George Ohsawa, The Macrobiotic Movement - Page 1
by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi
A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and
The international macrobiotic movement was
started by a remarkable and widely traveled Japanese, George Ohsawa, who
was joined in this work in the late 1930s by his new wife, Lima. Ohsawa
linked Oriental philosophy and diet using a new version of the ancient
concept of yin-yang, a unique dialectical principle, which pointed at an
underlying order in the universe, beneath its apparent diversity. The keys
to Ohsawa's philosophy of diet and medicine were the concepts of balance
and the practice of a traditional grain centered diet. He taught that a
traditional, balanced diet was the basis of good health, upon which true
happiness and freedom rest. He made the remarkable discovery that the
age-old concept of grains as the principal food in the diet, a sacred food
in virtually every traditional society, had largely vanished from the West
(Ohsawa 1965). In the process of introducing macrobiotics to the West,
Ohsawa and his followers have played a major role in introducing
traditional East Asian soyfoods as well, although the latter comprised
only a part of their total message. In this chapter we will emphasize
their work as it applies to soyfoods.
Our key source of information on the origins of macrobiotics and the life and work of Ohsawa is Georges Ohsawa and the Japanese Religious Tradition by Ronald E. Kotzsch (1981). We have drawn on it heavily, and to a lesser extent on Ichiro Matsumoto's biography of Ohsawa (1976, in Japanese) and "A Historical Review of the Macrobiotic Movement in North America" in Kushi's The Book of Macrobiotics (1977). Much of our information for the rest of the chapter has come from extensive interviews with leaders of the macrobiotic movement in the U.S., Japan, and Europe.
The Roots of Macrobiotics. Ohsawa never claimed to be the founder or originator of macrobiotics (a term meaning "great life or vitality"). He always gave credit to his own teacher, a Japanese doctor, Sagen Ishizuka, and both in turn were inspired by The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine (Ref??), the classics of Shinto (the native Japanese religion), and the work of Ekiken Kaibara and Nanboku Mizuno. Manabu Nishibata, a disciple of Ishizuka's, also had an important influence on Ohsawa.
The Nei Ching Huang Ti or Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, probably written about 500 B.C., is a compilation of the medical wisdom of the ancient Chinese. It contends that there is a profound relationship between food, health, and disease, and that food is an important means of treating disease. The particular importance and power of cereal grains for preserving and restoring health is clearly stated. Ohsawa often quoted its admonition that "The true sage is concerned not with the cure of disease but with its prevention." Nutrition and medicine were seen as very closely related fields and health was considered the natural reward of a life of self-control and moderation, lived in conformity with the laws of Nature.
The Shinto classics such as the Kojiki (compiled in 712 A.D.) and the Nihonshoki (720 A.D.) state that the god of food produced the "five grains" (including soybeans and azuki beans) out of his own body as sustenance for humans. For over a thousand years at Japan's most famous shrine at Ise, this deity has been worshipped in the form of brown rice. Rice and other foods have always played a key role in the annual ritual cycle.
Ekiken Kaibara (1630-1714) was a student of Chinese literature and Oriental medicine, who also wrote about philosophy (primarily Confucian), ethics, education, and natural history. In his highly influential book Yojokun (Treatise on the Nourishment of Life), he described a regimen for maintaining good health by avoiding all types of self-indulgence. He encouraged people to "Eat less, sleep less, desire less," to avoid meat, and to practice a form of self-massage called do-in. Kaibara believed that every wise person's birthright was to delight in the simple but profound pleasures of heaven and earth, and a life span of 100 years.
Nanboku Mizuno, who lived in the mid-1700s and early 1800s, was the father of Japanese physiognomy. After years of study and observation as an attendant in a Japanese public bath, a barber, and a worker in a crematorium, he wrote the great Japanese classic on physiognomy, the Nanboku Soho (Nanboku Method of Physiognomy), a ten-volume work published between 1788 and 1805. He felt that a person's character and past and future fortunes could be discerned by careful observation of physical characteristics, and that a person could change his inherited longevity through proper diet.
