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Cornellia Aihara passed away
on Saturday, February 25, 2006.

Messages of Remembrance are posted below
from: February 28, 2006

In Memorium of Cornellia Aihara
March 31, 1926 - February 25, 2006

Cornellia was the inimitable powerhouse of macrobiotics who has taught
macrobiotic cooking classes all over the world, and had steadfastly nourished
her family, students, and friends with her delicious cooking and
her invincible spirit of motherly love.

Cornellia Aihara was born in northern Japan on March 31, 1926. She learned macrobiotics from George Ohsawa when he visited her town for lectures.

Shortly thereafter she went to Ohsawa's school and became one of his best students at remembering exactly what George said. In the early days she sold newspapers on street corners while learning his unique philosophy.

In the early 1950s she began corresponding with Herman Aihara, who was living in New York at the time. He invited her to New York in 1955. She traveled to New York with only ten dollars in her pocket without having met Herman.

Soon after they were married. In 1956, it was Cornellia who sent Ohsawa lifesaving supplies after he had infected himself with tropical ulcers during his stay at Dr. Schweitzer's hospital in Lambarene.

She studied macrobiotic cooking from Lima Ohsawa and assisted Lima in the first macrobiotic summer camps in the United States from 1960 to 1964. Cornellia continued cooking at the French Meadows camps until 1998.

From 1961 to her passing she devoted her life to the teaching of macrobiotic cooking, childcare and home remedies, and philosophy. Along with Herman, she traveled extensively throughout the world.

Cornellia and Herman founded the George Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation in 1971 and the Vega Institute in 1974. Her books include Natural Healing from Head to Toe (with Herman), The Do of Cooking, Macrobiotic Kitchen: Key to Good Health (formerly The Chico-San Cookbook), and The Calendar Cookbook. Cornellia is survived by her son Jiro and daughter Marie.

A Message from Carl Ferre from the
George Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation

First, thank you all for the kind messages and remembrances of Cornellia, and The Macrobiotic Guide for letting others around the world know the news quickly. The outpouring of love and support is much appreciated.

There was a Shinto ceremony held last Sunday (February 26th) for Cornellia and a memorial plaque from that ceremony along with some prayers are being sent so as to arrive in time for the service on Saturday (March 4th) . There will be a third remembrance held at the French Meadows camp this summer.



~


I first met her in Australia at a summer Macrobiotic camp and was excited to be part of a 10 day program with her. Her 5.00am morning chanting sessions were my favorite where she would dress in a beautiful kimono and unwrap a bell for the beginning of the chant from the most beautiful purple silk I had ever see. Then she would place the bell on a red cushion.
Her memory will live on.

Health and Happiness
Karla Walter

~

I have one outstanding memory of her. I gave a small workshop at Vega about family life many many years ago, when our daughters were young. My husband was quite ill at that time, and kept on eating what I had deemed to be unhealthy food and drink. I asked her, in all sincerity, about this situation at home. Her answer was so startling. Unlike my own judgement of good and bad, stuck in a dualistic understanding of life, Cornelia just smiled and said, “Does he enjoy it?” I answered, “Oh yes.” She replied, smiling even more broadly, “As long as he enjoys it. Doesn’t matter.”

This was about as close to a living Zen Koan that I have ever encountered. It took many years to truly embrace the vastness of this wisdom she had so lightly offered. Now, if someone asked me such a question, I would answer in the same way.

Anne Scott

~


I remember vividly that time I met Cornelia Aihara.

It was in the mid 70's and I was teaching Macrobiotics, Shiatsu and Diagnosis at the Kushi Institute in Brookline Mass. Cornelia was booked to come to do a special cooking class workshop.

The KI had asked me to assist her in this class and I agreed immediately. I was subsequently alerted by many who knew her that she was very "yang" and might be tough to assist because of her strong manner. All I really heard from this information was from my gut that she would be great to work with and learn from.

She arrived in Brookline, I had the kitched organized perfectly for the menu and had some others help with the preparations of a big meal. Well, when she came into the kitchen she was quick in her directions, yang yes and had such a warm and caring attitude towards me and the students as well.

