Masanobu Ikemiya, who is best known for playing ragtime music, and founding the New York Ragtime Orchestra and Arcady Music Festival, also is a strong advocate for making raw plants integral to one's diet. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN FILE PHOTO

Pandemic spurs pianist to promote eating raw food


BAR HARBOR — Sprightly Masanobu and Tomoko Ikemiya have been eating a raw food diet — fruit, greens, sprouted vegetables, nuts and grains — for over 25 years.

“It makes us feel good and it’s the healthiest, most uplifting, easy-to-digest food,” said Masanobu Ikemiya, who is an internationally known concert pianist. He is best known for playing ragtime music, founding the New York Ragtime Orchestra as well as the Arcady Music Festival.

Masanobu and Tomoko would like to inspire others to try eating more raw food, especially in this time of a global pandemic.

“Our environment is polluted and people are getting sick, not feeling well, especially in the cities,” said Ikemiya. “Especially with coronavirus, we need to keep our body as healthy as possible. It’s more important than ever to consider eating the healthiest food on the Earth, which we consider raw food. If an apple a day will keep the doctor away, so will a salad. Both are an effective deterrent to medical care.”

By raw food, Ikemiya means uncooked — no heat is applied at all.

“The food provided by nature should be left as close as possible to the form it has when growing,” said Ikemiya. “A ripe raw tomato or banana Is complete and perfect. It tastes so great by itself.”

“We eat directly from the plant and get benefit from that,” he said. “The closest thing to the sun is the green vegetables. They contain a tremendous amount of chlorophyll.”

If you’re eating a green salad, the darker the green is the better, said the musician. Kale, for example, is an excellent green to eat regularly.

The concert pianist and recording artist was born in China to Japanese parents. His wife, Tomoko, is a retired nurse-midwife.

The pair built a homestead in Bar Harbor called Peace Farm, where they grow most of their own organic food.

The Ikemiyas also raise vegetables year-round. Compost is key to enriching the soil for growing one’s food.

The late Helen and Scott Nearing, founders of The Good Life Homestead in Harborside, introduced the couple to a raw food diet. The Nearings led a back-to-the-land lifestyle in Vermont for 20 years and continued “the good life” when they moved to Brooksville in 1952.

Scott, an economist and former college professor, and Helen, a trained musician, were devoted to a lifestyle of work, volunteering, pursuit of deep interest and contemplation.

Their best-known books are “Living the Good Life” (1954) and “Continuing the Good Life” (1979). The first book is often credited with spurring the nation’s back-to-the-land movement begun in the late 1960s.

The Nearings met Masanobu through his music.

“She [Helen] always came to my concerts at the Blue Hill Concert Association in 1979,” he said. “Then she started inviting me to her homestead in Harborside. She started teaching me about raw foods.”

“She didn’t shove it down my throat. She’d invite me to lunch and offer me a basket [to go harvest the garden]. ‘Pick some cherry tomato, some celery, some kale here,’” Ikemiya recalled Helen saying. “‘Just taste this snap pea, isn’t it sweet? Eat this cucumber.’ Before we knew it, we had a whole meal. I started feeling so good and uplifted and light, mostly light.”

The Nearings ate a raw diet all their lives and Scott lived to be over 100 years old.

Making gradual changes to your diet is important, Masanobu said.

“The first thing people should start doing is to become vegetarian. Eating meat can cause cancer. The animals are being fed these chemicals, which are in the meat. It clogs up your system.”

“The next step is to go raw vegetarian or raw vegan, which is the healthiest diet on the Earth,” he said.

Masanobu said he began enjoying flavors more after eating a raw food diet.


“My tongue became more sensitive,” he recalled. He could distinguish flavors among different tomato varieties.

A raw food diet is also less work. There’s no cooking. You’re just chopping up vegetables or eating them whole.

The Ikemiyas start their day with fruit, maybe thawed, frozen blueberries or fresh pear and apple from their root cellar. “Maybe we sprinkle some sprouted wheat or nuts on top.”

“Mid-morning, we have fresh green juice made out of celery, cucumber and anything — maybe put some fruits, greens, like kale,” he continued.

“Lunch we have a huge salad, that’s our main thing,” he said.

The couple might have hummus and vegetables along with salad. They make their own hummus and he encourages readers to do the same.

The brands available at stores — “the label goes on forever,” he said. “We shouldn’t do that. Just make your own.”

Romaine lettuce leaves make sturdy wraps containing tofu and various veggies.

Use canned or dried garbanzo beans or chickpeas. You’ll need to soak them before using.

Masanobu says when you soak dried beans, they become “alive,” like any seed. We should always soak any legume or peas or grains to wake them up so they become living raw food instead of a dormant state.”

But what about protein?

“Protein is an outdated paradigm,” he said. “We get plenty of protein from vegetables, bean-sprouted seeds and nuts and grains.”

Sometimes, there is more protein readily available to the human body in wheat grass juice than meat because the proteins in wheat grass are “living and readily absorbable,” he noted.

“This coronavirus is really a wake-up call for our civilization to start living more healthier,” he said.

Raw Hummus with Sprouted Chickpeas

1 cup (Sprouted = 1.5 Cups) Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans)

1 lemon juiced

2 Tbsps. raw Tahini or raw almond butter

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 garlic (crushed or chopped)

1 tsp. pink Himalayan sea salt

½ tsp. cumin powder

1 pinch cayenne

Blend in a food processor, adding a little water to create the consistency you want and adjust the taste.

Preparing raw food

Masanobu Ikemiya suggests certain books and kitchen equipment for shifting to a raw-food diet. He recommends investing in a few quality appliances for “your long-term health. You deserve them.”

  • Food processor
  • Vitamix or K-Tec Champ blender (for smoothies, juices)
  • Joyce Chen Spiral Slicer (making veggie spaghetti, etc.)
  • “Living Foods for Optimum Health,” Theresa Foy Digeronimo and Brian Clement
  • “Conscious Eating,” Gabriel Cousens
  • Raw Energy,” Stephanie Tourles












Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.
Jennifer Osborn

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