Dr. Sagen Ishizuka (1850-1910) grew up and was educated at a time when Western culture, including "scientific" medicine and nutrition, was being imported into Japan. (In 1883, for example, the Japanese government prohibited the practice of traditional medical techniques such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, and moxabustion, and established Western medicine as the official mode of treatment.) Afflicted by a kidney infection, young Ishizuka had been unable to cure himself by Western medicine, so he turned to the study of Oriental medicine. This expanded into a lifelong interest in food and health, while he served as a physician in the military. In 1897 he published the results of his studies in a voluminous work entitled A Chemical-Nutritional Theory of Long Life. A popularized version of this difficult, technical work appeared in 1899 as A Nutritional Theory of the Mind and Body: A Nutritional Method for Health. The second book was extremely popular, and was reprinted 23 times.
Ishizuka's research led him to conclude that the balance of potassium (K) and sodium (Na) salts in the body was the prime determinant of health, that food is the main factor in maintaining this balance, and that food must therefore be the basis for curing disease and maintaining health. Food is the highest medicine. Man is by nature a granarian and his optimal diet should be based on cereal grains, which have a K/Na ratio of roughly 2.5. Ishizuka saw Westerners as sodium-dominant people (animal products are high in sodium) characterized by materialism, selfishness, individualism, and a drive for sensory gratification. Upon his retirement Ishizuka devoted himself to teaching and private practice. In 1908 he and his disciples founded the Shokuyo-kai (food-nourishment movement), which taught people of the problems with the new Western diet, rich in meat, sugar, and refined foods. They urged a return to the traditional Japanese diet based on whole grains, vegetables, and soyfoods. Ishizuka saw many patients daily and cured them with food. He was renowned for his success in healing people considered incurable by standard Western methods. Thus while most Japanese were being swept away by the great tide of Westernization, gradually abandoning their own culture and traditions (including their food and healing arts), Ishizuka and his associates viewed this trend critically; they attempted to borrow and synthesize only the good points, while preserving the endangered "national essence of Japan."
A disciple of Ishizuka's, Dr. Manabu Nishibata, developed the basic concept that food should be chosen according to the principle of Shin-do fu-ni, meaning "the body and earth are not two." Accordingly, people should care for their environment as they would their own body, for in fact the two are constantly flowing into one another. Likewise people should learn the joy of flowing with the great seasonal rhythms of the earth, choosing foods according to time and place, locally and in season, in harmony with the Order of the Universe.
The Life of George Ohsawa. George Ohsawa was born on 18 October 1893 in an eastern suburb of Kyoto, Japan. His name at birth was Joichi Sakurazawa. He had an unhappy childhood in a disenfranchised, broken samurai family. (The Meiji Restoration abolished the privileges of the samurai class.) His formal education stopped with a commercial high school, since he was too poor to continue. But he was an excellent student and he continued his education on his own with great drive throughout his life, reading voraciously in several languages on a remarkably wide range of vital subjects. While Ohsawa was still a boy his mother died of tuberculosis. Her first two children (daughters) had both died in their infancy. She had tried to introduce a Western style diet into her family's meals, hoping that it would make them healthier. In 1911 George's younger brother died of tuberculosis at age 16 and a short time later, at age 18, George himself was diagnosed as having tuberculosis; he was given little chance of survival. By good fortune he happened to find one of Ishizuka's books in a library. Ishizuka had died two years previously and Ohsawa had not met him. Ohsawa tried the recommended diet of brown rice and cooked vegetables, with small amounts of oil and salt; soon the tuberculosis disappeared. Ohsawa continued to practice this simple diet. After working for three years with a trading firm in Kobe, he joined the Shoku-yo group (which Ishizuka had founded) in 1916. In 1923 Ohsawa gave up his business career and became a full-time staff employee with the group. Until 1929 he was general superintendent and head of publications. From 1937-1939 he was president. In 1927 (Kotzsch Bibliog says 1929), at age 34, with Manabu Nishibata, he wrote his first book, The Physiology of the Japanese Spirit. Here he began to use the terms yin and yang, which even Ishizuka had used broadly to refer to sodium and potassium type foods. In 1928 Ohsawa wrote a eulogistic biography of Ishizuka. By that time he had been married and divorced either two or three times.
A new chapter in Ohsawa's life opened in 1929 when, at age 36, he set out for Paris to introduce the philosophy and practice of Shoku-yo (food and nourishment, which he later called "macrobiotics") to the Western world. In what was then the intellectual and cultural capital of the West, he aspired to be a cultural bridge. In 1931 his first book in French was published, Le Principe Unique de la Philosophie et de la Science d'Extreme Orient. It was well received and he began to move in cultured circles. After a brief return to Japan in 1932 to oppose the growing militarism there, he went back to Paris and in 1934 wrote Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, the first book on this subject in English. His work influenced English and German acupuncture writers such as Lawson-Wood.
