Transcendental in Yunnan
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