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.