Sometimes, during the years of writing this book, I’ve found myself on a crowded train in Tokyo or Osaka, on my way to meet one of the people who live in the mountains, and I’ll look at the businessmen all around me, their suits and ties perfect, but exhaustion hanging over their faces, pallid and overdrawn like a bank account, and I wonder, if like Murata says, they also dream of moving out into the countryside, and living more simply.
If so, have they made choices earlier on about family and house buying so that it’s much less easy to move? Or is Murata right, that it’s much more simple than that? They aren’t leaving their exhaustion filled lives because they simply don’t want to?
This ideal of “retreating from the world,” I say to Murata, might come from ancient India, where the texts talk about it as something one does as the fourth and last stage of life.
“Yes,” Murata says “for after you finish your working life, in your fifties or sixties…”
“But you wanted to do it sooner?” I ask.
Laughing he says, “Yes!” And then he adds, solemn as if he’s quoting something, “Whatever you can do, it’s best to do it soon.”
And he’s right: you could die tomorrow. In all our years of talking, this might be the message he wants me to understand the most.
Andy Couturier spent 4 years studying sustainable living in rural Japan. There, he worked with local environmentalists and wrote for The Japan Times. Couturier has also built his own house with hand tools, and has taught intuitive writing for more than two decades. He is a student of many different Asian philosophical systems and is fluent in Japanese.
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