cover image The Abundance of Less: Lessons in Simple Living from Rural Japan

The Abundance of Less: Lessons in Simple Living from Rural Japan

Andy Couturier. North Atlantic, $19.95 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-62317-132-2

Couturier (Writing Open the Mind) offers 10 examples of simple modern lifestyles in Japan, including those of artists, farmers, and philosophers. The author, who lived in Japan for four years in his mid-20s, met everyday gurus there such as Atsuko Watanabe and her husband, potter and botanist Gufu, and visited their farmstead in the mountains of Shikoku. Based on interviews carried out on multiple stays, these profiles, which originally appeared in the Japan Times, are seamless narratives enlivened by photographs and passages from the interviewees’ writings. Some common themes that emerge are working with one’s hands, taking life more slowly, and striving for self-sufficiency. From woodblock craftsman Osamu Nakamura, Couturier learns the appeal of living outside the cash economy, while “anarchist potter” San Oizumi teaches him to “cherish the food you eat.” Every chapter ends by catching up with the figure in question, considering in particular how the Fukushima disaster affected them. The book ends with an excellent afterword telling how Couturier has applied lessons learned in Japan to daily life on 27 acres of meadow and forest in California. Without romanticizing traditional rural life, Couturier illuminates the benefits of humility. (Aug.)