Influential Minds Part 2

This post is about our meeting with Takayuki Mori. I wrote part one about my impressions of our meeting with Hiroaki Koide, it loosely ties into this writing, and can be found here.

A disclaimer at the beginning of this writing that my facts are from memory, and it was a very long day at Mori-san’s house. There isn’t much to be found on the internet in English about Takayuki Mori or his business Aightowa(literally: “the definition of love is” in Japanese), presumably this is the official site, and facts gained from a google translation of it will be dodgy at best.

Takayuki Mori is well known in his local part of the Earth’s surface for being, among other things, really different from the people around him. He is a 74 year old retired local ecologist, living in Arashiyama Kyoto and running a business out of his grandoise(for Japan) energy efficient house and living mostly(entirely?) off of subsistence farming on a very large(for Japan) piece of land. According to the website, it’s 1000 square meters, about a fourth of an acre. His wife is a famous doll maker, creating beautiful traditional-Japanese looking dolls that can sell for as much as two cars, and running regular classes teaching her doll making, with over 60 people drawn to the craft. Mori-san gave us a long lecture in two parts and showed us all the wonderful things around his estate.

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I’ll begin with what he had to say about his home. The first thing that comes to my mind is the solar panels on the roof and a design using sunlight for as much free heat as possible. He had also planted many foreign deciduous trees in his yard, so that leaves would block sunlight in the summer keeping it cooler, and then fall off and allow sunlight in the winter making it warmer. He pointed out a shrub over the stall he built for his car – also there for a similar reason of seasonally affecting the car’s temperature favorably. We gazed in awe at his garden of subsistence farming, he mentioned that they had a planting and harvesting schedule that ensured the foods they liked were available year round. He boasted this was an efficient use of a small amount of land, saying that large machine driven farming with same-crop fields might be efficient for the amount of work done by a single person, but it’s wasting space(space is very precious in Japan, even graveyards are crowded) and preventing the employment of many. We walked around his garden and he showed us an outdoor pizza oven he built.
Every five steps he had some home made ingenious cool thing to show us, all of it having some purpose toward efficiently living easier. His two part lecture, if I can possibly summarize it, was about consumerism back to the beginning of human history, his studies of present day primitive cultures(people making a lot of use out of very little to live), and his idea of a new age of society where we have integrated minimalism and efficiency with science and technology for the sake of sustainability. He took the lecture down many winding directions, describing how people are taught by society to buy, people defining themselves through buying, a “trap of consumerism”, whether to choose hope or despair in the face of today’s society, and on and on.
More than anything I was in awe of a person living their convictions and successfully living life their own way, trying to change the culture through leading by example. It’s something I find beautiful that I don’t see very often. Toward the end of his lecture and through the questions asked he was talking more about the treasure that is art and creativity. He mentioned, in response to a question from another group member about where the money for his place came from, that his wife was originally teaching people to make dolls for free, but the students insisted on paying, and that created the class. It struck a few bells in my head, “hey, I’m an artist living life my own way, maybe I could ask him about my methods and he could give me a thought to take with myself” I thought.
How to phrase it though, what am I even trying to ask? Through Professor Armstrong’s translation, I gave him the following preface and question. I’m a painter that’s been giving my work away for a long time. Sometimes people offer me money for my art, and even without knowing all the information you’ve presented(I was referring to his concept of a trap of consumerism), it hurts my feelings when people offer me money. How do I reconcile?
His answer was straightforward common sense, the conventional wisdom.┬áThe same sort of thing my yoga teachers have said in past conversations. The same sort of stuff any adult will say over the counter to me while I’m making them espresso and milk at work. His version was a tad more elegant and elaborate, but the points were the same. “You have to decide for yourself what to do and do what makes you happy. Making money doesn’t mean making happiness, but if you don’t make money you have to deal with not having any.”
It’s the same stuff but it’s different hearing it from someone that’s unique honest and successful, as opposed to it coming from the average passer by that just seems to know everything about someone else’s life. It’s the same stuff anybody else says, just coming from him it seems more like a true story that a person can be successful with this attitude, more like experiential knowledge, empirically proven. Do I have anything about myself to change after that? Not at all, just now the idea of doing what makes oneself happy has even more validation for me.

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