Founder of Modern-Day Macrobiotics
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. (1)
His Early Years
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. (1)
Dr. Sagen Ishizuka (1850-1910)
He 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.
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.
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. (1)
Ohsawa joins Shoku-Yo Kai
At age 18 (1911), 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. (1)
George Ohsawa, The Macrobiotic Movement
by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi
©Copyright 2004 Soyinfo Center, Lafayette, California
edited by Carl Ferre
©Copyright 1994 George Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation - G.O.M.F