Another one is by the steadfast Ted Taylor called "Notes from the Nog." Ted and I have been in contact for several years and I invited him to submit a guest blog post. It's great. You can read it below. Ted is a contributing editor at Kyoto Journal. He is currently at work on a series of books about walking Japan's ancient highways.
It was alternative culture that led me to Japan. In my final couple years as a university student, I found myself ducking classes more and more in order to read the works of those whose viewpoints didn't necessarily align themselves with the conservative mainstream 1980's microcosm that was my school. Despite this, their words were available on the shelves of the campus library, and it is from this berth that my imagination began to sail in directions at odds with what I was learning in the classroom.
The "radical" ideals of many of these writers had been honed in the temples of Asia, so it was only natural that I would gravitate there. When I arrived in the Japanese countryside in the very-much-analogue year of 1994, I found myself in an environment similar to the University I'd left a few years before, an environment of materialism and conformity. I learned quite early that even the people on the street who looked to be counterculture were most often merely dressing the part, and that eventually they too would be absorbed back into the greater society at large. I did eventually find a few artist-types or those who "aspired to" a simpler way of life (and there were also rumors of interesting happenings down in Kyoto), but for the most part I settled into this cultural outback of the countryside.
Little did I know that this was exactly where where the kindred spirits dwell. In the late '90's, an article began appearing in The Japan Times, an article called "Alternative Luxuries." I would read Andy Couturier's pieces with great relish. I had found over the years that in Japan, people are allowed to have dreams, but it is only the brave few who actually act on them. Yet here in print were people who had not only followed their dreams, but had let those dreams shape their very way of existing.
A handful of years later, I once again came across Andy's articles in this very blog. Not only had the articles been fleshed out further, but so had my own relation to them and to Japan itself. Some of the inspiration had rubbed off to the extent that I too had crafted my own semi-alternative life here (Not being Japanese in the first place, this isn't terribly difficult.). Like Andy, I had built my own friendships with people to whom a simple life is simply common sense. Though a few are based in cities, most live deep in the countryside, and share with the men and women in Andy's book not only the ordinariness in how they live, but the complexity in how they view their lives and their interconnectedness.
I had a glimpse of the latter one autumn night, a few weeks before I was leaving Japan, a departure that had I assumed at the time was to be final. The night that my wife and I finished the Shikoku 88 Temple pilgrimage, we were put up by a few young people living in a valley in deep Tokushima. As the evening went on, my hosts and I found that we had many friends in common, and I began to sink into a certain melancholy, saddened to be leaving this country in which I had built strong friendships over 15 years. But then it dawned on me that I wasn't stepping away from the circle. In moving back to the States, I was helping that circle to expand.
And there, upon arrival, I found Andy's book, a book I'd been waiting all of those 15 years to see published. And in rereading those familiar voices, and in reading the comments of those who praise this book, the circle continues to expand.
Based in Kyoto, Ted's work has appeared in The Japan Times, Kyoto Journal, Kansai Time Out, Skyward:JAL's Inflight Magazine, Outdoor Japan and Elephant Journal, as well as in various print and online publications. A Contributing Editor at Kyoto Journal, he won the top prize in the Kyoto International Cultural Association Essay Contest. He is currently at work on a series of books about walking Japan's ancient highways.