Tran­scen­den­tal in Yun­nan

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Kamijo Ry­otaro, a 30-year-old man from Ja­pan, has lived in Dali in South­west China’s Yun­nan Prov­ince for the past seven years. Known by the nick­name Ryo, or ‘Mr Six’, he is no­table for liv­ing in a self-suf­fi­cient man­ner that has earned com­par­isons to the great Amer­i­can nat­u­ral­ist and writer Henry David Thoreau.

Ryo sees his de­ci­sion as an es­cape from the salary-man (white-col­lar worker) life­style in mod­ern Ja­pan. Ryo’s father works for a suc­cess­ful un­der­wear brand and his mother is an English teacher at a train­ing school. Re­luc­tant to fol­low his par­ents’ path, Ryo left Ja­pan to see the world as soon as he turned 18. Be­fore set­tling in Dali at the age of 22, he traveled as a wan­der­ing mu­si­cian with a gui­tar and a self-made didgeri­doo, a wind in­stru­ment in­vented by In­dige­nous Aus­tralians. At a mas­sage work­shop in Thai­land he met his fu­ture wife Aya, a Ja­panese woman from Nagoya, who he de­scribes as “very pretty, a bit boy­ish and ex­cep­tion­ally open.” The two quickly fell in love but were forced to sep­a­rate for half a year be­fore Aya even­tu­ally re­united with Ryo in Dali.

There, the cou­ple has lived a sim­ple, min­i­mal­ist but cre­ative life, eat­ing food they grow, mak­ing their own daily ne­ces­si­ties and cre­at­ing mu­sic with a group of lo­cal and for­eign mu­si­cians.

Ryo in­sists on us­ing or­ganic meth­ods to grow his crops. The young farmer never ap­plies fer­til­izer or pes­ti­cide and sel­dom weeds. He be­lieves it is good to eat what­ever grows nat­u­rally out of the soil, and does not mind if crops and veg­eta­bles have been gnawed on by in­sects. He also has other ways of main­tain­ing a self-suf­fi­cient life­style – per­form­ing in bars, run­ning a snack stand, do­ing mas­sage and rais­ing chick­ens. The cou­ple has three chil­dren, who were all de­liv­ered at home.

Ryo’s life­style has at­tracted like-minded peo­ple from China, the UK, France and Ar­gentina. Su Ya, a for­mer jour­nal­ist, joined the small com­mu­nity two years ago and recorded the sim­ple but happy life of Ryo in the book Life of Mr. Six. On the cover, Ryo writes, “I want to share my hap­pi­ness with ev­ery­one, no mat­ter how small it is. If I can live a happy life, per­haps I will make oth­ers happy as well.”

Ryo’s friends gather at a birth­day party for his son Wa­sora, where they en­joy home­made cake, pizza and an im­promptu con­cert by a bon­fire

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