George Ohsawa

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Young Ohsawa in Paris, 1920

George Ohsawa, born Yukikazu Sakurazawa (桜沢 如一 Sakurazawa Yukikazu?, October 18, 1893 - April 23, 1966), was the founder of the Macrobiotic diet and philosophy. When living in Europe he went by the pen names of Musagendo Sakurazawa, Nyoiti Sakurazawa, and Yukikazu Sakurazawa. He also used the French first name Georges while living in France, and his name is sometimes also given this spelling. George Ohsawa introduced the oriental concept of health to Westerners in the mid-20th century, writing about 300 books in Japanese and 20 in French during a 40-year period. He himself defined health as comprising seven levels: lack of tiredness or fatigue; good appetite; good sleep; good memory; good humour; precision of thought and action; gratitude (Sandifer, 1998).[1]


Ohsawa was born into a poor samurai family during the Meiji Restoration. He had no money for higher education. Around this time is when his spiritual path started. Around 1913 he met up with Manabu Nishibata (a direct disciple of the late Sagen Ishizuka) and studied with him in Tokyo in the movement Shoku-yo Kai.

Ohsawa also claims in his books that he cured himself from tuberculosis[citation needed] at age 19 using what he knew about the ancient yin-yang concepts that originated in China, as well as the teachings of Sagen Ishizuka.[2]

Later he travelled to Europe, particularly Paris, France where he started to spread his philosophy (it is in this period he supposedly adopted his new pen name "Ohsawa", after the French "oh, ça va" which means "all right" or "I'm doing fine" as a reply to the question "how are you doing ?"). After several years he returned to Japan to start a foundation, and gather recruits for his now formalized philosophy.

After drawing attention to himself during World War II for his pacifist ideals, he wrote a book which predicted Japan's defeat and was incarcerated, narrowly escaping death for his views. After being freed from prison by U.S. General McArthur, he moved his institution to a remote area in the mountains of Yamanashi prefecture.

It is presumed that he got the Western name for his movement from a book written by Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland, a famous Prussian physician. It is known that he spent time in Europe with a descendant of Hufeland.

Several of his Japanese disciples were also instrumental in disseminating Macrobiotics in the West. They are, in particular, Herman Aihara in California, Roland Yasuhara in Belgium (where LIMA, the well-known manufacturer of macrobiotic products was born), Tomio Kikuchi (pt) in Brazil, Clim Yoshimi in France, and Michio Kushi in Massachusetts.

Another famous student of Ohsawa was Noburo Muramoto, a Japanese native who became head of the Tokyo Macrobiotic Center before being invited by Herman Aihara to Aihara's and his wife Cornelia's study center in San Francisco in the 1970s, the George Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation (GOMF). After spending some time teaching Macrobiotics and Traditional Oriental Medicine with the Aiharas, Muramoto founded his own center called Asunaro Institute in Glen Ellen, California. During this time Muramoto wrote "Healing Ourselves" with the collaboration of Michel Abehsera, a student of George Ohsawa who compiled the book from lectures Muramoto gave while he was on tour in the USA. Abehsera, a noted author in his own right, most notably of "Zen Macrobiotic Cooking" and "Our Earth, Our Cure", as well as several other books on natural health, diet, and philosophy, through his association with Swan House Publishers in Binghamton, New York, was able to publish and distribute the book through health food stores and metaphysical outlets.

While in France Ohsawa wrote a number of books in French related to the Macrobiotic world view, which were published by Vrin Publishers in Paris, France. Among them were "L'Ere Atomique", The Atomic Age, written during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Ohsawa was motivated to write the book because of the looming possibility of atomic war and the consequences on life as we know it. In this book, as was typical of all books Ohsawa wrote, he devotes considerable time to explaining his views regarding how Macrobiotics can shed light on many social problems as well as causes of war and how Macrobiotics can help bring about a world in which war will be seen as an outcome of an error of judgment, and discarded as an effective solution to social conflict.

Ohsawa also created a stir by predicting[citation needed] the deaths of several notables including actress Marilyn Monroe, USA President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy, based on the condition known in Japan as "Sanpaku" (three-spaces empty). Sanpaku refers to traditional Japanese physiognomic diagnosis in which eyes can be seen to present a white area below as well as to each side of the iris when viewed straight on. This anomaly was considered a sign of extreme fatigue that made one accident-prone and slow to react. In ancient Japan, Samurai warriors were trained to watch for this feature to assist in determining how formidable an enemy would be in hand-to-hand combat. Ohsawa adapted it to a more general diagnostic indication of one's general state of health. William Dufty, sixth husband of actress Gloria Swanson and noted author of "Lady Sings the Blues", the 1956 autobiography of blues singer Billie Holiday, borrowed this concept as the title of his book "You Are All Sanpaku", which was based on Sakurazawa Nyoichi's teachings.


Ohsawa himself died of a heart attack at the age of 74.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jon Sandifer (1998) The 10 Day Re-balance Programme A unique life plan to dramatically improve your health and inner well-being, London: Random House, ISBN 0-7126-7136-6
  2. ^ George Ohsawa (1994). Carl Ferré, ed. Essential Ohsawa: From Food to Health, Happiness to Freedom|. Avery Publishing Group. p. 213. ISBN 0-89529-616-0. 1912, Ohsawa re-establishes his health using Sagen Ishizuka's diet of whole brown rice, fresh vegetables, sea salt, and oil. 
  3. ^ Diet for a Strong Heart: Michio Kushi's Macrobiotic Dietary Guidelines By Michio Kushi, Alex Jack.St. Martin's Griffin.December 2003.

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