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

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  150 ratings  ·  34 reviews
In an evocative and intimate narrative that captures the texture of ordinary--yet exceptional--lives, Andy Couturier tells the stories of ten men and women who left behind mainstream existences in urban Japan to create new lives deep in the rural mountains. He relates the ways they found to live simply and sustainably, in harmony with their environment, surrounded by the l ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published August 1st 2017 by North Atlantic Books
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4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  150 ratings  ·  34 reviews

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Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As someone curious in minimalism and reducing their carbon footprint, this book didn't answer too many things I already didn't know before. It's no Marie Kondō book. But then that's not what Couturier was really trying to offer with this book. At least, not to me it wasn't.

What Couturier offers are life stories and personal philosophies from ten different perspectives. From a materialistic Western perspective to a spiritual Eastern perspective. To me, it's not with the intention to teach so as t
Jane G Meyer
Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book made me stop and think and rethink a thousand things in my life. I felt like I was continually being pulled away from our culture, out into outer space so I could see our world and life more objectively, then plopped back down into my little room, where I sat, with the book in my hand and my cup of tea getting cold nearby...

I read it in small chunks so that I had a chance to digest. My only criticism is that I wish the folks interviewed in the book were more diverse spirituality (most
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have been a fan of Andy Couturier for more than a decade. The original edition of this book sits out on my coffee table because I want to share it with everyone who comes over to our house. Beautifully written, it is also so evocative of my favorite country in the world (Japan). It is also tremendously important.

About the writing. Couturier is a writing teacher. He wrote another wonderful book about writing called Writing Open the Mind about using the subconscious to unlock creativity in your
Dec 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
Having once lived out in the Japanese countryside, I was really excited about the idea of this book. I thought it would be similar to Rebecca Otowa's At Home in Japan, which I adored.

It started out great: really interesting glimpses into specific individuals and how they are choosing to step outside of mainstream Japan's economy and social expectations to pursue simpler lives. Interestingly, they were all influenced by travel to Nepal and/or India, and most were also artisans of some form or a
Linh Bui
Somewhat enjoy the book.

I picked this book up since I'm interested in the sustainability movement. I enjoyed the first half of the book. After a while, I feel dreadful to finish the book. Maybe because I am under the impression that whatever is told in this book, has been altered, in some ways or another, to Couturier's perspectives of the people he interviewed (wow, that was a run-on sentence). Meaning that the people's stories may have been twisted to fit his own narrative. Things like this h
Jan 12, 2019 marked it as donated
Shelves: dnf
Tried to listen to this on audio. I listened to maybe 1/2 hour and decided to DNF it. I was disappointed .
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There has been plenty of time and thought put on this one - you can feel it while reading. Such a nourishing book!
Sep 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Whether you will like this book greatly depends on your expectations from it. I was interested in the concept of minimalism and was looking to read more about individuals, such as Fumio Sasaki, who simplified their way of living while maintaining a normal life. I did not find it here and therefore was a bit disappointed and found the book quite boring at times.

In this book the author profiles about 10 individuals/families whom he met in Japan over the span of many years since the 90s. Most of th
Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a Goodreads win review. This is a very delightful and wonderful story of ten men and women who left the mainstream of urban Japan and moved to a very natural place. They lived as artists, and farmers and they relied on themselves and formed close bonds with each other. I can relate to this book having lived in So Calif for 60 years and then moving to Kansas where these people cherish thier land and do not build on every inch of it. Every place you drive here is pretty with fields of food ...more
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japan, sustainablity
andy couturier tracks down 11 japanese individuals and families who have chosen a lifestyle of simplicity in the countryside going with this decision against the mainstream of the most urbanized society on Earth. they work manually and grow their own crops despite an unparalleled level of automation in agriculture, industry and service. Courturier shows with these case studies that an abundance in well-being and self-sufficience opens up through this deliberate choice of less despite the omnipre ...more
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I enjoyed this book for several reasons. It's an honest look at true minimalism that I don't think many Americans have experienced, and how that way of life can be possible. I had a special connection to it since I have lived in Korea and have traveled around much of Asia. It's interesting to see how some dedicated people can live simply, even in such an advanced country as Japan. Loved all of the detailed descriptions within the book.
Apr 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
This is an updated version a book which was published in 2010 as "A Different Kind of Luxury." In it, Andy Couturier journeyed to Japan to interview and spend time with 10 men and women (artists, writers, philosophers, teachers) who chose to forsake the frenetic, industrialized, and materialistic lifestyle of urban Japan for a simple, more spiritually oriented and self-sustaining life in rural Japan. In this new and expanded edition, renamed "The Abundance of Less", Couturier revisits them to se ...more
Johanna Calico
Dec 30, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2018, hate
This was a tedious and disappointing read. I'd hoped for an enlightening look into sustainable living in Japan. Instead, I got flat, exceptionally not-immersive writing; long and uncritical lectures about "energy" and other woo (so that the author can go "wow, that's so deep! my western mind will never be able to fully comprehend it"), random bullshit about how nuclear energy, genetically modified crops, and modern medicine/technology are all eeeeevil (I was actually really shocked by how anti-s ...more
Nancy Chiok
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It is an interesting read.

