Thousands of years ago great
sages realised that the food we eat not only sustains life, but also
underlies our health and happiness. They compiled religious or medical
laws-the Code of Manu in India, the Hebrew code, the Nei Ching and the
Hon.so Komoku (the first medicinal herb book) in China; the Zen diet in
Japan, are just some examples.
Around the end of the last century a Japanese army doctor, named Sagen
Ishizuka, established a theory of nutrition and medicine based on the
traditional Oriental diet, to which he applied the Western medical sciences
of chemistry, biology, biochemistry, and physiology.
He had been born weak and suffered from kidney and skin disease. In order to
restore his health he studied both Western and Eastern medicine extensively.
He compiled the information and conclusions of his lifelong study in two
books-Chemical Theory of Longevity, published in 1896, and Diet For Health,
published in 1898.
In 1907 a group of his followers started an association, called
Shoku-Yo-Kail in Japanese. lshizuka was an Army doctor of the highest rank,
and the co-founders of this association consisted of noblemen, congressmen,
councilors, representatives, and successful businessmen of the day. At this
time Japan was being strongly influenced by European culture and science.
Going against this trend, Ishizuka criticized the adoption of the West's
modern medicine and dietary theories, and recommended the Japanese
traditional diet - whole, unrefined foods, with very little or no milk or
He cured many patients by having them eat a traditional diet based on brown
rice, and a variety of land and sea vegetables. Since his method was unique
at that time, and effective, many patients visited his clinic; so many in
fact that he had to limit his practice to 100 persons per day. There were
also many inquiries by mail which, because of his fame, would reach him
addressed only "Vegetable Doctor, Tokyo," ` `Daikon (Japanese radish)
Doctor, Tokyo"; or "Anti-Doctor Doctor, Tokyo." His healing technique was
based on the recognition of five very important principles:
I. Foods are the foundation of health and happiness.
2. Sodium and potassium are the primary antagonistic and
complementary clements in food. They most strongly determine its
character-or "yin/ yang" quality.
3. Grain is properly the staple food of man.
4. Food should be unrefined, whole, and natural.
5. Food should be grown locally and eaten in season.
Suffering "incurable" diseases at the age of 18, George Ohsawa learned about
this approach to diet from two of Mr. Ishizuka's disciples, Manabu Nishibata
and Shojiro Goto. After completely restoring his own health, Ohsawa joined
ShokuYo-Kai. He was later elected the association's President. Before Ohsawa
started his prolific writing career there were only a few books in Japan on
the subject of diet and health. Mr. Akira Iida was a director of
Shoku-Yo-Kai, and one of the editors of the magazine published by that
About 1925 Mr. Ohsawa wrote many articles for the magazine, and in 1928 his
first books, Physiology of Japanese Mentality and Biography of Sagen
Ishizuka, were published. When Ohsawa's activities started to gain
recognition he was excluded from the association, which I believe was due
mainly to the jealousy of some of the directors. He then established his own
organisation, where he devoted himself more to the teaching of the yin and
yang philosophy rather than the direct treatment of the sick. From that
point on Mr. Ohsawa devoted his life to lecturing around the world and to
writing on macrobiotic philosophy and its application, until his death at
the age of 74. George Ohsawa first mentioned the term macrobiotic in his
Japanese translation of Alexis Carrel's Man, the Unknown. It did not appear
in the main text but rather in his postscript. His first textual usage of
the term was in Zen Macrobiotics, which he wrote in English in 1959. It was
published in English by Nippon Centre Ignoramus, (Nippon C. I). in 1960.
In Greek, macro means big or great and biotic means
concerning life, so the word refers to the "big view of life." This
meaning suggests that we should relax our small, rigid views of the world so
that the underlying unity of nature can be sensed. The word macrobiotic was
originally used in literature by the German scholar in Das Makrobiotik (1796).
George Ohsawa met a descendant of Hufeland in Germany in 1958. After
Ohsawa died his disciples continued to teach macrobiotics in Japan, Europe,
North America, and South America. It is currently being practised virtually
all over the world, including the Eastern European countries.
During his lifetime Ohsawa wrote more than 300 books and pamphlets, in
Japanese, French, English, and German.
He also published a monthly magazine for more than 40 years, and today more
than 30 of his books have been translated into English, German, French,
Swedish, Flemish, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, and Vietnamese. In America
thousands of people are using the principles of macrobiotics in their daily
lives in all the major cities, and the number of people practising this way
of life is increasing across the country. Thousands of health and natural
food stores throughout the nation now sell the basic foodstuffs commonly
used in macrobiotics -such as organically-grown grain and produce, sea
vegetables, and special condiments. A growing number of macrobiotic
publications are also appearing.
A positive sign is that some medical doctors are now recommending the
macrobiotic diet to their patients. Since the publication of Dr. Anthony
Sattilaro's recent book, Recalled By Life, many people have opted for this
natural method of healing, which simply involves providing the proper
material and allowing the body to heal itself. Many of these people have had
good results. However, macrobiotics is not primarily a diet for curing
sickness, nor is it a new fad.
Macrobiotics is a way of life, based on
an understanding of the rhythm, the ebb and flow of nature. Its roots can be
traced back through civilisation to the beginning of human tradition.
Although it requires study and seemingly very big adjustments, macrobiotics
is a practical way of living towards happiness. Nippon C. I. or M. I.
(Maison Ignoramus). Many of them went abroad and started macrobiotic centres
in Europe, U.S.A. and Brazil. Michio Kushi was the first such student who
left Japan from his school.)