In 1936 he returned to Japan, where he stayed for 17 long and turbulent years. He actively opposed the ultra nationalism, militarism, and expansionism, while increasing his efforts as president of the Shoku-yo group. In 1939, however, he was asked to resign because of conflicts largely caused by his antigovernmental political activities, but also by his personality and philosophy. In 1937, at age 44, he married Lima, who was 38 and whose real?? first name was Sanae. She began to accompany him on many of his lecture tours teaching macrobiotic cooking. Since 1936 much of his time had been devoted to individual health and medical consultations and to writing. Now he decided to try to establish a new organization to convert Japan to shoku-yo, which he presented as the solution to all the country's problems. The struggle with the West, he maintained, should be ideological, not military, lest Japan be defeated. Once the war began, Ohsawa promoted shoku-yo as a means to achieve victory. By 1942 a war euphoria was sweeping Japan, but by 1943 things started to get bad. Together with his wife Lima and daughter Fumiko, plus a few intimate disciples, Ohsawa retreated to a remote mountain village in Yamanashi prefecture, called Hi no Maru (Haru??) His antiwar activities continued and in January 1945 he was imprisoned, questioned, and severely mistreated. He believed he would die, but finally, one month after the bomb fell on Hiroshima, he was released--gaunt, crippled, and 80% blind.
After the war, Ohsawa recovered slowly. He worked to make shoku-yo the guiding principle for the reconstruction of the nation. In 1947 he became involved with the World Federalist Movement, which was trying to seek world peace through world government. He tried to introduce his teachings on food into their program, and he began to call himself a "citizen of the world." From 1946-1952 he ran a school (which he called "Centre Ignoramus" or "World Government Association") in the town of Hiyoshi between Tokyo and Yokohama. There he began to gather and teach a small group of devoted disciples, who would later spread his teachings throughout the world. In 1949 he changed his name from Joichi Sakurazawa to George (or Georges) Ohsawa; George sounded like Joichi, the "s" on the end had to do with his love of France and French writers, and Ohsawa was written with the same characters as Sakurazawa, but pronounced differently. At the same time, he first began to call his philosophy and teachings "macrobiotics." The origin of this term is uncertain. Kotzsch (1981) feels that he probably borrowed it from the 19th century German philosopher and physician, Christolph Wilhelm von Hufeland. In 1860 von Hufeland had written a book about a method for achieving health and longevity, which he called Makrobiotik, Die Kunst des Menschliche Lebens zu Verlaengern ("Macrobiotics, the Art of Prolonging Human Life"). However Herman Aihara, a close student of Ohsawa, feels that Ohsawa did not know of von Hufeland's work or term, and that Ohsawa coined the term independently himself. At this time Ohsawa adopted the Western practice of having his students call him by his first name, George. He gave almost all of his students new, Westernized first names (such as Cornellia, Roland, Herman, etc.), taking these from great Western men and women born in the same month. The names were meant to show that the students were citizens of the world, not merely Japan. It was a personal choice whether to use the Westernized name or not; many chose not to. Ohsawa then began to dispatch his more accomplished prote'ge's, who were eager to spread the teachings to foreign lands. In 1949 Michio Kushi, a law student at Tokyo University, went to New York to study at Columbia University. Herman Aihara went to New York in 1952. Later others went to France, Brazil, Germany, and elsewhere.
In October 1953, a few days before his 60th birthday, George and Lima embarked on a new phase of their lives. He called it the "World Journey of the Penniless Samurai." Herman Aihara (1980) noted that like the salmon, Ohsawa decided to take his most adventurous trip late in his life. He hoped to spread macrobiotics around the world, making it a basic principle not only of personal and spiritual health but of world peace as well. The couple first spent 18 months in India teaching and studying macrobiotics. They then went to Africa for several months, where George had a deep spiritual awakening (at age 62) and later tried, unsuccessfully, to convince Dr. Albert Schweitzer of his philosophy and practice. Having healed himself of a reputedly incurable tropical disease using only macrobiotics, he and Lima then flew to Paris in early 1956. There the most important phase of his teaching and writing began. Most of the last decade of his life was spent in Western Europe and America, were he developed a small but dedicated following.