As the class ensued she had me running to say the least, so I qluickly adapted to her Qi and it was one of the most beautiful and centering experiences of my macrobiotic training, Her yang was not only ok it was a delight to work with such a master, as she took the time to connect to make sure I could handle her speedy directions.

And the class went off like wildfire with such in depth knowdelge from her as she cooked, answered questions from the students and kept a synergistic connection with me-her assistant. The students were so grateful for this unique older experienced macrobiotic senior's teachings and wisdom. It was a Whew and Wow experience all in one.

After the class everyone wanted to know how I felt dealing with all this Yang energy. I informed all that she was a delightful and powerful woman that we all should be grateful for and not afraid of as she was coming from yes strictness, yet with caring and was xemplefying her spirit of that time. A loving mother earth with a lot of guts and gusto.

Goodby for now Cornelia and thank you for that poingnent experience which helped me grow in my practice of teaching and practicing the macrobiotics of that time.

Susan Krieger

~


I'll never forget my visit at Vega in Oroville CA, summer of 78, we parted - an Irishman, a German and me - with a beautiful gift, a basketful of corn muffins filled with sweet adukis, a present like herself, so ever-nourishing, caring, loving Mom that she was.

Roberto from Italy

~


I liked her, she was always nice to me, I did not agree with all her views however she
did so much for the good like thousands of cooking classes. Another great Ohsawa disciple has now passed on to the other shore. Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!

David Kerr

~

REMEMBERING CORNELLIA (or: How Could I Forget?)
By Morgan Jones

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

I have often come across this quote from Margaret Mead, the insightful and prolific anthropologist. But on just how many of those occasions did I stop to think deeply about the essential truth distilled in these few simple words ... and the fact that every moment of every day of my life is richer as a result of one particular "thoughtful, committed citizen."

On Saturday, February 25th, Cornellia Aihara, beloved teacher, irrepressible advocate for each individual's right to be in charge of his or her own life, and the unofficial adopted grandmother of thousands of students of macrobiotics around the world, spoke her last words of enthusiastic advice -- this time by telephone to her daughter, Marie, who was visiting with a dear friend in Mexico. Shortly after the phone call with Marie, Cornellia slipped peacefully off this relative plane.

Cornellia was born in Fukushima prefecture in Japan on March 31, 1926 with a rare and serious congenital heart defect. The doctors were quite convinced her heart would fail and she would die. Well, the doctors were right ... but it took a bit longer then they expected for this
prediction to come true. Cornellia's passing comes exactly 8 years to the day after the death of her husband, partner, and likewise much loved teacher, Herman, and just a few weeks shy of her 80th birthday.

(Hmmm. Maybe there something to this "macrobiotic" stuff ...)

Since 1955 when she came to America from her native Japan and met and married Herman Aihara, Cornellia and Herman worked tirelessly and selflessly to share with thousands of us lucky students the simple notion that sickness was not some Universal joke played on an
unsuspecting mankind, but that health -- be it good or bad -- was mostly the predictable result of choices each of us makes every moment of every day of our lives. Though it was a strange concept to me, a child of 20th-century America where science was our new religion, I have come to share Cornellia's unshakable belief that all of us are quite capable of achieving wellness and happiness by relying primarily on our own intuition and insight and -- most important of all to Cornellia -- our own unique lifetime of experience.

Nowadays, when I walk into a grocery store -- whether my local co-op, a Whole Foods superstore, or even an ordinary neighborhood Safeway or Albertson's or HEB -- I see shelves overflowing with inexpensive natural foods I can buy to help keep me physically well and mentally clear. I can easily fill my organic cotton shopping bag with tofu, tempeh, bags
of brown rice and millet and quinoa, 6 or 7 varieties of organic miso, pickled umeboshi plums, and a dazzling array of multi-colored organic vegetables from the familiar (carrots and cabbage and cucumbers) to the exotic (daikon and burdock and Hokkaido pumpkin). OK, so maybe Safeway and Albertson's don't yet stock the ume plums or the daikon or the
burdock, but just wait ... it won't be long.

