As a pioneer of world peace through the macrobiotic, the work of Michio Kushi has been operational for over 50 years. The macrobiotic, for understanding, is the interaction between us and the power we have, the lifestyle we choose and the environment in which we live. A macrobiotic diet consists of whole foods and natural which is an essential basis of cereal grains such as brown rice or millet and a variety of vegetables and legumes, harvested in the region.
Michio Kushi has advised international agencies like the UN and the World Health Organization. In 1998, the National Museum of American History gave official recognition to him and his wife Aveline for their contribution to the development of a movement towards eating more natural and healthy, and educating the public about global benefits of the macrobiotic diet.
We visited Michio Kushi in his international headquarters of Kushi Institute, in the heart of the Berkshire Mountains, in Massachusetts. We feel fortunate to be invited to solemn New Year's Day prepared by Kushi personally. Prolonged snowstorms delayed our departure and the tight schedule of our interview. This allowed us, however, to acquire a thorough understanding of this man and his work. Dressed in his customary suit and vest with giving a paused and charismatic personality, Michio Kushi talked about his philosophy and how it arose during the post-war Japan to become the most prolific leading an American movement for natural health.
Question: Can you tell us something about your childhood and youth?
Answer: I was born on May 17th, 1926 in Wakayama in central Japan. My parents were both teachers and I moved a lot during my childhood site. When I was 12 years when the war began between Japan and China; when I was 16 years, Japan entered the Second World War. While studying at the University of Tokyo, wide areas of the city were destroyed by B-29 and the food began to increasingly scarce. When the war intensified, I outlined a move to the southern islands of Okinawa. Half of my classmates died when the boat sank on the way. I stayed in Kyushu to reside in Tosu Station, an hour from Nagasaki.
On August 6th, 1945, the communication with Hiroshima suddenly ceased. There was much speculation. Later we learned that Hiroshima had been completely destroyed and three days after Nagasaki was bombed. We helped many injured who were transported by train outside of Nagasaki.
Q. - How did you change of being a soldier to activist for world peace?
R .- As all young people, I was not worried to death, but after the war ended, I realized I had to continue living. While studying in graduate school, I became clear the need for a global federation that never again would bring war. I started to correspond with America's United World Federalists. I learned that there was an association of world government in Tokyo. I went to visit it and I found my teacher George Ohsawa (born 1893). He did not talk about politics but about philosophy, life, and Yin and Yang. I came to America in 1949 to attend a congress of the World Federation. In those days, very few people could get out of Japan. Fortunately, one of the World Federalist Norman Cousins, was offered as collateral. He encouraged me to come and stay at the University of Colombia where I started to gather ideas from various people in the Plateau, including links to Thomas Mann, who designed a harmonious world order.
When I was 25 years, I began to think that even if a world government was created, unless that human would become really peaceful again, it would not be a means of ensuring harmony. It would continue to need strict laws, army and police, which would not be real peace. In its place we need to develop a human nature more peaceful and loving living. It is very easy to talk about peace and brotherhood, but that kind of human quality is to be born naturally and from within. Wished to receive advice from my older world federalism, I visited Dr. Einstein, Norman Cousins, Thomas Mann and many others. However, their answers were: "No, we do not know how to turn a peaceful human nature." I said: "Only you have to understand yourself."
Q. - And did you find the answer in food?
A. - Well, I hesitated whether to continue studying political science. I wanted to know what was humanity and how humans could become peaceful, and so I decided to abandon my studies. I had every day in Times Square. And from morning till night I watched thousands and thousands of people. Each one was different. Some walked quickly, others slowly, some were high, others short, some are blonde, others brunette. I wondered why we had two eyes, two ears and one nose. Why? Why do we have thoughts and what is intuition and imagination? What is memory? I wondered about all these things while watching the people go to ... Then, I had a "flash" all beings, not only humans but also animals and plants, are governed and influenced by our environment, seasonal changes and cosmic forces. I thought that if we could control some factors, could change that. I started to see a one to one discarding those which we cannot control: the sunlight, air, etc., until only one remained. This was the food. we can control to 90%. Thought I could change humans through food.
Q. - Is the diet affecting our thoughts and actions?
R .- The food is not only to sustain the body. They are converted into vibrations through digestion. The energy and calories are all vibrations that change the way we think. Thoughts are vibrations. So if we feed them in a way, we become more competitive, aggressive and materialistic, or if we do otherwise, we become more spiritual and peaceful, especially if this is maintained for generations. Following a macrobiotic diet, the mind becomes calm and serene.
Q. - How did the macrobiotic appeared?
R. - In fact, the basic principles of Macrobiotics was known by physicists and philosophers throughout history. The current model was developed from the ideas of Sagen Ishizuka (born 1851), an army doctor, a dietary theory to heal diseases. He took both western medicine and oriental traditions. When my teacher, George Ohsawa was young, he contracted tuberculosis. After reading the book Shoku You (nutrients) Ishizuka , implemented the diet and was cured. Ohsawa was a disciple of Ishizuka and the extended theory. He joined the concept of Yin and Yang and he named it the "Macrobiotic ", Greek word for longevity. My wife Aveline was a student of George Ohsawa in Tokyo. She came to America about two years and a half later than I did. I made it with my ideas to establish a standard macrobiotic.
Q. - Can you explain more about the Yin and Yang?
R .- Everything is a constantly changing phenomenon between two antagonistic; expansion-contraction, up-down, whe upward force of the earth and the downward force of the sky. All this is widely called Yin and Yang, which is the foundation of Eastern philosophies. In ancient times, this was considered by all political leaders, but they have not been able to understand life. All oriental traditions are based on this idea, either from the floral arrangements to Aikido. It also has application in food. Yin type foods such as fruit or vegetables contain an expansive earth. Yang type food such as carrots or burdock, have the force of heaven which is more contractionary. We must ensure a good balance in our diet.
Q. - Does the Macrobiotic prohibit consumption of meat?
R .- In the evolution, mammals are very close to us while the fish are further away. So if you want to eat animal products would be better a small ration of fish. The macrobiotic is not a rigid framework, but what we really need for each person, one has the freedom to choose. The macrobiotic offers within these guidelines and you can eat meat occasionally. However, it should be borne in mind that eating meat hinders spiritual quality.
Q. - What does "michi" (the path) means?
R. - My Name! (laughs). It is also the way of the universe works, or the Yin and Yang. Michi means to interpret and act accordingly. However, in a conceptual way, to think I should do this or that is not good. In its place, the correct actions and thoughts should arise in a natural way. For this to happen, we need to eat well. In a "healthy" way, this harmony arises without any previous, as a natural act. This is michi.
Through a greater understanding of the food and the environment to encourage mankind to develop in peace and spirituality ... this is my dream.
Source: Nature Magazine Fall 2003