In 1959 Muso Shokuhin (originally called Osaka CI or "Centre Ignoramus"), a macrobiotic food company, was started in Osaka, Japan by Mr. Shuzo Okada. Although Ohsawa was not involved in founding the company, he was an active supporter and associate. Muso played an important role in introducing macrobiotic foods to both Japan and the West. They first began exporting soyfoods (miso and natural shoyu) in 1963, to Lima, a macrobiotic food company in Belgium (see below). Their soyfoods exports to the U.S. started in 1966, when barley miso was sent to Chico-san in California. Total exports, including exports of miso and shoyu, expanded greatly during the 1970s.
By the late 1950s Ohsawa's work in Europe was bearing a rich harvest. In 1959 3,000 people attended a macrobiotic summer camp in France. That same year some dedicated Belgian followers, Pierre Gevaert and friends, started a macrobiotic food manufacturing and distribution company called Lima, which established and contracted with organic farmers and made quality macrobiotic foods available in Europe for the first time. In 1959 Lima started to make natural shoyu (aged for at least 3 years) and barley miso, and soon began importing fine natural foods, including miso and shoyu, from Japan. In about 1958 a German businessman who had heard Ohsawa lecture on natural shoyu had quickly and cleverly registered the word "shoyu" as his own trademark, so the macrobiotic movement was forced to find an alternative term. Out of sheer necessity, and realizing it was slightly inaccurate, they decided to call their natural shoyu by the name "tamari" (Lima Ohsawa 1983). At least this distinguished it from its chemically made counterparts (see Chapter 36). For the first time in European history, non-Oriental Europeans began to make miso and shoyu a part of their daily diet. Later Lima exported macrobiotic foods to the U.S.A. In 1961 Ohsawa's book Le Zen Macrobiotique appeared in France. It contained many recipes, both medicinal and culinary, using miso and shoyu, and it also discussed tofu. In early 1961, when Herman Aihara visited Europe, he reported that there were many beautiful macrobiotic restaurants and clinics in France (the restaurants were Au Riz Dore and Longue Vie), Belgium, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. In about 1962 Ohsawa learned of Louis Kervran's unpublished work on "biological transmutation" and developed an all-consuming interest in it. Two years later he claimed to have changed sodium into potassium at low temperatures, accomplishing what only alchemists had formerly said they could do, changing one element into another. These developments attracted little attention (Why??). In 1964 his last European book was published: Le Cancer et la Philosophie d'Extreme Orient. That year France boasted a French macrobiotic monthly magazine, Yin/Yang, two restaurants, a tiny macrobiotic food store and Ohsawa Foundation with library on Rue Lamartine in Paris and another Japanese teacher, Clim Yoshimi.
As noted above, starting in 1949 and continuing throughout the 1950s, a small number of Ohsawa's Japanese students began to arrive in the United States and to settle in New York City. Apparently they taught but little about macrobiotics in those early days; most were busy supporting themselves and learning English. Michio Kushi was the first to arrive, in 1949, in connection with the World Federalist Movement. After studying international law at Columbia University, he managed a department store and did odd jobs to support himself. Michio wrote letters back to Japan, Ohsawa read them to his students, and Aveline Tomoko Yokoyama fell in love with them. In 1951, after 18 months at Ohsawa's school, she won a trip to America by being the best seller of Ohsawa's newspapers. She met Michio in New York City and they were married there in 1953. Herman Aihara arrived in San Francisco in early 1952 at age 32 and went directly to New York City. As early as March 1952 he was selling macrobiotic foods in New York; he imported them from Ohsawa in Japan. Soon he was joined by Cornellia Yokota, with whom he had been corresponding in Japan. They were married in New York in 1955. In the late 1950s the first macrobiotic restaurant in the U.S. was started in New York City by Alcan Yamaguchi, with carpentry help from Herman Aihara. Called Zen Teahouse, it was located at 317 Second Ave. and consisted of a small (four-table) main room containing a kitchen. The only soyfoods served here were miso and shoyu (natural soy sauce): as a regular food, tofu was considered too yin for most people and not so good for those with health problems. This restaurant was later renamed Paradox.