Cornellia and Herman Aihara, along with their contemporaries, fellow Ohsawa disciples, and close friends, Aveline and Michio Kushi, comprise one very special "small group" of citizens who have changed my world ... and yours. These 4 individuals are the reason we can easily buy the foods that will help us heal and maintain our health in the very same stores that only a few short years ago offered us mostly boxes and bags and cans of packaged, processed, frozen, freeze-dried, preserved and --lately -- genetically-modified food-like substances.

While the TV commercials told us how much less time we'd spend cooking with these modern groceries, Cornellia and Herman knew from long experience that cooking times wasn't the only thing we we'd be shortening. And, boy oh boy, am I glad they choose to dedicate their
lives to teaching us what the ads failed to mention.

Cornellia and Herman taught in many venues -- from the living rooms and kitchens of friends with a handful of students in attendance, to the unspoiled campground in the Tahoe National Forest where the annual French Meadows Summer Camp they started in 1970 continues to this day, to the conference auditoriums filled with those of us hungry for a better answer than "you only have 3 months to live" or "you'll have to take this medicine for the rest of your life" gathered again and again.

I met Cornellia and Herman for the first time at the Vega Study Center they founded in Oroville, California when I became a resident student and kitchen apprentice there in 1995. I cannot personally chronicle the whole of her life, as I have only known Cornellia for 11 years. But what I can tell you is it didn't take anyone very long in the presence of this diminutive lady with the unimaginable determination to come to appreciate the twin gifts of her wisdom and her willingness to share what she had learned from a life of working from sunup to long after
sundown helping folks who were sick find the path to recovery.

During my two years at Vega with Cornellia and Herman I came to understand that the lectures and lessons could never be as powerfully instructive as the way our teachers -- and thus, we their captive students -- lived each and every day. While students at Vega, we were
caught up in the whirlpool that was Cornellia, engulfed in the swirling waters of her wisdom, day in and day out. We learned to cook by cooking (and making a lot of mistakes). We learned to use ginger compresses to relive pain and help restore kidney function by dipping towels in hot ginger water and applying them to each other over and over again. And we
learned to make miso and takuan pickles and mochi by ... well, by making miso, and takuan pickles, and mochi.

Cornellia conducted our classes in English, but it took most students a few weeks (and sometimes months) to come to understand her thick Japanese accent made even more incomprehensible by a pronounced lisp. As resident students we would often compare notes while cooking lunch: "I think I understood at least half of what Cornellia said in Home Remedies class today," one of us would announce with satisfaction and a sense of
real accomplishment. "Oh yeah, well I think I'm up to 65%," another would brag. It wasn't a joke that a cooking video Cornellia made in English required sub-titles to be added so that we could understand what she was saying. But difficult as it was to understand her words,
Cornellia would not let a one of us misunderstand her methods, her purpose, or her resolve. She lived her life "full speed ahead" and in her teaching she employed this same approach.

Imagine your loving, gentle, and soft-spoken grandmother as an almost 5-foot tall Japanese woman with slightly sad, dark eyes, long dark hair wound up in a tight bun on top of her head, dressed simply in a pale print cotton blouse and cotton petal pushers, white ankle socks and
rice-straw sandals who was keeping six different dishes cooking simultaneously on six individual burners while explaining how fundamentally important it is never to lift the lid on a pot of cooking grain ... all done with the evangelistic zeal of a television preacher and the single-mindedness and intensity of a Marine drill sergeant, all the exuding complete confidence that you, her student, had the brains and the heart to comprehend and apply each and every detail, every day, just as she had presented it.

Cornellia and Herman were as different as night and day ... yin andyang, I guess.

Herman loved to answer important questions with expansive explanations to help us see ourselves in the largest possible context. If I asked where cancer comes from, Herman would explain the role of the body's acid / alkaline balance in creating the damaged DNA of mutant cells, how a lack of sufficient oxygen intake could slow the body's natural ability to eliminate the damaged cells, how animal protein serves as the building blocks of cancer cells, and how excess simple sugar supplies the fuel for rapid cell division. And he was just warming up as he spoke of the physical part of the puzzle ...

