Comments and Press

Praise for “Just Enough” :

“I cannot overstate the importance of Just Enough.  It should be required reading for anyone who wants to help make today’s world more sustainable, and capable of surviving the current imbalances of climate, energy, and resource distribution.  Brown has drawn from a source that most of us would never consider—Japan in the early 18th century.  This society went through desperate times, and came through them successfully because the Japanese learned how to use the natural systems of life to work with them, not against them.  With his wonderful distillation of lessons learned, including my personal favorite—“Build homes that are inspirational,” he translates this ancient but well-tailored weaving of human ingenuity and natural systems analysis into a blueprint for sustainability today.  There’s no other way to say it:  This is an extraordinary book that holds the keys we’re looking for to rebalance both our planet and our own lives.  Read it, please.”

                            Sarah Susanka

                            Architect and author of The Not So Big House series,

                            and The Not So Big Life

“As we all look forward with hope for a cradle to cradle world, Azby Brown honors us with the great gift of seeing the past of Japan with fresh eyes.  I was born in Japan in 1951; I know firsthand what inspiration can be found in its history of exquisitely elegant and effective solutions to everyday needs as we create the designs of the future.

Congratulations and thanks for a great work!”

                            William McDonough

                            Award-winning sustainable architect,

                            co-author of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things

“Azby Brown's book Just Enough, using excellent examples from Edo-period Japan, proves that we have surrounded ourselves with many things that we don't need to live sustainably and happily. This is an important warning for future development, one that should make us all stop and think.”

                                Shigeru Ban

                                Architect, recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Medal in Architecture,

                                and the Grande Medaille d'Or, Academie d'Architecture,

                                Designer of the award-winning Hanover Pavilion for Expo 2000.

The people of the Edo period intelligently managed their homes, fields, and forests, developed innovative designs for the things they needed, and maintained a sustainable society for three hundred years without a major catastrophe. This book conveys the secrets of that self-sufficient society with great clarity in text and sketches—knowledge that has great meaning for us as we face the immense challenges of life in our time.

Dr. Terunobu Fujimori

                                Award-winning green architect and architectural historian.

                                Professor at the Institute of Industrial Science, University of Tokyo

“Truly an eye-opener. Brown takes us behind the scenes, revealing the complex and ingenious techniques that put Japanese traditional life in harmony with nature.  An indispensable reference for anyone wanting to know the secret formulae that made old Japanese life what it was.”

                                Alex Kerr

                                Author, Dogs and Demons, Lost Japan

“This timely and inspiring book reminds us how an advanced culture in the past that faced similar challenges to our own was able to live sustainably. We can all learn from a society that encouraged humility, considered waste taboo, suggested cooperative solutions, and found meaning and satisfaction in a beautiful life.”

                                John Thackara

                                Director, Doors of Perception Design Conference

                                Author, In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World

“A rich and meandering look at what Edo Japan looked, smelled, and felt like, the book is a sensory delight...

The hardheaded practicality and the immense optimism of this book are forces to be reckoned with. As Brown examines how necessity was turned into opportunity, he lays out his hope that the urgency of our current ecological crisis will spur similarly focused change and ingenuity...

As the globe gets smaller and we find ourselves finally having to relinquish the illusion of an earth that can sustain our current lifestyles indefinitely, it seems that Brown has found the perfect example of how it might be done: with frugality and restraint, certainly, but also with grace, purpose, and beauty...”

                            Anna Kunnecke

                            Japan Times, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2009

                            Full review at:

Eco-warrior looks back for the future:

Can the practices of sustainable farming and green living during the Edo Period be adapted to modern-day Tokyo?

“Modern-day Tokyo may seem at odds with conservation and sustainable living, but a new book Just Enough, written from the perspective of an Edo Period (1603-1868) observer, shows how we could perhaps take some tips from history. Author Azby Brown depicts the old capital of Edo as a vibrant, bustling city carved with efficient urban waterways and covered in swaths of green — a place where frugality and inventiveness resulted in a low-impact, waste-free lifestyle.”

                            Interview by Melinda Joe

                            Japan Times, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009

                            Full article at:

Expert sees 'just enough' in Edo-era Japan as key to living green

“Just before Japan opened itself up to the West for modernization and industrialization, there was an ideal recycling society in the late Edo period, where even toilet waste was traded as a fertilizer, says Azby Brown, an associate professor at the Kanazawa Institute of Technology and director of the Future Design Institute in Tokyo.

    “The book, ''Just Enough: Lessons in Living Green from Traditional Japan,'' provides a close look at how people lived at the time -- in the rural setting of the rice farmer, in the downtown setting of an urban carpenter and in the elite setting of the urban samurai.

    “ The book, published by Kodansha International Ltd. and made available in the United States in January, contains hundreds of detailed sketches by the author about the methods and technology of the time as well as a number of tips for environmentally friendly living today.”

                         By Yoichi Kosukegawa

                         Kyodo News Service, Monday, Feb. 8, 2009

                         Full article here

Japan's Edo Culture Inspires a Sustainable Post-Industrial Future

"Azby Brown's new book Just Enough: Lessons in living green from traditional Japan(Kodansha International 2010) convincingly argues that the growing movement for sustainable living in the twenty-first century can learn from Edo's land and resource practices and its culture of restraint...Brown provides a remarkable analysis of how natural resources were used by this growing population in a sustainable manner. Some notable examples include limiting forest extraction to fallen limbs and what could be carried on a person's back, an irrigation system in which channeled water was filtered and cleaned by rice fields, a transportation system that relied on human and water transport rather than animals, the role of courtyards as shared space for commoners, and samurais' reliance on household farming to make ends meet."

By Jared Braiterman, Huffington Post

Full article at:


"I read Brown's book with relish, and at the end of it felt that my mindset had shifted, from feeling that I never have enough, to feeling that I undoubtedly have too much."

                By Macy Halford, New Yorker Online, April 1, 2010

                Full article at:

Bent by the Sun: Lessons from Japan's ancient tradition of sustainability.

                Essay on design, by Azby Brown

                Design Observer Blog: Change Observer

                Full article at:

Tokyo’s ancient eco past

"Author Azby Brown also produced dazzling drawings of rural life in Japan, from houses to ordinary people. It causes one to pause and reflect on how our quest for modernity has caused us to lose our connection to the world."

                By Rolf Potts, Vagabonding Blog

               Full article at:

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