When Ohsawa first arrived in America in December 1959, very few Americans had heard of macrobiotics. (Actually this was probably not Ohsawa's first trip to the U.S.; he is thought to have made a short business trip there in the 1920s.) During his visit in New York, Ohsawa stayed at the Aihara's apartment, since Herman was his closest associate in America. (Michio Kushi had had few meetings with Ohsawa in Japan and had never resided at his Centre Ignoramus.) After one week, Ohsawa flew alone to California to find a source of short-grain brown rice; he had not been able to find any in New York. He located Koda Brothers' brown rice in California, stayed there a week, then returned to the Aihara's apartment. First things first. All were impressed at how quickly he had solved a major problem. Then, to introduce macrobiotics, Ohsawa presented three series of lectures, each for ten nights during January, February, and March of 1960 at the Buddhist Academy in New York City. During these lectures his first work in English was published, a mimeographed edition of Zen Macrobiotics. He and the Aiharas duplicated and bound these in the Aihara`s apartment, then sold them at the lectures for $0.50 each. In this publication he introduced miso and natural shoyu (which he called "tamari"); he did not emphasize the use of tofu as a regular food, just as an occasional pleasure item. Miso and natural shoyu quickly became essential ingredients in the diet of most students of macrobiotics in the U.S. At about this time (1960-61) Ohsawa's second work, the Book of Judgment, appeared in English, having been printed in Japan. The book was originally written in French.
After returning to Europe, Ohsawa came back to the U.S. in July 1960 and lectured daily for two months at the first American macrobiotic summer camp at Southampton, Long Island; ??,00 people attended. Ohsawa found his most enthusiastic response from writers, actors, artists, musicians, and other established members of the artistic and intellectual communities, with some interest from the bohemian counterculture in Greenwich Village. Soon a small but devoted following had developed; many of these people had experienced a cure through the macrobiotic diet.
To serve this growing interest, new institutions were established. In 1960 a tiny restaurant named Musubi was started in Greenwich Village and run by Alcan Yamaguchi, Romain Noboru Sato, Junsei Yamazaki, Herman Aihara, and Michio Kushi. In late 1961 Musubi was moved to 55th Street and frequented by many famous Broadway actors, who were first introduced to miso and shoyu. The first macrobiotic food store (combined with a gift shop), called Ginza, was started by Herman Aihara, in 1960. Both Musubi and Ginza served or sold miso and shoyu which Ohsawa had sent from Japan. In January 1961 the Ohsawa Foundation of New York was established on 2nd Avenue by Irma Paule, Michio Kushi, and friends. Michio and Herman Aihara were the first two presidents. In late 1960 Herman started publishing Macrobiotic News, a magazine consisting mainly of Ohsawa's lectures.
In 1961 Ohsawa came to America again for the second macrobiotic summer camp, this time in the Catskill Mountains at Wurtsboro, New York. Miso and shoyu were used in cooking classes. After the camp, at the time of the Berlin Wall crisis (August 1961, before the Cuban missile crisis in Oct. 1962), Ohsawa feared that a nuclear war might be near. He urged his followers to leave New York and find a place that was safer from radioactive fallout and good for growing rice. After extensive research, they chose Chico, California, in the fairly rural, sheltered, and healthful Sacramento Valley, the heart of California rice growing country. Thirty two people (11 families) packed all their belongings and made the exodus to Chico in a caravan of vans, buses, and station wagons. They arrived on 1 October 1961. (Shortly thereafter a Strategic Air Command base was built nearby!) Among the active people in the group were Bob Kennedy, Herman Aihara, and Dick Smith. Talents were diverse, but rare in the fields of food manufacturing and distribution: five professional trumpet players, a painter, a woodcarver, a Harvard economist, a TV soap opera star, a social worker, and an engineer.
