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.

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Reunion With An Old Friend

I was honored that my old friend Mr. Honda came my lecture last month in Tokushima, Japan, the city where I lived for four years.  Honestly, he looked great, much better than when I knew him before.  When I lived in Tokushima first in ‘89-91, then again in ‘98-2000 he was a city council member, then a prefectural lawmaker.  At one point, his coalition came close to taking over a majority of the prefectural congress, which was inspiring since he was an outspoken environmentalist and against a lot of central government directives.  I even once helped him campaign about ten years back.  Since I first met him he’s always been very open, honest and congenial.  Back when I spoke very little Japanese, his excellent English helped me out a lot.

After the lecture, we all went out for dinner, and I found that Mr. Honda has taken up rice farming full time after losing his seat in the prefectural congress (the right wing framed him in a fake scandal, it seemed).  As I said, he looked great.   His face was beaming, and his whole body seemed much more relaxed. 

He asked me, “Andy, I just can’t understand how you keep up with this, working for the environment in Japan.  I mean, for us, well, we’re Japanese, so we must, but, you know, over these twenty years, so very little has changed.  Don’t you get disheartened?  Even though all the things I was saying 20 years ago, like that we should think more about the environment, now so many people are saying it, but they haven’t changed their way of living at all.  How come you aren’t discouraged?”

I’m going to leave aside how well I did or didn’t answer this question: my book isn’t “about” the environmental problem in Japan--it’s more trying to show how we can live better in this life with less interaction with the cash economy and more time for ourselves.  Of course I do try to make the point that if we all made such conscious choices, this will help the environmental problem by reducing our consumption.  Yet what I was so struck with was how much happier Honda-san seemed.  He told us stories about how when he converted his rice paddies from chemical agriculture to organic how many more frogs he saw, and how he has even spotted several endangered birds and snakes in his paddies.  And, he added, he just had more time.  Before he had such a busy schedule, and though he was always incredibly gracious, I always had the feeling that he was fitting me in to an incredibly hectic cavalcade of appointments. 

He said at dinner, “I was spending so much more money then, but I still ended up with the same amount at the end, and I was always rushed.  Now I’m living on $400 a month (everyone at the table gasps) “and I’m just so much more happy.”

Of course I should say that the people all over the world who like Mr. Honda were trying to pass progressive laws, and fight the system, these people are doing something incredibly important for all of us, and I admire their sacrifice, but at the same time, when you meet someone with such a marked change from “choked by schedule” to “just glad to be here, alive in this moment”, it gives you pause.


  1. Andy - this is an older post (I am going through your blog posts) and I wanted to respond. Not sure you'll see this or not. I am a relatively Conservative American and have a natural tendency to fight any "progressive" agenda - whether environmental or social etc. (I guess I would be what Rod Dreher refers to as "Crunchy Cons" politically) And yet - the wisdom and truth of ADKL - of simplicity, of slowing, and focusing on what matters rings through to me. I think that the beauty of personal responsibility and personal freedom is the ability to CHOOSE what YOU want your life to be about. For some - that is technological progress and money. For others it is simplicity and time freedom to pursue art, or music, or just appreciating life. For most - it is a blend of the two. As has been said - you catch more flies with honey than gall. So by focusing less on politics and using the Gov't to legislatively force some idealistic vision of how we all should live, and more on the beauty of a simple life - you will attract MANY more who will come to appreciate your message. Thank you for this book. It is a beautiful book and message that I think MOST people will come to recognize and appreciate eventually.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Chuck. I'd like to publish it at the top of the blog, perhaps with your other comment, if that is okay with you. Please let me know. You can write to me directly at andy@theopening.org