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.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Have you read it deeply?-- A letter from a Mormon reader

I received a letter last week from someone I never met, someone who was touched by A Different Kind of Luxury in a profound way, as you will see reading part of her letter below.  She is a Mormon who lives in Utah, and has shared the book with women in her book group, and it really inspired those women as well.

Dorothy's letter made me consider the years of time I put into exploring these 11 men and women’s lives, and incorporating what they have said into my life, and also, I should admit it, to consider the enormous labor I put into doing the interviews, translating, shaping and publishing this book.  Fifteen years of my life.  

I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of letters and emails and phone calls and the people who I’ve met at the readings, and how they  have been moved by the book. 

I know, as well, however, that the same forces that pull people away from themselves, that pull them away from a rich full life, that distract and waste away our lives, those same forces are still at work.  Some say more so than ever.  It is in this context that I hear from people who have read only a bit of the book.  Perhaps there's more in this book for you yet?

One person I know has a strict policy of reading only one book at a time. 

Masanori Oe,
profiled in Chapter 11 of
A Different Kind of Luxury
So, before sharing Dorothy’s letter with you, I’d like to encourage you to delve deeply into A Different Kind of Luxury. Chapters 8 and 9  and 11 are particularly profound.  Even my publisher said about Chapter 11, “That one is a real mind blower.”  (He’s not a man given to hyperbole.)

If you’ve read the book, perhaps consider giving a copy to a friend, there’s something called Buy a Friend A Book “the site that encourages visitors to surprise their friends with the gift of book”  or a site like Pass the Book  where you put a little note in the book, and hand it on to someone else.  You could also write a group email to your friends about the book The ordering link from Amazon is here http://amzn.com/193333083X  (You can cut and paste that link into an email). 

Or you could also get it from your local independent bookseller.  Another thing that truly helps is to write a review on Amazon and tell your friends about that.  Reviews that are most useful have a some specific details about why you like this book, or why it was important to you.  

Perhaps at minimum, just send your friends to this blog, and let them explore around themselves a bit.  I'm not writing all this to boost sales, I should say.  Selling this book is not how I make my living.  Most of the money goes to the bookselling industry.  I write this because the stories in the book have inspired and helped so many people, and the onrush of trivia and blinking distraction is so strong in our culture.  You can see what I mean by reading Dorothy's letter:

Dear Andy,

I have just finished A Different Kind of Luxury and wanted to express to you my gratitude for this amazing work.  It has taken me a year to carefully excavate the precious bits of wisdom from its pages and incorporate them into my own daily walk.  I could have read it much faster than that, but sensed in the first paragraphs that this was something to be cherished, explored and carefully worked through, or much would be lost to me.  This is not a 'reading book;' this is a 'pondering book!'

I have taken this book to book groups and shared the insights and truths with women who would never think to venture out of their role as conservative Christian  housewives.  I commend them for being brave enough to crack the pages; instead of something that threatened the fabric of their lives they found a feast for their souls for which they didn't even know they were starving.  (I lost a copy that way--it never came back home!) 

This is a sacred season for our family right now, with many changes and the growing up of children and so forth.  I have felt deeply rooted and well centered during these transitions because of the offerings you have given me.  For that I thank you, though I feel a bit at a loss after spending a whole year having my own inner workings  nurtured, and am now wondering “what comes next?”  Still, it is fitting that I seek and find the next pieces, the relationships and other bits that will continue what you have begun--as well as my own means of offering the light I have been given to those who are also seeking.

I thank you for this outpouring of self and call down the gifts of the Universe in response. Gods all bless.

Dorothy Guinn


How I found  your book--my teenage daughter is an absolute Japanese freak since about the age of 3 (she is now 18).  She taught herself how to cook, write and speak Japanese-and shares with the rest of us.  We joyfully hosted a Japanese exchange student for a few weeks right after the tsunami and then my daughter organized a fund raiser comprised of local students and raised over $3,000 for Japan.  So we are always on the lookout for good Japanese-anything to satisfy her appetite, and when ordering something else from Amazon this book was suggested. I actually bought it for her but fell in love with it myself. 

What do I do with my days...hmm...that is a loaded question.  I LOVE to combine much reading with study, meditation, journaling and 'clearing work' of old belief systems that no longer serve me, and would gladly spend the majority of my time in this pursuit!  I have lived in the Northwest, Las Vegas and Texas, though currently I live in northern Utah.  Yes, I am a "Mormon," though we are encouraged to use the 'correct title of being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

We are a homeschooling family.  We actually share the same philosophy offered by Koichi Yamashita, on pg 259, "I teach them how to study. And after that, they can teach themselves." My husband and I have been together for 25 years and have 3 children.  For our book club I ordered an extra copy of A Different Kind of Luxury  to share because I was unwilling to part with mine so others could read it!  Most of them ended up ordering one as well and the extra somehow got absorbed into someone's household and never made it home -which pleased me immensely as the lady who kept it had been rather narrow of heart and mind and this cracked her wide open to the ideas that people of other cultures / faiths could still be deeply spiritual in their own good ways.  I have since thought of buying another copy to turn into one of those books that float around the world such as http://www.bookcrossing.com/   In the mean time, I'll probably donate one to our library. :)

