A Little Book of Japanese Contentments by Erin Niimi Longhurst, Ryo Takemasa

Finished reading the book A Little Book of Japanese Contentments: Ikigai, Forest Bathing, Wabi-sabi, and More by Erin Niimi Longhurst, Ryo Takemasa (Illustrator) a few weeks ago, so I thought I'll share my thoughts on it.

Why did I pick up this book?

I did not pick up this book on my own since it was a Christmas gift. That said, it was on my “to-read” list, which is how my sister figured out what to give me for Christmas.

I first saw this book while browsing at Barnes and Nobles. The word “Contentments” in the title caught my eye. I have been looking for books that can help me understand how to be happy with what I currently have, how to be content with the life I have. This book seemed to fit the bill, so I added it to my list. Plus, it is a beautiful book, what with its hardcover and full colored pages.

What did I like about this book?

I already mentioned above that it is a beautiful book. The full colored pages meant that the wonderful photos showcased in the book really stood out.

The chapter that focused on “finding beauty in imperfection” was great. It is in stark contrast to the world we live in now, where everything is filtered so that it looks perfect.

The book also talks about the Japanese art of Kintsugi, which was a fascinating read for me. Instead of buying a new replacement when something breaks, the Japanese prefer to repair the broken item, which then ends up becoming even more valuable to them. I love that idea. Again, it is in stark contrast to the world we live in, especially the western world where people are obsessed with always having the newest gadgets, newest cars, newest fashion accessory, etc... I find that this idea lends itself well to personal finance too. I don't need to replace my old car with a new one if it can still be repaired. That ends up saving me a lot of money.

If you're interested in Japanese food, then this book covers some of it too. I enjoyed reading about Japanese ramen and rice cakes. The author even includes recipes and instructions on how to cook/make them. The book also covers how to make use of bento boxes and the proper distribution of food that goes into those boxes.

Overall, if you are a fan of Japanese culture, you will more than likely enjoy reading this book.

What I didn't like about this book?

This question seems harder to answer than I originally thought it would be, but I'll give it a try. To be fair to the author, the book description states that it is a book on Japanese culture and their way of life. So, me, looking for lessons in the book to apply to my non-Japanese way of life, might be asking too much. Anyway, here goes.

There is no discussion on Japanese martial arts whatsoever, or at least none that I remember. Considering how Japanese martial arts is something like a way of life for most practitioners, I was hoping to see how I could use aspects of it to help find contentment in life.

Some of the topics covered in the book seemed too traditional that I could not see how I could apply them to my life. For example, there are sections of the book covering Japanese Tea Ceremony and Flower Arrangements. Those parts of the book came up short for me. I particularly remember skipping pages on those two because I just could not see myself doing a tea ceremony or arranging flowers at home. There is also a section on writing, that while interesting and informative, I just don't see myself learning how to write in Japanese, so that was pretty useless to me. This is not to say that the author doesn't try to extract lessons from those practices, but the book spends a lot more pages instructing you on how to host a tea ceremony, flower arrangements and how to write Kanji characters, that whatever lesson that's supposed to be there somewhat gets lost in the process.

Rating

I give this book a 3/5 rating. While it is a really beautiful book, apart from the 2-3 topics that were really interesting to me, there's not much I could take away from this book that can be applied to my daily life. In other words, I didn't come away more knowledgeable about how to be content with my life after reading this book. That's down to my reason for wanting to read this book in the first place. But, if like I said above, you are very much interested in Japanese culture, then from that aspect, this is an enjoyable read.

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