On 6 March 1962 the group founded a new food company named Chico-San as a retail store plus an import, wholesale, and distribution company. It was capitalized with $10,000. In addition to a line of whole-grain products, they soon began to import a variety of macrobiotic foods from Ohsawa Japan/Tokyo CI?? Among the foods were umeboshi salt plums, sea vegetables, and Marushin miso and shoyu. Ohsawa arranged for the manufacture of these products and examined them carefully. The first store and food plant (they made sesame salt or gomashio and repackaged foods) was in the basement of a small hearing aid shop in Chico. It became the first macrobiotic food production and distribution company in the U.S. Unfortunately, however, these traditional whole-grain staples and Japanese foods were not what most Americans had in mind when they thought of "health foods." As Kennedy wrote in 1972:
Adelle Davis, America's most popular health mentor, was teaching that the way to better health lay in consuming more vitamin and mineral supplements. To introduce their new concept, Aihara and Kennedy began an educational program in the mid-1960s, traveling a lecture circuit up and down the West Coast. In 19?? a small bakery making whole-grain breads from freshly-ground flour was established in the back of the Chico-San retail store. Things went very slowly until Ohsawa visited Chico in the summer of 1963 for a series of lectures. He suggested that the group try making rice cakes--a 4-inch diameter, 1/2-inch-thick sort of cracker made of puffed brown rice. Ohsawa sent them a rice cake machine from Japan and production began in the fall of 1963. Rice cakes soon became Chico-San's first really popular and successful product, and they remain so to this day (Jacobs 1982).
Many students of macrobiotics and some teachers stayed in New York to keep up the Ohsawa Foundation, the restaurants, and the food store. In early 1963 Aveline Kushi moved to Martha's Vineyard for 6 months for a more natural environment; Michio continued working in New York. Then in September 1963 the whole Kushi family moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Michio stopped all his outside business activities and directed his full efforts toward teaching macrobiotics. Irma Paule kept things alive in New York, her "territory." By 1965 Michio and Aveline were very active with lectures, cooking classes, providing a supply of macrobiotic foods to students, and the like. Erewhon opened as a small food store in April 1966 and a small macrobiotic restaurant was opened in February 1967. Before long, Boston was coming to be known as the macrobiotic Mecca of America.
From the early 1960s on, Ohsawa visited America frequently. In 1962 at Christmas he visited Chico and lectured on macrobiotics. In 1963 he lectured in Boston, New York City, and at the Chico summer camp. In 1964 he was in California at the Big Sur Summer Camp, and in 1965 he lectured at Mayoro Lodge near Pulga, California. Note the concentration of his efforts in California. He was ceaselessly active on these visits, talking with groups and individuals, a fountain of positive energy and charisma. In 1963 the first edition of Zen Cookery, a book of macrobiotic recipes, was published by the Ohsawa Foundation in Los Angeles; a new edition was compiled by the Chico group in 1966. Both contained many recipes for miso and natural shoyu ("tamari"), but made no mention of tofu, soybeans, or other soyfoods. In 1965 the second edition of Ohsawa's Zen Macrobiotics (first published in mimeographed format in 1960) was prepared and published by Lou Oles of the Ohsawa Foundation in Los Angeles. It contained much more information about soyfoods including Ohsawa Tamari (defined as "macrobiotic soy sauce produced by the traditional, biological, sugarless method," to be used both in cookery and in medicinal drinks), miso, tekka miso, miso cream, miso-ae, miso-ni, muso (miso mixed with sesame butter), tofu, and yuba. Thereafter these soyfoods appeared in virtually all Western macrobiotic cookbooks and cooking classes. During the following years these two books became a prime vehicle for introducing both macrobiotics and soyfoods to people throughout America. Another book which furthered the spread of macrobiotics was You Are All Sanpaku by William Dufty, published in 1965. Then in 1966 a revised edition of Ohsawa's Book of Judgment was published, the result of editing work by Lou Oles and the Chico Group.
By 1965 the macrobiotic movement in America, though small, was growing rapidly. Various estimates indicate somewhere between 300 and 2,000 people actively involved. Ohsawa, whose numerous books were now available, described this as the happiest period of his life. He was able to watch his efforts bearing fruit in the form of very active yet independent groups in Boston, Chico, and New York. Though the style of each group was different, Ohsawa supported and encouraged all. A number of students moved between the groups to further their studies.
In late 1965, however, macrobiotics experienced its first major setback. Beth Ann Simon, a young heroin addict from New Jersey, had decided, without supervision, to switch suddenly to the strictest form of the macrobiotic cleansing diet, regimen number 7, consisting of only brown rice and other grains. She resumed her use of heroin, refused to broaden her diet, lost a lot of weight, then died on 9 Nov. 1965 in Clifton, New Jersey. Simon's father, an influential lawyer, tried to cover up his daughter's use of heroin and blame the "alien influence" of macrobiotics instead. According to Kotzsch (1981), when Ohsawa returned to America he was tried for medical malpractice. Although he was ultimately acquitted, he and the diet received much adverse publicity. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) closed the New York branch of the Ohsawa Foundation and inspected the Chico store. They enforced the ruling stating that it was illegal to sell food products and information about those products under the same company name. This led to a separation of the Chico-San food company and the Ohsawa Foundation in Chico. More important, the Simon incident branded macrobiotics among many in the medical and health professions as a dangerous and extreme form of health food faddism. This image was hard to get rid of.
