By Arthur Kikuchi
From Food to Sickness
Looking back on my younger days, my diet and life style furnished a good example of how food directly affects the health of people.
Since my childhood, I had suffered from many physical problems such as tonsillitis, tympanitis, nasal catarrh, conjunctivitis, rheumatic fever, anemia and decayed teeth. With these illness, I experienced lots of pains. Perhaps, they came from my dietary habits. In fact, I used to eat what was considered “the first food” which contained many kinds of unknown additives.
After my dietary routine had already established, it was awfully difficult for me to change it because my sense of taste did not allow me to quit eating such addictive food. Besides, I thought I was not doing anything wrong because I was eating what other people were eating in those days.
In the mid-1980s, while studying Law at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan, I was introduced to a Japanese spiritual fellowship – Shumei. It was perfect timing for me to readdress my path as I was so overwhelmed by the materialistic focus of educational systems in Japan. In addition, I was dealing with my personal Karma, including my family’s life challenges.
The First and for most, I studied the philosophy of the founder of Shumei – Mokichi Okada (1882 – 1955), and as I gained the universal knowledge though his teachings, I came to be aware that ” we are living in a society in which people tend to perceive the outward appearances of things from only perspective of the material world. This lack of understanding of our reality is leading to enormous disorder and confusion.” It seems to me that this confusion has now manifested in health related issues on national and global scale.
In modern agriculture, large-scale mass production systems mainly focus on efficiency and high economic return. For that end, they become over dependent on the increasing quantities of harmful chemicals to be applied to crops, such as synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides (especially for GMO crops). Medications, growth hormones, and antibiotics have also been used to raise livestock animals. These conventional agricultural practices are taking a great toll on human health and the environmental costs of food production.
Besides increased exposures to hazardous chemicals in agriculture, most of the processed foods marketed for consumers are technically designed to create life-long, addictive eating habits. Those “ultra-processed foods” are high in harmful processed fats, sodium, refined sugars coupled with synthetic food additives, such as preservatives, antioxidants, artificial sweeteners, colorings, flavorings, and genetically engineered ingredients.
Nowadays, research has revealed that many citizens in the developed countries, including the United States of America, significantly increase their risk of suffering chronic diseases, diet-related illness or complications, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and cancer due to unhealthy eating choices in their life styles.
Furthermore, it is widely reported that over-consumption of non-real foods with less nutritional quality, generally called junk foods, has a profound effect on children’s mentality and behavior. One of the resulting symptoms is recognized as ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
From Sickness to Truth
After several years of volunteer work for the Shumei Association, I was designated to be one of the representatives to assist Shumei Centers around the globe, such as in USA, Taiwan, and France.
At the age of 28, when I was in Paris I neglected to look after myself, especially my diet. Consequently, I fell ill, suffering from a slight but chronic fever, constant fatigue, and dropsically swollen hands and legs due to nephritis.
Unfortunately, I was forced to return to Japan to seek healing myself. I believed that my suffering was fatal because no medical doctors at a national hospital in Tokyo could tell what was ailing me.
While searching for answers, I was offered an opportunity to work on a beautiful Island named Kishima in the Inland Sea of Japan. This island is a nature preserve for a seasonal nature camp or retreat programs for all ages. This island has also been a center for the practice and research of Shumei Natural Agriculture.
On the island, with my impaired health condition, my farm work was quite simple: sowing seeds, planting trees, and looking after free range chickens and three dogs. I happily remembered the old days of farm life in my grandmother’s home town, where the crowing of roosters echoed throughout the village to announce the dawn.
Each passing day I was served very simple meals such as rice and vegetables but I truly enjoyed the seasonal bounty available there.
During my stay on the island, a miraculous thing happened to me; When I picked, and ate the farm-fresh eggs, fruits, and vegetables grown in pure natural soil, I could fully feel “life force energy” radiating from my stomach to my entire body. Within only a few months, I saw a sign of my strength and liveliness returning, and at last, my health conditions greatly improved.
This healing experience by the power of natural food and diet made me realize that the strong life force that is emitted by foods fresh from the field was the essential source of nutrition that irrevocably helped me regain the true vitality to sustain my life.
Planting, harvesting, and eating – simple, but genuine involvement in a natural life way on the Island successfully reconnected me with the earth and the plants, and I could finally return to a path leading back to the very source of human life, on which a foundation for optimal health and abundant happiness was built for the rest of my life.
What I Learned from Nature in My Childhood
As a young boy, I spent lots of time wandering through pristine places, being awed and enchanted by everything surrounding me.
I was amazed to see trees growing to such splendid heights and the abundance of lush foliage thriving in the forest. In the thickets, herbs and berries produced seeds and fruits, and butterflies were fluttering around the beautiful contrasts of colorful wild flowers in the grassland. I was so delighted to find myself being part of the beauty, magic, and wonder of nature.
My father was an enthusiastic gardener and I enjoyed home gardening with him on a tiny plot of our backyard on weekends. My happiest moment occurred when I encountered wildlife in the middle of gardening. Especially, I loved to dig up the ground to find varieties of soil creatures -earthworms, beetles, ants, spiders, centipedes and so on.
Looking at them, I wondered if there is any reason why nature fosters so many kinds of plant and animal species, giving them the means to proliferate in the natural world. What were those diverse life forms doing above and below ground in my backyard garden?
Respect Natural Processes
When a seed of tree sprouts in a forest, the roots penetrate the ground and reach down into the soil to draw up nutrients and water. As the plant grows, the green leaves capture energy from sunlight to produce food by carrying out photosynthesis. Then, at the turn of season, the plant sheds its leaves and the forest floor is covered by a rich layer of plant litter.
After this primary food production, the living organisms in the forest play a role in recycling the organic matter which is products of sunlight energy; they shred, decompose and mineralize plant residue in and on the soil to make it available for themselves and for the plant communities.
Through this functional energy flow and nutrient cycling, the soil life is also involved in the rebuilding of soil structure to enhance its nutrient-holding, water-holding and infiltration capacity by creating soil aggregates from soil particles, which benefit plants for their optimum root growth.
It is life’s transformational processes and the diverse webs of food that make a natural forest ecosystem remain dynamic, balanced, and full of life.
So, why don’t we learn from this self-sustaining process of nature and incorporate it into our food production to make our own way to growth and prosperity?