With the current world wide climate that causes strange phenomenon in the weather, probably due to nuclear, fossil oil etc, some people want to live differently by moving away to the countryside where they can live closer to mother earth.

The author decided to travel to Japan to teach and to earn and saved money so that he can buy some land back in the US.

He also took the opportunity to travel to the rural areas in the country side to understand how the people live witho
Javen Yip
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Abundance of Less is a book that everyone needs to read at least once in their lifetime. It puts into perspective the truly valuable and intangible things that are required to lead a fulfilling life. It is ever so important especially in a time like now in this current world filled with consumerism and the height of capitalism. There are more important things in life than that six digit bank account that you are trying to grow and that five digit designer bag that you so badly want.
This boo
Nov 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways
I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

To subtitle this "lessons in simple living" is a little misleading. The book is not a how-to guide to simple living. Rather, it is an examination of individuals and families who have chosen to live a more simplistic life, the how and the why of their chosen life style. I particularly enjoyed learning about the philosophies of some of the people profiled by Couturier. A book to read slowly, to allow time to digest why they have chosen to live outside
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
I like a lot about this book. It's well-written and thoughtful. You can tell the author really loves the subject. The people he speaks to and writes about are interesting and thoughtful people. And I appreciated the author's own take on simple living here in the U.S. It was at times a bit long, and I think so much was included that it kind of dilutes the central messages of some of the 10 people the author profiles. But overall, an enjoyable book that gives people many ideas on how they themselv ...more
Nov 02, 2017 rated it liked it
The library won’t renew after one cycle so I’ll have to let go of this book for now, though I haven’t finished it yet. The photographs are amateur and the writing pretty straightforward, but I was excited to find a book that fused together my two loves: minimalism and Japan. Each chapter highlights a different person or family living in a self-sufficient, simple way in rural Japan. They aren’t realistically lives I could duplicate, but it gives me a feeling of calm to see others attain simplicit ...more
Jan 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
It was hard for me to read this book until the holidays were over and I went on retreat! It needed an open, spacious mind and some slow days before I got out of a mindset of “I need to read this fast so I can return it to the library”. It raises a lot of important questions and is a lot of food for (leisurely, do-nothing) thought. It was extraordinary to read it while at this contemplative, mostly silent retreat.
Richard Janzen
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Inspirational book about 10 Japanese people who escaped the pressures and dangers of an industrial, commercial, consumer based society, to live a simpler and more self-sufficient life. To grow your own food, to eat what you grow, to know what you eat, to live a simpler not have to sacrifice your time and life to chase money or things, in service of the company or society in general.
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fun short interludes with insights into many different ways of living a more simple and intentional life. Fantastic ideals to live by, just would have liked a little more knowledge about the "how", maybe a follow up book on the things each person is making that would normally be bought and more information on how little money they are each living on? Worth the read if you are aspiring to live with less and very inspiring.
Viki Sonntag
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written and thoughtful reflection on the tyranny of time in industrial cultures and what it means to choose different ways of being. My only hesitation in giving it five stars is there is ever-so-slight tone of condescension from the author towards the women represented in the book, at the very least, little awareness of how gender might intersect with ways of living.
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As a native Japanese, I'm always curious how Westerners experience Japan.
This book is particularly focused on rural life in Japan which I didn't know much about.
It think the author expressed the essence of his experience without being lost in translation.
Beautifully written, too.
Excellent. Best book I have read in several years. Pairs nicely with Less is More: An Anthology of Ancient and Modern Voices Raised in Praise of Simplicity. This book makes my top ten book list. Will re-read throughout life.
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
You can have a more fulfilling life in rural life but still hard and not without questions. Interesting that almost all the Japanese folks living this way had spent years living in India before coming back to a simple way in Japan.
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, beautiful book. Truly needs to be read by everyone, even just one story, one chapter. Will stay on my bookshelf forever as a refreshing piece of art and philosophy that I will carry through my life.
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book helped my soul

One of the best books I've read. The ways of living of all this people make you realize how less things make you full. It's not about material possessions but spirituality. Humbleness is key for a life that can help not only our souls but the Earth's.
Bethwyn (Butterfly Elephant Books)
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wishlist
I think I need more time to process my thoughts on this one, but it certainly had an impact on me. A book that now resides deep in my heart.
Jeremy German
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite some completely kooky bits, I enjoyed this far more than I expected.
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is such a beautiful and thoughtful book—and I expect it’s one that will stick with me for a long time.
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Andy Couturier is an essayist, poet and writing teacher. He lived in Japan for 4 years, where he taught, was a journalist, and worked on environmental causes. His first book is Writing Open the Mind and he has written for The Japan Times, Adbusters, The North American Review, Kyoto Journal, and The Oakalnd Tribune. He is the director The Opening, a center for courses in writing. http://theopening. ...more
“If you join some kind of association, your own true way of thinking gets shackled. You do things just to give yourself that feeling of ease.” 1 likes
“If you have time, a lot of things are enjoyable. Making this type of woodblock, or collecting the wood for the fire, or even cleaning things - it's all enjoyable and satisfying if you give yourself time - Nakamura.” 1 likes
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