Cornellia's answer was simpler: "Bad-da diet-ta," she would say in her unique usage of the English tongue ... and then she would put us all to work, confident that if we cooked for ourselves long enough and paid attention to the changes we saw in our bodies and our minds, eventually each of us would come to understand how what we put in our mouths turned
into ... us.

Cornellia was a woman of few words -- perhaps because she was, by nature, a straightforward soul who thought doing was more important than talking, and maybe partly because she just got tired of working so hard to be understood. But she was determined that each of her students learn the right way -- the very best way -- to do each and every thing, down to the smallest detail, from the very first day, the very first hour we were in her charge. Often one of us would fail to understand Cornellia's barked orders as we worked to roast some sesame seeds so each individual tiny seed was equally well browned or we carefully cut a carrot intowhat should have been pieces of EXACTLY the same size. After resolutely
repeating her unintelligible directions for the 3rd time, Cornellia might lose her patience and raise her voice in exasperation ... as if increasing the volume might somehow make up for the speech impediment.

At first such outbursts could be scary for the new recruits in the group, as one or more of us took her exclamations as personal criticism and a sure sign that we would never get it, never measure up to her lofty standards. But soon enough we would each come to see that
Cornellia's insistence and persistence were just the outward manifestations of the very deep love she was offering us, her newly rescued waifs. Cornellia didn't want anyone to suffer for another minute if that suffering wasn't necessary, and she certainly didn't want to
waste any time ... hers or ours. After a few more years of studying and trying my best as a teacher to pass along some of what I had learned from Cornellia, I came to see just how many people in my community deal daily with aches and pains and acid reflux and tumors and insulin shots and weakened immune systems and constant fatigue and blocked arteries
and failing nervous systems and deep emotional traumas ... well, the list goes on and on. And it soon dawned on me exactly why Cornellia never rested, why she must have felt there were far too many souls to support. She just didn't have time for long-winded discussions of how
every precious detail of cooking my rice each day could contribute quite a bit over my lifetime of eating it

And I came to understand that Cornellia had faith in us ... she was confident that, eventually, we would each come to understand -- from our own individual experiences and in our bones and in our guts -- exactly why the little things mattered so much over the long haul.

Thanks, Cornellia. Thanks for the 50+ years you worked so hard to gather your experiences of cooking and eating and healing and playing and chanting and exercising and playing and praying and ... well, of just living with awareness that each moment of each day we each create our health and our happiness, or sometimes, sadly, our disease and our
misery. Thanks for trying so desperately to teach me what you had learned after I showed up at your front door with my cholesterol-clogged arteries and a mind equally closed from a lifetime of cheese burgers and vanilla milkshakes and Egg McMuffins and chocolate eclairs and 45-ounce Coca Colas and my Western scientific and agnostic upbringing. Thanks for
the long days and long nights. Thanks for sweating the details.

Oh, and thanks for never giving up on me. Now I know what it feels like to be loved AND trusted at the very same time ... and I don't think there is a sweeter feeling. I promise never to forget what you've shared with me. And every day while I gently warm my rice over the lowest possible flame for exactly twenty minutes, every time I turn the flame to high to bring the cooker up to full pressure, each time I place my flame tamer under the pot so all my grain will cook evenly, I'll think of you. Next time I put the sweet white miso in my shopping cart at
Whole Foods, next time I forego the air conditioning and open the windows wide to let in the fresh air while planning a seasonal menu to naturally cool my body and my mind, next time I slowly brown the tempeh in my cast iron skillet with no trace of poisonous Teflon, next time I
lay my head down on my organic cotton futon and pull the organic cotton sheets over me ... and for as long as I can hold the focus I'll try to forget my trials and tribulations and the challenges that are just a part of everyday life, and I'll recall instead the many, many gifts you and Herman have given me.

Cornellia had a defective heart -- at least that's what the doctors saidagain and again and again. I say maybe they just weren't using the right instruments.


 

 
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