For a period of more than 40 years, Ohsawa developed the philosophy and daily practice which he called "macrobiotics" or the "Unique Principle." It was based on a new formulation of the laws of change and balance according to the ancient Chinese unifying principle of yin-yang, which saw the paradoxical and dialectical unity of opposites. More specifically, it emphasized the application of yin-yang to food, health, and medicine, Ohsawa's three main areas of interest. In short, he saw macrobiotics as the practical biological and physiological application of the basic principle of Oriental philosophy. While his teaching started with and returned to food as a prime determinant of one's health, consciousness, and happiness, its ultimate aim was to help people acquire "eternal happiness, infinite freedom, and absolute justice," through an understanding of what he, like the Chinese sages, considered to be universal laws. For Ohsawa macrobiotics was emphatically not "a diet" but rather an approach to diet, a comprehensive philosophy of the principles of diet. Like a yoga posture, the food was but a vehicle, yet it was a sacred vehicle, as eating was a sacred act and ritual. Through macrobiotics Ohsawa linked diet wholistically with philosophy, spiritual practice, health, and medicine. He did much to promote a new meeting and synthesis of East and West in all of the above areas. He was one of the first to praise the traditional, even the primitive, over the modern and "civilized" (see his Jack and Mitie, Ref??). He felt he had rediscovered a timeless way of life and the relevance of many ancient spiritual and dietary traditions.
Concerning food and diet, Ohsawa's main message was that the best diet was a traditional one, based on whole grains, the most abundant of all foods. The diet should be simple, using local natural foods (or at least foods from the same climate) in season, with little or no animal products, no sugar, and little spice. Like his teacher, Ishizuka, he believed that meat and animal foods create a more aggressive personality and way of thinking, whereas a grain-based, primarily vegetarian diet creates a more peaceful personality and spiritual consciousness. The use of milk or dairy products was seen as going against the natural order; they were meant for young calves, not adult (weaned) humans. The traditional combination of grains and beans (especially fermented soyfoods and azuki, the small red beans) was recommended as a protein source. Tomatoes, eggplants, and potatoes, all members of the Solanacae or nightshade family were not generally recommended. They were thought to be very yin, and traditionally to have been considered poisonous. Like the Japanese diet with its small consumption of animal products, the macrobiotic diet was typically low in fat and very low in cholesterol and saturated fats.
Ohsawa ranked all foods on a scale from yin to yang. The scale was a dynamic, ever-changing one. (Later Aihara modified this by incorporating acid and alkaline into the yin-yang classification.) Many factors determined a food's position on the scale, but a key one was the ratio of potassium to sodium. Potassium was yin and sodium yang. Balanced foods such as brown rice and most grains had a K:Na ratio of roughly 5:1. Yin foods had a higher ratio and yang foods a lower one. Salt and meat, for example, were considered very yang, while "street" drugs (including LSD and marijuana), alcohol, and white sugar were very yin. In general a very yin diet was seen as the cause of most illnesses, which could be cured by making the diet more yang. A "balanced" diet for Ohsawa was not so much one containing the Western Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for all basic nutrients, but one in which yin and yang were balanced, and balancing with extremes (meat and sugar) was minimized. Thus Ohsawa was one of the first health teachers in America to argue convincingly that white sugar was bad for body and mind. His basic analysis of the American dietary pattern was that it had forgotten the central role of grains in the diet and had come to be dominated by meat and sugar, two foods that he considered extreme and unhealthy. He also pointed out the importance of eating and drinking lightly, in contrast to the self indulgent and undisciplined eating patterns he observed in so many Americans. Repeatedly he stressed that the benefits of an otherwise good diet are easily thrown away by overeating.
