Thousands of years ago great sages realized 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 animal foods.
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:
• Foods are the foundation of health and happiness.
• Sodium and potassium are the primary antagonistic and complementary elements in food. They most strongly determine its character-or "yin/ yang" quality.
• Grain is properly the staple food of man.
• Food should be unrefined, whole, and natural.
• 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 organization.
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 Christophe Wilhelm Von Hufeland 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.