Cultural challenges lead Kentaro and Rovielle Yamaki to Crystal Waters

Kentaro and Rovielle Yamaki have created a lifestyle that is happy and sustainable for them and their baby Cocomi

Kentaro and Rovielle Yamaki have created a lifestyle that is happy and sustainable for them and their baby Cocomi

When writing for HT, Jess McKenzie described a “beautiful and fascinating couple” who three years ago, packed up their lives into a small car and went searching for a more sustainable way of life. Now in their Crystal Waters home, HT’s Gay Liddington caught up with Kentaro and Rovielle Yamaki and was immersed in stories of cultural differences and a search for fulfillment.

by Gay Liddington

Formative years spent in Germany created identity confusion for Japanese-born Kentaro.

“We moved to Germany in 1982 when I was two years old. My father was a diplomat. Even though we spoke Japanese at home, German was my first language.

“When I was nine we went back to Japan. It was like a reverse culture shock.”

The cultural challenge confronted Kentaro in his teenage years. While he acknowledged his Japanese heritage, he didn’t come to terms with it until he went to university and studied sociology.

Desiring to separate from materialism, Kentaro felt drawn to India. It represented a place of ‘spirituality’. He spent nine months backpacking through SE Asia and India.

“I came from Japan with lots of money and could act like a king, yet there were these people who lived simply with much less income but look happier. I questioned myself.

“The other side is poverty and pollution. In a way, it’s what the First World has created and it is trickling down. It’s all connected – the society and the system we’ve built.

“It opened my eyes to a raw world. I thought I could find answers on this journey but the quest just got deeper. I had to go back to Japan and come to terms with it to liberate myself.

“I joined an NGO called Peace Boat. It was a dream job working globally for human rights and environmental issues.”

Post Peace Boat, Kentaro worked as a freelance interpreter in Germany then Australia. Melbourne became home. It’s where he met Rovielle whose journey had, in some ways, paralleled that of Kentaro’s.

At the age of nine, due to her father’s occupation, Filipina born Rovielle moved from Brunei to Australia. It was those cultural shifts that created a bond for the couple.

“My brother and I lived for a time with relatives on a dairy farm in Victoria. My introduction to Aussie living was fresh milk with cream on top.

“I grew up in Melbourne and studied early childhood education. After graduation, I worked as a teacher in Japan for four years.

Kentaro tends his ‘Soul about Sushi’ stall

Kentaro tends his ‘Soul about Sushi’ stall

“In 2010, nine months after my return, I met Kentaro. We each had registered on the Couchsurfing website. I was looking for a Japanese friend so I could brush up on the language. We met for coffee,” said Rovielle.

Kentaro adds: “We clicked instantly and married three years later. We had a comfortable life but felt something was missing.”

At that time, Rovielle was employed as a teacher. Nature studies included a hatchery and someone had to look after the chickens.

Bringing home those chicks impacted their lives in ways unimagined.

“We began going to sustainable festivals. Then we visited Permablitz: people who want to renovate their yard using permaculture principles.

“At school, I asked the kids where a carrot came from and only two kids knew. I thought, I can’t be a teacher if I can’t teach them where food comes from.

“I became Director of the Early Learning Centre and took the opportunity to build gardens. That’s when my passion for growing food and teaching kids about it really started,” she said.

Motivated by a stay at a Thai organic farm, they quit their Melbourne jobs in 2014 and excitedly enrolled in a two-week Permaculture Design Course at Crystal Waters.

Kentaro eagerly shares: “It was eye opening and a lot to take in for us city kids: how to live with the land, water, house design, gardens, how nature works…an amazing time.

“I felt there was a concrete, practical way that I could influence the world positively. A sustainable community where people communicate and collaborate.”

Rovielle continues: “We had no plans, the car was our home and we lived in a tent. We decided to try WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms). It was offered at Crystal Waters.

“We learnt to care for bees, harvest honey, look after the cows and gardens. We picked ticks and leeches off our bodies, saw pythons for the first time and big spiders on the back of toilet doors.

“After two months, we travelled to SE Asia then returned to Crystal Waters. We moved around as WWOOFers within the community for another two years. Locals became friends and we continued to learn.”

They accepted an offer to house-sit for a year and turned their thoughts to making a living. A restauranteur friend visiting from Melbourne suggested they open a sushi shop.

“The idea of Rovielle and I making food our business was something convincing to me. We could connect garden and palette.

“Prior to opening the shop, our friend invited us to train under the chef at his restaurant,” said Kentaro.

Connecting food and Japanese culture, ‘Soul about Sushi’ is at Maleny’s Artisan Food Market each Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Kentaro offers a tempting variety of Japanese cuisine and sushi rolls, including vegan and vegetarian options.

In January of this year Cocomi Elle was born: “We feel really content with our beautiful baby and way of living.

“Initially, I started from the bigger picture trying to change things but in time came to realise that real change starts with where you are and from the heart.”