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, February 2, 2013

Outside of Mainstream Bookselling Channels

Books are sold in cities, right?  Book sellers and publishers focus on where concentrations of people are, and that makes sense.  But what about a book about rural life?

A Different Kind of Luxury is about person-to-person contact, about small-scale enterprises, about intimate connections with the natural world, and about doing for yourself.  This happens of course in the US as well.

One of the places that has sold dozens of books is the tiny "Kettenpom Store" in Zenia, CA.  It's in Trinity County near where my partner and I have some land where we live some of the time.  
Kettenpom Store
There are probably less than 200 people in the surrounding 50 miles, but they have stocked the book for two years now, and with a little "local author" sign, it sells.

One day, when I was signing books, a bearded man in overalls walked up to me and said, "You are signing that as if you wrote it."

"I did, actually."

"Wow, I love that book, I've read all the way through it three times."

It turns out that he lives in the same valley, and grows Japanese vegetables, including burdock root, or gobo as it is known in Japanese.

I have been very adamant about this book not being "about me."  Too many books about Asia focus on the Westerner's experience going there and learning about himself (usually it's a he).  There's something vaguely distasteful about that focus to me.  So when I've been asked to "talk more about yourself," I've resisted.  The book is about these people who are so amazing.  I try to move towards their ideal.

However, I think one of the reasons people want to know is because they want to believe that "people like them" can do it too.  And many Japanese people want to know if I live like the people I write about do.

So, over the next few months, I will go ahead and write a bit about ways in which my life has parallels to the people in the book.  But if this is your first visit to the blog, please, please read about them first.  There are many excerpts on this blog, and if you like what you read, please do purchase the book.  I don't make very much money at all on the book, but if it is going to continue to be available to other people in the future, it has to keep selling.  It's only $20, or less, with shipping. ( The computer you are reading these words on is likely more expensive than that.)

In Winter
So, for a bit of a start, here are a few photos of our land (about 15 miles from the Kettenpom store) and the house we built there.  Hand tools only, no generators.  Solar power and a little hydro electricity generator in the creek.

In Summer

Hand built house, from the front
This window arrangement
is based on Japanese flower
arranging ikebana

These solar panels were built in the early 1970s.  We bought them in the early 1990s.  In the summer, they give us more than all the power we need.  Just a few lights and the laptop.  They were $100 each, and boy was it hard to spend that much money!

No nukes.
So, yes, as I wrote in the introduction, "the good life is possible."  This is our version of it.  You too can create one of your own.  Try hard.  This is your time, and your life.


  1. More of you and Cynthia. More on simple living please.

  2. What a beautiful Home.We are moving off grid this weekend.Can you share some inside photos please?Thanks so much.I am excited about buying this book from you...

  3. Hello Happy Home. Let me know by email when you've gotten the book. I really really want to emphasize THESE people's lives, not my own. Email me when you've read some of them, and I can email you a few photos from the inside of our (messy) cabin. Use the "ask Andy a question" link above. Good luck in your move.