About Christian ladies: as mentioned above, I am LDS as are the vast majority of people here, so incidentally the women in my book club were also.  I have embraced the concepts of so many different belief systems, that I often rock the boat at church, in book club, at co-op, etc. I am a huge 'word junkie'--I love the way words feel inside of me and their power to express ideas and thoughts and new opportunities in life, just by rearranging them a bit.  Anyhow, being able to do that with an underlying layer of caring allows me to introduce some pretty outrageous concepts to these straight-laced women, and they listen and surprise themselves by agreeing. 
Wakako Oe
profiled in chapter 7

The first thing I introduced to them was on page 197-198 from Wakako Oe, though I admittedly tweaked the words just a bit to keep from scaring them:  "So you felt the spiritual life was the reason for their vitality?" (That caught their attention as we also believe this.)  "Yes, exactly. Because of this Larger Presence around them, bigger than humans, what you might call God--because they could always feel that consciousness they themselves would be lit up...Without that Presence, people can lose themselves, and not know what they are doing, what their values and principles are.   They get confused. But because the eyes of God are on you, you become visible to yourself; you reexamine who you are."

They were hooked.

(I knew that this information, this different way of looking at every day life, struck a cord when one of them quoted that same passage back to me when we met the following month to discuss your book, not remembering it was the one I used the previous month when I introduced it!  They loved the ideas and the slow way of working through it, almost as if it were scripture--which is the way I think of it, too.  Many, many passages were quoted and with excited voices they shared the depth of what they had craved to find in their own lives.  It was always there, but your words uncovered it, validated its worth and then set it in motion.)

We talked about the grain and muffins being served from the area near the nuclear reactor and the mother-activist protecting her family and community.  This was also easy to relate to as daughters of Pioneers who hiked with bloody bare feet across frozen prairie stubble in order to provide for their families and escape governmental persecution.

Osamu Nakamura
profiled in Chapter 2
I explained that I had found much light and truth for myself in these pages in the concepts of recognizing time as an energy source to be cherished and cared for in its own right rather than only to be spent in the acquisition of other energy exchanges (money, material objects, etc.).  Then I told them my favorite part of when you asked  Osamu Nakamura (pg 57) "Why..." collect wood, cook this way, live this way, take this much TIME to do everything, etc.? His reply rocked my world and changed everything about the way I think and do things-- and the reasoning behind them.  "Everything I do is because I completely enjoy doing it this way."  and pg. 63 "...enjoying the pleasure of meeting his needs with his own hands..."  

These two ideas added together told me that when I give enough time to any 'doing', it has the potential to become a pleasure.  Drudgery comes into play for me when I feel like I have to hurry and get the meaningless stuff done so I can have enough time to enjoy the good stuff--which never happens because there is always too much every-day junk that needs to be done.  When I flipped this over in my mind and invested my sink full of dishes with enough time to enjoy them, their prettiness, usefulness, the caring they offer my family, etc., suddenly the memories of shared meals they held turned them from dirty dishes to scared relics of my family's communion of breaking bread together at the altar of our very own temple/home (the kitchen table!), and I became the keeper of that flame with the opportunity to do it again with each meal prepared and shared and cleaned up. 

As mentioned before, I would gladly spend my time buried neck deep in the words of books, meditations and journals, and in the past had often come to resent the daily 'work' of living.  So this new way of  thinking is very profound to me.


Painting by Jinko Kaneko
profiled in Chapter 10
“Don't forsake the realistic; infuse it with spirit.”--Jinko Kaneko

I thank you for your generous gift of your time in creating this marvelous work, sharing life/time with these amazing souls and then in corresponding with me.  I am honored. I look forward as the year closes to following Atsuko's wise counsel.  It feels good to allow myself time to settle inside and feel what comes next, thank you for the reminder!

Dorothy Guinn
(a Zen-Baptist-Light Worker-Mormon!)


  1. Nakamura's words has source of inspiration and holiness.

    Sales letter

  2. Funny - I am a pretty "conservative" (politically) Roman Catholic guy - but I have a strong appreciation for Zeb and Buddhism. My experience is that this book holds much truth (and in my view - all truth is God's truth). I have a strong love for St. Francis of Assisi and perhaps that is why so much of this makes sense to this western Christian. I believe that we should be looking more to ourselves and our local communities to make a difference in this work, and not looking to Gov't which becomes a tool to force conformity on everyone of what some elite power group envisions as "utopia" for all. History has shown us repeatedly that always ends badly. That said - there ARE some issues which must be dealt with politically and Gov't is the only vehicle to solve them. But until we can all grow in trust and love for our neighbor regardless of political outlook, we will never achieve anything. THAT - is a spiritual task that can only be undertaken and personal and local level. Your book - is a beautiful addition to the dialogue.

  3. Nakamura's words are like gifts for us, gives a lot of inspiration to us.