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

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  372 ratings  ·  66 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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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
Leonard Davis
Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
The title was what piqued my interest in this book. I enjoyed reading about the lives of Japanese people who intentionally chose to move to rural areas and practice a more simple and sustainable lifestyle. It was interesting how almost all of them had traveled to Nepal and India during their youth and were influenced by Tibetan Buddhism. Towards the end, many of the stories started to sound the same so it was tough to finish.
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
Sep 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: japan
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
May 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I happen to read this book in the middle of NYC's lockdown, and for the first time I cooked every single day since beginning of March. It was the one-hour I looked forward to the most everyday: looking up recipes, marinating meat, chopping vegetables, steaming/frying/baking/simmering a concoction of flavors and textures that I didn't know I was capable of. It's at the end of a 10-hour work day, but it's exciting and adventurous and the reward is oh so nourishing.

My relationship with food change
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sustainablity, japan
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
There has been plenty of time and thought put on this one - you can feel it while reading. Such a nourishing book!
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
Jun 26, 2019 rated it liked it
In this book author focuses on three main topics: Japanese culture (art, music, poetry etc.), minimalism and Buddhism. All three of them are a big interest of mine, so I was very excited to read this book. Unfortunately, it came out as little flat. It's not bad, just not as good as I hoped so. It took me a while to figure out what was the problem and I'm still not sure if I will verbalize it right.

Author presents a few characters - Japanese people who decided to live simple life in the countrysi
Iris Law
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Truly inspirational 10 stories about 10 Japanese who chose to live an unusual and simple life in the countryside of Japan. They are all very intellectual people who have a prosperous life not measured by money - "a real dignity to surviving by your own power" and "prioritized a solidness of heart and a richness of the spirit". It reminded us of the lost values, and taught us the importance of closeness to nature and sustainable living, The kind of lifestyle practiced by these 10 Japanese may not ...more
Hitanshi Shah
Apr 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed reading this book about the Japanese individuals who choose to move to rural areas to practice and simple and sustainable lifestyle. From a materialistic Western perspective to a spiritual Eastern perspective. Something I've been curious of and trying to explore. It was refreshing to check out different homes that felt so long ago, yet so rich and present in the current day.

I can't wait to re-read this book.

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 .
Sep 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is exactly the book I needed to read right now.

I am generally skeptical of books about "the simple rural life." I grew up rural and find that many books about "rural wisdom" and the like are neither wise nor truly rural; they are frequently shallow pastiches, portraying a place and a people that are not real. I am also generally skeptical of books about "Japanese wisdom," which tend to have a set of weeaboo foibles, to say the least. I am also-also generally skeptical of lifestyle books (ah
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
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. ...more
I thought I would love this book, but unfortunately it felt like a chore to read and I only got about 70% of the way through before it was due back at the library. After getting through the first 6 or 7 profiles, I did read the afterward containing the author's reflections on his own life, and I appreciated his take on how he and his wife crafted a simpler life for themselves in the US.

Definitely some good insights from the people he interviewed, but not as interesting as I had hoped.

Some quotes
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-read
A slow read about living by five general principles - living a gentle, small, humble, slow, and simple life. The author profiles 10 people he met while living in Japan (all seem connected to each other through activism, social connections, and some are husband and wife). All choose to live in rural parts of Japan, growing their own food for the most part, living closer to nature and further from consumer culture. All seem to have connections to Buddhism, mostly Nepali Buddhism, and the book disc ...more
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
Dec 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was an interesting book about a number of individuals from Japan, many of whom know one another, who have purposefully chosen to simplify their lives, most moving to more rural areas and living in what some would term more traditional ways, though many of them don’t think of it this way. Many share similar backgrounds, such as traveling to India when younger, learning about Buddhism and Hinduism, and seeing how some people live with less, though sometimes not by choice. Each were heavy infl ...more
Nov 29, 2020 rated it liked it
I got probably 85% through this book and stopped - a rarity for me, but I guess at almost 40 you realize there’s only limited time to read and I’d rather read something else.

Despite being largely anecdotal and interview-based, this book became repetitive and somewhat esoteric in terms of the oddly theoretical world a lot of the people the author interviews seem to inhabit. That seems in direct contradiction to the extremely physical, minimalistic lives the people claim to live, but the ways in
Keith W
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a fabulous book. I loved reading and savoring it, and I look forward to doing so again. Andy Couturier does justice to those he profiles in its pages by letting them speak for themselves as they explain how and why they came to live the rich, simplified lives he lovingly and carefully describes. It is interesting to read how so many of them traveled to India and Nepal, lived and studied there, and then returned to Japan to live their lives. It is also interesting -- but maybe not that su ...more
Gerald Kinro
It started off great but became redundant, for there was a lack of diversity of the subjects interviewed. While the theme was to hear the stories of those who chose to live "off the grid" in self sufficiency each was really the same. Highly-educated, well-traveled (especially to India), and all within a certain age group. For the most part, they live on the island of Shikoku.

I would like to have seen a better cross-section. For example, I have seen documentaries and read articles of those who l
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was not what I expected at all - I picked it up because of the title "The Abundance of Less", thinking it is about minimalism and it will dole out advice similar to other minimalists. I was skeptical when I realized that it is a collection of interviews/observants of 10 individuals who chose to live simpler lives in Japan. But I really enjoyed reading the book and wanted to take my time reading through the author's observations. In a way, I wish there is an updated collection to see ho ...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
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
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
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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

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