Kai Sawyer, a person of Japanese and US parentage, wrote about some of the people in A Different Kind of Luxury on his blog. (He met them!) It's a great post, and Kai is an amazing human being. He has taught me much, even though he's 20 years my junior. He is currently studying Permaculture in NW Washington State. Atsuko Watanabe said to me about him, "If there are young people such as him, then there is truly hope." I agree. Here's his post
This is a book my friend Andy, who I met at a Japanese Cultural Festival in Santa Cruz wrote.
Andy persistently encouraged me to go meet some of these folks and I was able to visit 3 of them in Kamikatsu of Tokushima prefecture with my dad (thank you dad!). They had a similar energy to Kawaguchi (the natural farmer), extremely friendly, grounded, and aware of our connection and responsibility to the earth. We stayed at Atsuko and Gufu Watanabe's house and they fed us great food, fired up a bath, and showed us around the town like we were old friends. Gufu is a potter and farmer, and if I remember correctly Atsuko is an elected member of the local government among many other things. Although they have never really heard of permaculture, they live in a food forest and are a great example of living permaculture. I think both Andy and Atsuko were involved in the Zero Waste Policy in Kamikatsu.
Here is a short BBC article about it,
I also met Mr. Nakamura who lives extremely simply and seemed to organize every detail of his living space beautifully. He was in the process of transforming an old farm house into his home. I didn't get to spend too much time with him but I left with the impression that he is someone with much experience in the art of living. I learned a lot about simple living and permaculture Japanese style. I know there is a lot I can learn from these unique Japanese people, and I hope I will have an opportunity to meet more of them in the near future. I heard that they all get together at the Hanamatsuri (Flower Festival) in Nagoya, presenting a Nepalese and Indian themed event (?). I think a few of them, like Atsuko, can speak English so check it out if you are in the area.
FYI, Andy is currently doing tours to promote his book. In some ways its a really trippy book, since this is sort of the romanticized "Japan" or "Japanese" that actually exists and lives. The pictures are exquisit and make me want to just go there and start living!
By the way, the rice paddy picture on my blog was taken on our way back from visiting the Watanabes' in Kamikatsu. Many of these paddies are now planted with Japanese cedar as there are less and less people able and/or interested in taking care of them. A major challenge in Japan is depopulation of young people from rural areas, thus the knowledge of the land and the skills passed down from generation to generation is slowly disappearing each day. I'm hoping to reverse that trend as it will need to happen one way or another for Japan to function peacefully.