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Ryuho Yamada

Interview with Ryuho Yamada

See memorial biographical tribute to Ryuho written by his first wife Shirley Cohen.

Ryuho in Crooked Cucumber, the last chapter.

Ryuho in Thank You and OK!

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Email exchange with Rico Provasoli - Auguest, 2018

Rico: An author of 15 published works in Japan I helped escape from India and he took me to stay at the Temple in Beppu where Rhyuo Yamada was managing for his blind 90 year old father/abbot. I was there in 1980.

DC: Tell me more about Ryuho Yamada. He and I were close.

Rico: I lived with Ryuho four months. He was drunk every night, blurry eyed in the mornings as he rode a motor scooter to do ceremonies. He was a party animal and most likely burned a fair number of brain cells on his hundreds of LSD trips. His father was a true Roshi, his mother the kindest of all.

DC: I don't think LSD burns brain cells but I know he was way out there.
The LSD reference is the talk in the temple. He left under a dark cloud and eventually holed up in the mountains as his eyesight faded. Shirley San returned to SF where I met up with her a few years later. Apparently a woman either married him or simply took it upon herself to care for him in his last years.

DC: He was busted for LSD earlier in Kyoto. Got off. Will tell that later. He just walked out of his temple one day and Shirley ran it for a few years. I saw here some when she returned. He had a lot of money, moved to Tokyo and funded C&D communications which translated and got published many books from Be Here Now to Ken Wilbur and Capra. He got into supporting a woman who was former Korean royalty whom he was convinced was some sort of saint. He went back to Kyushu, Shimonoseki, and was involved with a woman who had a shiatsu studio and a Shingon female priest who was psychic. I stayed with them there in 1988. In 1994 I visited him way in the mountains in Napa at a beautiful Shinto shrine run by a former Yakusa boss turned Shinto priest who got his old gangster buds to fork up millions to build the shrine. We three stayed up all night and I interviewed Ryuho. It's on - not all of it though. I've got more work to do on him. He was into taki shugyo or waterfall practice in Shimonseki and Napa. Ryuho went to the US not long after that and lived a lot of the time at Jikoji, Kobun Chino's retreat near Santa Cruz. He married a Japanese woman named Mayumi. Michael Stusser who owns the posh Osmosis Spa in Freemantle, Sonoma County helped them some. Ryuho and Mayumi basically sponged off different people and Jikoji till he died in 2003. She was extremely bitter about how they weren't treated well by Americans which I was not sympathetic with. My son Clay and I visited with them in a woman's home in Berkeley earlier that year. He was ill but we had a good visit.

Rico: This is all news to me. I saw Shirley maybe '82 when she told me he was going blind, penniless in the high country of Kyushu.

DC: I didn't know what year he left the temple - just walking out on it and Shirley so it sounds like back then for sure. And by the time I'd gotten to Tokyo in 88 where I stayed in C&F, Ryuho was already back in the US and they'd translated many books so sometime in 80-82 is when he walked out. His eyesight wasn't great but he was never blind.

Rico: This sounds like two different people. He was seen as a deadbeat drunkard. Every single night without exception he got loaded on hard liquor. Even then his eyesight was of serious concern as he got into plenty of crashes on the motor scooter.  Oh well, he sure had a wild run...

DC to Peter Schneider:

Ryuho was arrested and tried for possession of LSD and marijuana (they just pretended the coke wasn't there too) and that was at a party at Umagami's house in Kyoto during the event that you helped to put together. Rusty Schweickart was in the house when it happened. He said that all these cops came in, taking off their shoes before entering. Can you tell me when that was? And any other details you remember like what was the event or what was it called?

PS: Again I can’t be of much help. I guess I wasn’t invited to the party. I also don’t remember the name of Umagami and I also never met Rusty. Do you mean the Interpersonal something convention? Kyosera was tthe largest sponsor of that and the founder required all of his staff to attend at least one day, so the Kyoto Conference Center was crowded. If this is the conference that you are talking about, let me know and I can tell you more about it, but I don’t remember Ryuho saying hello either. I do remember hearing that he got off with his religious stuff defense. Maybe I heard from you.

DC: Yes that's it Peter. What year was it? Month if you remember. Sure I'd like to know about it.

Umagami is or was a designer whom I met when I first went to Japan and was in Tokyo for a week or two. Michael Phillips sent me to him - and to Shin Yoshifuku and C&F Communications. Umagami - Japanese said that's an unusual name. I wrote a piece on him. Here it is.   He was rich and had a home in Kyoto too and that's where the party was. You're right about Ryuho getting off for religious reasons, extremely rare for anyone to get off in Japan which I'm sure you realize has a super high conviction rate. If one gets arrested there they're guilty. I met a woman, gaijin school teacher, who was arrested by accident - she didn't realize you had to pay in the department of the department store and got busted walking up to the front. The store told the police it was a mistake and let her go but they wouldn't do it till she signed a confession that she was guilty. At Ryuho's trial Moriyama (remember him from Sokoji?) attended every day in robes. Before sentencing the judge asked him if he had anything to say and he said that what he did was wrong but he did it as a bold and dangerous attempt to help all beings. He compared monks and the judge and astronauts as great people, erai hito, who venture into unknown territory so that others won't have to. Now he's back to report it was wrong. That sort of thing. The judge said Ryuho changed his mind and let him off. He was on parole for a while then free.



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