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.

Friday, November 5, 2010

To Love Nepal

Anapurna South, in the
Nepali Himalayas
A Different Kind of Luxury is not a travel book, and I certainly don't claim that the good life can only be lived after spending time in another culture.  Still, all of the people in the book did travel outside of their own country, outside of their own comfort zones, and learned tremendous things, which they use daily in their lives.  Many of these tools, techniques and philosophies have come from India, but perhaps even more, they came from Nepal.  Over the 15 years of writing and working on this book, I must have written the word “Nepal” hundreds of times, yet until two weeks ago, I had never been here.  I had learned a lot about its culture and art and especially, speaking with the 11 people in the book I learned how they interacted--in different ways--with Nepali people and the land here. 

A Nepali Traditional House
at Rice Harvest Time
But there’s nothing like experiencing the real thing.  I’ve only been here such a short time but I can easily see why the tremendous people I was able to interview and become friends with in the process of the book, could really love this country.  It is a very gentle place, and yet in love with beauty and full of vitality.  The mountains, of course, take your breath away, but the people’s ways, and their art, and their food, and their hand crafts, and perhaps especially the way they make things by themselves, and use them, using just their own hands, it has moved me time and again.  It’s peaceful just to be here.
         After all these years, I feel like my understanding of what I have been writing is so much closer to complete.   I’d just note here, with some photos, how Nepal has touched the lives of so many people in the book.

Nakamura Showing his collection
of Nepali cloth printed with woodblocks
Osamu Nakamura, profiled in Chapter 2 lived for almost 10 years in the mountains of Nepal.  I have seen here many of the characteristic black and red woodblock prints I first saw at his cabin in the mountains of Japan.  Also, his kitchen arrangements, and the woodstove he cooks on are distinctly Nepali.

Nakamura collected samples of Nepali cloth
and then made versions on handmade paper
by carving individual woodblocks

Jinko Kaneko painting
Jinko Kaneko, profiled in Chapter 10 cooks Nepali style curries at her restaurant Bontenya.  She documented the different ways the curries were spiced in many different Himalayan valleys.  She also studied fabric dying and design while there.

Inside Jinko's restaurant

A delicious Nepali curry
in the mountains of Japan
Gufu Watanabe

Gufu Watanabe, profiled in chapter 8, who I just spoke to on the phone, explained to me the festival of lights here in Nepal, in incredible detail, explaining the cultural significance of the many lanterns and candles.  Gufu hasn't been in Nepal for 30 years.  Here's an illustration from one of his journals of a tea stall in Kathmandu, where many of the people in the book first met each other.

Interviewing Akira Ito about his book
documenting handmade paper in Nepal
And finally, a man who deeply loved Nepal, Akira Ito, profiled in Chapter 6.  Ito-san wrote much about traditional woodblock carving in several magazine articles, and about the traditional mountain cultures here.  I've translated parts of these articles in the chapter, and I think you can feel Ito's spirit in his writing.  Here is one of the pages of one of his illustrations of Nepali handmade paper making.

Nepali Paper Making Illustration by Akira Ito

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