My publisher has gone the extra mile to do a 3rd printing, and they are offering a beautiful limited-edition 'folding screen' card with an original piece of calligraphy, AND a signed copy of the book, all for $20, including shipping. Please buy directly from the publisher and keep this book in print for the future.  You can send a link to this blog to your friends by email, or you can tweet or put it on facebook.  If you can do more than one of these, even better.
Get all these, including shipping for $20.

Peter Goodman at Stone Bridge Press puts it this way:

We have just gone back to press for the 3rd printing of A Different Kind of Luxury. With its color pages and unusual format, it is expensive to produce. But we have kept the price under $20 because we think this is one of the most important books we have ever published and want to be sure it stays affordable to readers.

So, we need your help! We know you can buy it elsewhere. But as an act of Community Supported Publishing, if you believe in this book and its important message, would you do us the favor of purchasing from our website for the regular price of $19.95? 

We'd like to thank you for helping us out:

1. A copy of the book personally signed by the author, Andy Couturier.

2. Our gift to you of a miniature “folding screen” featuring inspiring art by Wakako Oe, one of the rural artists from Japan featured in Andy's book.

3. Free shipping within the USA 

4. The good feeling that comes from supporting a worthwhile project and sharing it with your friends and community. 

We want to keep this book in print and need your help to find new readers. Community Supported Agriculture is all about many people sharing resources to support healthy food outside mainstream agribusiness. Why not Community Supported Publishing to share the message of people living, meaningful humble ways  of life?

Please post the link to this limited-time offer on your Twitter feed, Facebook page, or wherever you hang out in space and online. http://stonebridgepress.wazala.com

This fine piece of calligraphy has been made
into a folding card with two great quotes on the back
as an extra gift.




Friday, April 12, 2013

Three years after publication, the new five star reviews keep coming


If you have enjoyed the book, posting a review on Amazon or on Goodreads really helps other people find the book.  Here are some recent ones on Amazon:  

5.0 out of 5 stars Eleven Signposts: This Is The Way!February 2, 2013
As we make our way through life, we get guidance. The choices that eleven people made about what they could do to improve the quality and significance of their lives are set out in this book for you to consider. It will affect you deeply. Every time you read it, you will find some new insight into how you can change your life, for the better. When you are ready, a teacher appears.
Himalayan signpost and altar:
line drawing by Asha Amemiya
(profiled in Chatper 5)





5.0 out of 5 stars A Reassessment of PrioritiesDecember 4, 2012
This beautifully-written book is about how 11 people realized, usually through foreign travel and deeper investigation into different forms of Buddhism, that they could choose how to live their lives in ways that are far from the norm in modern Japan. Reading about them enables us to look at how we are living our days, weeks and years. Over and over again, Couturier stresses the fact that the greatest luxury of all is time. Slowing down, doing less and enjoying it more are some of the lessons I received from this delicious, luxurious read.
Inside Nakamura's house
(Chapter 2)
5.0 out of 5 stars In Tune with LifeApril 13, 2012
I read this book some time ago after seeing the author at a local reading. It was written, of course, before the nuclear tragedy in Japan but is all the more urgent and timely a book because of that accident. Japanese people, along with those elsewhere who rely on nuclear power for their society's voracious power needs, are asking, "Is there another way?" This book points to that way.

The author, who lived in Japan for four years and originally published the interviews in this book along with others in a series for the Japan Times, sought out a number of people who lived simple and happy lives. Mostly living in the countryside, they had dropped out of the frenetic Japanese way of life, instead preferring an abundance of time for contemplation and enjoyment. Each had a quite different story. Some were artists of various kinds, others were craftspersons, some gardened. Likewise, some lived alone, others had families. Some were off the grid but not all of them. But all shared a deep spirituality and sense of wonder that their contemporaries all too often lack.
Life of the Buddha, hand painted
scroll by Akira Ito (Chapter 6)

The author and interviewer chose wisely and edited wisely as well. I might add that the book is beautifully assembled, with pictures that bring the people interviewed to life. If you are looking for hope that a different, gentler way of life is possible, read this book.

Hand dyed fabric hanging by
Jinko Kaneko (Chapter 10)
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring and InsightfulFebruary 29, 2012
I found "A Different Kind of Luxury" a delightful read. It helped me relax and open my mind to a completely different way of living that is more sustainable, rich and creative. Andy Couturier is an excellent word smith who crafts a delightful image for the mind by combining many different elements of style, much like a delicious meal of many savory spices.