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The Death Of Ryoji
by George Ohsawa

(The following story is translated from French, in NON CREDO:JOURNAL MACROBIOTIQUE, No. 5, May-June 2000, published by Gerard and Florence Wenker, Planche Superieure 35, CH-1700 Fribourg, Switzerland, by Harold Kulungian. It originally appeared in REVUE YIN/YANG, janvier 1967, 8 months after the author's sudden death by heart attack in April 1966, at age 73.)


"The death of a friend is always a lesson, especially if he practiced Macrobiotics."

Ryoji is dead!

It was a crack of thunder in a blue sky! In general, unexpected news does not surprise me; but this time it was like lightning in a serene heaven.

Up to the present, at age 74, I have been occupied with several thousand young people; but among them, a boy like Ryoji, as splendid as he, loyal, sincere, and full of willpower, has been a rarity. He was 17 or 18 years old when he came to my house for the first time. At that time he suffered from painful headaches. No hospital had been able to cure him. Macrobiotics cured him, and since then he practiced it with enthusiasm. He attended my lectures from time to time. He read my books. From then on he learned that his life did not offer enough difficulties, and that coldness and hunger during one's youth being the best conditions for training oneself, he began to deliver newspapers. I had the pleasure of seeing everything he learned up to this point, and that he put it into practice immediately. Willpower in him was extremely strong.

His mother also began to practice Macrobiotics. Her health and her comprehension had been gravely weakened. Also she grumbled to me very severely. But my teaching was not sufficient. She did not slow down her decline towards death. Ryoji and three other young children found themselves in the face of the most great sadness in life, before this master who is called "Death". The strong will of the father did not allow the children to sink to the depth of sadness. They elevated themselves, courageously, by overcoming many trials.

When I knew that Ryoji, at age 21, was going to depart for Arabia, a country so hot and tropical, I felt about that a tragic impression. I had never felt so keenly before the youth who were going to war, nor before those who remain on the battlefield just before the end of the war. His strong will, his absolute loyalty to his father, his sudden decision to go to the country of Arabia, hot and parched, abandoning his desire to go to see the brilliant cities of Europe and of America--all this made me feel respect, but, very lively on this occasion, an impression truly tragic.

From Arabia, he sent rather detailed letters to his brothers and sisters. However, no one can imagine the suffering and the difficulties that there was in order to continue Macrobiotics in the desert, at least of having had the experience. Ryoji went there. He went also to conquer more and more profoundly the difficulties of the Arab language, of which it is said that it is among the most difficult that there are. My tragic presentment concerning him transformed itself insensibly into respect. It is virtually impossible to live in this burning desert with very little liquid, and yet he came there, and like he knew Macrobiotics, it was not possible that his life be terminated tragically, like Laurence of Arabia! And I said "Bravo!" to this Japanese boy of Arabia.

I found meanwhile there was a long time without news. He didn't write to us but rarely to me and to the students at the Macrobiotic Institute. I simply thought that he was somewhat exclusive, like all young people, and I didn't take any offense at that. But he wrote quite often and in detail to his father and to his family, out of loyalty and absolute respect for his father and from love for his brothers and sisters deprived of a mother.

It was at the beginning of December that I learned that Mr. Saito had departed for Arabia. It was said that he had received an urgent letter from Ryoji: "I am in danger! Come to save me immediately!" I thought: "It's bizarre..." I imagined various things--betrayal, coup d'etat, assassination...--which happen often in these new nations, but I could find out nothing. Whatever it was, Mr. Saito departed immediately by airplane. He landed at Mecca, and then went to Medina where he called his son at the hotel, and spoke for a long time with him. His son did not seem to be in danger.

-"Father, come stay with me tonight."

Mr. Saito accepted. Towards 11 p.m., the night of the 13th of December, Mr. Saito, Ryoji, and Ali, an Indonesian close friend of Ryoji, went to bed in close proximity. An hour later, the seven-story building collapsed in an enormous noise. Mr. Saito was not able to move, his legs and hips under blocks of concrete. Ali could not do anything to help. In the darkness there was no response from Rjoji. His father groped around without finding him. Seven hours later, he and Ali were rescued and hospitalized for a month. They were seriously injured. Ryoji died without being injured.

The last letter from Ryoji was mysteriously called by him "the last letter"... I am now going to examine the collection of his old letters. Their handwriting, which I recognize, is Yang; tiny, energetic and precise penmanship. According to the most recent letters, he was indeed attracted by fruits. He ate them often and a great deal, especially dried jujubes, extremely high in sugar. "The dried jujube is Yang," he wrote! I had explained ten years ago that the dried jujube of Africa and Arabia, by its sugary taste, its yin nature, is as terrible as dried figs. No one can tolerate this fruit--which recently has been introduced and imported greatly to Japan.

Numerous sugary fruits such as the jujubes, figs, apricots, pineapple, bananas, Oriental mangos, coconuts, avocados, are the crystallization of extreme Yin, which is produced by the extreme Yang of the desert. The fact that one eats a lot of these fruits, as if one was hypnotized by magic, is a reaction which follows an excessive "consumption of Yang. It is the phenomenon that Yang attracts Yin." It is the wisdom of nature. Without fail, Yang attracts Yin; ineluctably Yin attracts Yang. Nothing can disturb this order of change of the Universe. This great law functions perfectly, silently, infinitely quickly and without difficulty in nature: that is called Peace.

