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.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Western Coltsfoot Heads East

While we were in Japan in May, my partner and I helped Wakako and Masanori (chapters 7 and 11) make and eat a delicious seaweed condiment pickle of kombu and "sansho" a kind of wild prickly tasting peppercorn.  We harvested wheat with Yamashita (chapter 9) in Kochi Prefecture in the south of Japan, looked through 400 year old medical books (printed on rice paper, and bought for pennies) with Oizumi (chapter 1) and planted rice with Murata as well as with the Oes. I wrote a lot about "Nature Farming" (no cultivation) in the book, but it wasn't until standing in the mud of the Oes' rice paddies and seeing how many living creatures teemed in that water that I 'got' it. 

Western Coltsfoot
But what I thought I'd share here was about being at Gufu and Atsuko's house (chapters 8 and 3) having fuki stems steamed with soy sauce, (fuki is a large leafed plant that grows semi wild, and the stems are delicious.  Then Gufu says, "Have you heard of 'fuki no tou'?" I said that I had not, and he breaks out a book on native plants for scavenging in the Pacific Northwest (of the US). He shows me the picture, and sure enough it seems to be Western Coltsfoot, which grows in a couple of moist depressions on the land my partner and I own in Northern California.

We then read the text in the book, it said that this plant was the basis of a war of sorts between the Wylackie and Yuki tribes, which are very small tribes, or were, that inhabited the area of what is now southern Trinity county and northern Mendocino county (a VERY specific area of California, and exactly where our land is). Seems they would burn this plant and use the ash as source of badly needed salt. Then we look up from the book and we're in a farmhouse in southern Japan's Shikoku island and Gufu's telling us about all the ways to cook with it, and what it can be used for medicinally. 

Resolved: learn about the plants near us, and attempt foraging for more of our edibles when we get back.

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