Ohsawa was highly critical of Western medicine. He felt that most illness is a valuable warning from the body indicating that a person is violating the laws of health and going against the Order of the Universe, especially in eating and drinking. To treat such illness symptomatically, trying to get rid of the superficial symptoms rather than correcting the basic cause of the problem, means forestalling and actually aggravating inevitable disaster. Ohsawa felt that Western medicine was merely and primarily symptomatic medicine, which had little interest in understanding the deeper causes of disease or in teaching people how to prevent disease and to heal themselves. He felt that Western medical specialists, caught in a maze of details based on fragmented analysis, were unable to view or treat the whole person, holistically. He found it especially difficult to understand why medical professionals refused to accept what all traditional Oriental healers recognized as obvious; the deep connection between proper diet and good health. He wondered why the education of Western doctors involved so little study of food and nutrition, why they rarely enquired as to what their patients eat and drink, and why they even tried to block the dietary and lifestyle approach to good health and healing. He noted that there was no basic theory or philosophy behind Western medicine and nutrition, linking them together and to a larger view of the cosmos; they were purely experimental-empirical, derived from scientific reason and analysis to the exclusion of intuition and direct personal experience. Thus, for example, Western nutritionists concluded that white sugar and brown rice were both basically the same: carbohydrates. Yet anyone eating only brown rice or only white sugar for several days would immediately recognize that each had a dramatically different effect on the body/mind.
Ohsawa saw the West as a civilization in crisis, beset with moral, spiritual, ideological, and health problems. Disease, crime, pollution, and divorce were all rapidly increasing. The goal of Western economics and technology was, he felt, the maximization of material wealth, sensual pleasure, comfort, and convenience through plundering of the earth, nature, and other nations. Western man tried hopelessly to find happiness by producing and consuming as much as possible.
The place to start in unraveling this maze of problems, Ohsawa felt, was with the individual human organism. Fundamental change must be biologically and biochemically based, and that could most easily be brought about by a change to a traditional (macrobiotic) diet. Some expressed his position as one of alimentary determinism: "You are what you eat." To many young people of the counterculture in the 1960s, Ohsawa's penetrating critique of Western civilization rang clear and true. This attracted them to his teachings on diet, based on a more simple and spiritual life. And because soyfoods were a basic part of his diet, they came to be considered by his students as a key ingredient in a new and more healthful way of life.
On 23 April 1966, just as his teaching was beginning to spread rapidly in the West, Ohsawa died unexpectedly in Tokyo at age 72. The immediate cause of death was given as cardiac failure, probably compounded by the filarial parasites he had contracted a decade earlier at Lambarene', Gabon, in Africa.
To his followers, Ohsawa was a great man, author of over 100 books (some say 120, or 4 a year during his writing years) and publisher of many magazines, a ground-breaking thinker who formulated the major issues of his time and worked tirelessly to create a better world. He was the universal Oriental sage, dedicated to the welfare of others, full of the joy of life and of its giving, content with the simplest things, and always with a sense of amusement and good humor. His powerful, vibrant voice and charismatic personality were captivating. He was the perfect manifestation of his teachings on how a free man should be. His biographer Kotzsch has noted:
But to his critics Ohsawa was a crackpot, a self-styled doctor with no formal training, an extremist, sloppy intellectually and in his writings, unscientific, oversimplistic in his analysis of complex problems ("No illness is more simple to cure than cancer."), and overconfident that a change of diet could solve such complex problems. Ohsawa was full of contradictions, of which the following are but a few examples. First, though a teacher of healthful living, he was a heavy smoker, having started at about age 50. Because he did it with style, and not to relieve stress, he gave many of his students the desire to smoke too. Second, he had a weakness for whiskey. Third, while encouraging consumption of locally grown foods, he imported large amounts of food from Japan and brown rice was eaten at most macrobiotic centers, even if it was not grown nearby. (It was argued that Japan had roughly the same climate as America and many of the foods were not available in the U.S.) Fourth, Ohsawa showed an ongoing, keen interest, perhaps unconsciously, in getting Westerners to act and live as if they were traditional Japanese, eating imported Japanese foods with chopsticks while sitting on the floor. No doubt Ohsawa, with his galaxy-sized sense of humor, would have laughed heartily at all his paradoxes and imperfections. Regardless and despite the only modest success during his lifetime of his work in Japan, it would be difficult to overestimate the impact he had on shaping the alternative food consciousness that emerged in the West in the 1960s and 1970s--and with it the soyfoods movement discussed in the next chapter. His work was ably carried on by his wife Lima, who at age 86 in 1985 was remarkably fit and active, and by his students.