However, when it is a question of man, Yin and Yang are produced in a fashion that deviates from nature; and which is imperfect, violent, sudden and excessive. In consequence, hostility, disease, assassination, crime and death appear suddenly. What accelerates excessively this rapidity, already great, is the way things are made easy by the invention of money. When money consisted of enormous rocks, as of old in Japan, that was very good, for it was difficult to transport it. But the money of our day is made of paper and everyone can use it freely; and thereby in the interaction of Yin and Yang, time and space are found to be eliminated.

If he didn't have money, the man who wants jujubes must make a long journey in order to gather them. For them to attain their sugary taste, he must wait days and weeks. This labor yangizes further this Yang man, attracted by the extreme yin of the jujubes. And it is not so dangerous for him then to eat of them more or less. Instead of that, with money it doesn't matter who wants to have them, when he wants, where he wants, as much as he wants!...

Yin pleasure--all pleasures are yin--is the greatest desire of Yang animals. On the other hand, there is not nearly so much danger of consuming too much Yang, for Yang in great quantity is salty or bitter. There is not nearly so many cases of death caused by too much Yang, or of salt. The consumption of salt comes to its limit quickly. If one takes too much salt, immediately one loses one's appetite for it, and has a violent desire for yin. One craves Yin with an irresistible force, incessantly. One cannot then resist it and one drinks water inevitably. By that means, excessive Yang is offset...

It works quite differently with Yin, which one can take continually, insensibly; and even if one increases Yin much during the course of the year, it is never terminated quickly. Yin is long, Yang is short...In sum, there are very few risks of death in yangization, due to the quickness of the process, and because in case of danger, it will be automatically regulated or stopped; while by its slowness, the process of yinisation presents a great peril.

The body which yangises itself is a little world without value and limited, while there are no limits to yinisation, which is without boundaries, infinite...The barometer of the yinisation of the soul is doubt, and the growth of doubt and its extension then have no limits. One becomes suspicious of everything. One hates, one insults God. One detests microbes and attacks them with all one's energy. Finally one suspects oneself! Yinisation is infinite, while yangisation ends suddenly in an impasse. The measure of the degree of abnormal yinisation, sickness in the man, is the depth of his suspicious nature.

The death of Ryoji gives us a tragic lesson. By oneself, whoever understands it can realize the dream of Ryoji through his death. He had strictly and fanatically practiced the Macrobiotics which he had learned in Japan, with the aid of which he had begun to overcome the greatest suffering, marvelously. Thus he became much too Yang. This is what naturally attracted the Yin, or rather he was captured by Yin.

His strong will, inherited from his father, sought out Yin in an accomplished manner, which was so violent that his body was yinised extremely rapidly. However, the Yang of his judgment, his will, pursued his insistent "yinisation!" Then the collision of two torrents, Yin and Yang, produced a violent whirlpool, and finally the judgement was overthrown by the yin condition of the body, struck down by a knockout. He lost confidence in himself. He thought he was lost. In the eyes of others, this was completely senseless or paranoiac behavior. I have encountered only three times a similar case in more than fifty years.

In such a case, one gives ranshio (raw egg + tamari) a single time to stop the rapid yinisation of the body, and a cold bath to yangise it--this was the reason why the cold bath was a regular practice in certain countries. Then one gives a little unsalted cream of rice and wheat, and a cup of tea with tamari each day. If one follows this therapeutics for ten days, the illusions go away and the psychological state stable and free as the sky returns.

The diseases that occur suddenly are very quickly cured, while the curing of chronic diseases takes a long time. The major diseases of the body are easy to cure, the minor ones very difficult. The major mental and spiritual illnesses, arrogance, etc...are very difficult to cure, while the minor ones, loss of memory, etc...are very easy.

The most important of what Ryoji has taught us by his death is that "theory without practice is useless." That goes in itself to say that he was too young to comprehend the theory. Here are the gifts from the death of Ryoji:
  1. What is very important is the absolute conception of our common kinship: to feel and to lead others to feel, from infancy, that we are all related, as brothers and sisters. Never must we divide, never exclude, never hate, never separate ourselves from anyone whoever he may be.
  2. It is necessary to discover, without a master, the method for establishing the health of the body by physiological and biological education, all alone, by oneself, without depending on anyone.
  3. The education must develop from the outset the strength of the will to the maximum.
  4. Its realization and its mastery is absolutely not possible if the education is given by others. It is nothing then but a conceptual education, like the language of a school, the medicine of a school, the law of a school, the physics of a school. It is useless except to earn a living, at the most.
  5. Up to the end, such an education must be undertaken by oneself, of one's own will, in complete independence. It cannot in any case be a thing bestowed.
  6. This education cannot be forced nor imposed.
The death of Ryoji gave me a great lesson. It has permitted me to see clearly what I have stated here. Thanks to this death, I have the means to produce 10, or 100, or a thousand Ryojis who will progress without risk of death.

REVUE YIN YANG, janvier 1967.

"Translator's postscript: George Ohsawa discovered only belatedly, after his student Ryoji's death, the tragic cause. It was that eating much dried tropical fruits while on an all-vegetarian Macrobiotic diet can be deadly because, without Yang animal food to counterbalance the Yin fructose sugars, the individual will be increasingly weakened toward death eventually. Ohsawa subsequently wrote a famous pamphlet entitled, "But I Like fruit!"

Every Macrobiotic person eventually discovers the debilitating effect of eating even a moderate amount of fruit, because it acidifies the blood, causes the hair to fall out, makes a pallid complexion, and has other debilitating effects. Much better is it to let your vegetables be your fruit, e.g., squash, which actually is fruit and should be eaten only in small quantities."
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