This is in response to the recent article
"The Kushis Have Cancer"
The first book that Michio Kushi wrote was published
in 1977 and was "The Book Of Macrobiotics."
Books on macrobiotics published in the 1960s in the
US were written by Georges Ohsawa and include "You
are All Sanpaku", "Zen Macrobiotics",
"Guidebook For Living" among others. After
1977 Michio and Aveline and their students wrote many
other books on a wide variety of topics. In addition,
Michio and Aveline started the East West Journal in
1971 that helped to launch the alternative health movement
and made persons such as Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Christiane
Northrup, Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins and many others
The fact that the Kushi's have had cancer has never
been "swept under the rug" and has been spoken
openly by Michio and myself at seminars held by the
Kushi Institute. You can read an account of Michio talking
about his own health challenges here: http://www.phiya.com/b2/phiyablog.php?p=55
. Upon Aveline's passing I personally spoke every week
for three years at the Kushi Institute's renowned week-long
"Way Health Program" talking openly and honestly
to all newcomers. Addressing her passing resulting in
my formulating the "Four
Areas Of Concern for A Successful Macrobiotic Practice"
These areas of concern for success have remained consistent
among those who fail and succeed in addressing health
issues with macrobiotics.
There is a fallacy in presenting the "Kushi"
approach as rigid with, for example, no raw salad or
as using too much salt. Such an opinion demonstrates
a superficial understanding of macrobiotics as taught
by the Kushis. I can only imagine that Roger only wishes
to put down one approach to promote his own. It is a
common self-serving practice. He is not the first one
to do it, nor do I expect him to be the last one to
His statement: "Traditional Japanese macrobiotics
is too limited, uncreative, boring, and just not enough
fun! This is based almost completely on Japanese diet
and culture, and just doesn't translate well to the
western world. In fact it doesn't even translate well
in Asia." shows a limited knowledge of Japanese
foods and the present Japanese macrobiotic movement
and it fails to explain why there is such a boom in
Japanese restaurants around the world.
Regarding supplements: humanity did not regularly use
supplements until the 20th century when dietary patterns
changed from whole natural foods to include more refined
grains and other highly processed foods that were stripped
of their original nutrients. A goal of the macrobiotic
approach is to recover the traditional dietary patterns
that humanity subsisted on for millions of years and
had only recently changed in the past 100 years.
But for those facing serious illnesses, supplements
and even conventional medical treatments are not ruled
out to improve their health with macrobiotics with the
ultimate goal of being able to live free of any type
of drug, treatment and supplement much like animals
in the wild do and indegenous populations used to.
Really vigorous exercise for already healthy people
is more a personal choice that revolves around food
choices than it is a requirement for good health. The
more one eats, the more exercise he/she will need. The
less someone eats then he/she will not need as much
physical activity to eliminate the excess. It really
depends on what one wishes to do with their life. There
are no "shoulds" in the Kushi's macrobiotic
teaching, there are only guidelines which are to be
modified by each person and in accordance with their
own situation and desire.
I suggest Roger read more of Michio's books as well
as attend his lectures and those by his students when
ever he can in order gain a full understanding of macrobiotics.
Roger seems to embody all that is NOT macrobiotic,
and I'm referring to macrobiotic principles. His voice
and writing seems devoid of gratitude with very questionable
worship for all that is scientific and anything that
will give him more public credibility, from which, in
the end, seems more about finance, that is, making it,
rather than really helping others and not being controversial
just for controversy's sake.
And, many of us have been saying (and writing) the same
thing for years that Roger is acting like a self-appointed
sole and passionate messenger about; that macrobiotics
needs revolutionizing and revamping for Americans. However,
many of us still make some effort to keep our gratitude
If you really look at Michio's teachings, he always
emphasized the universality of macrobiotics, from culture
to culture, so to hear someone, indeed, someone who
claims to have an inside track on macrobiotics (who
else would write a book on MB for Americans?) say that
macrobiotics is an "Asian diet," comes off
as a low blow and superficial in judgment.
I wanted to respond immediately to Roger's article
about Japanese macrobiotics as it raises many interesting
points for discussion. I have questioned the following
of a Japanese diet myself, particularly as I believe
many of us may adapt better to a macrobiotic diet that
is related more closely to our cultural background.
For myself, that background is half Yugoslav and half
English. The Yugoslav side interested
me most as I did not experience traditional cooking
growing up. I bought Mina Dobic's book looking for clues,
and also started doing some research on the internet.
What is interesting to me, is that many European cultures
had a diet that incorporates whole grains, vegetables,
fruits (including some 'forbidden' ones), yogurt, fish
if coastal, and very small amounts of meat. Many European
cultures also incorporated fermented foods such as yogurt
For me, what was lacking in an otherwise wonderful philosophy/diet
is the inclusion of marvellous things like fresh herbs,
yogurt etc... For me the diet part of macrobiotics simply
means eating fresh local food in season, and according
to the traditions we have inherited.
I am a long term vegetarian, so the meat/fish part
I just exclude. I do however, include a lot more nuts
than Japanese macrobiotics recommends because almonds,
walnuts etc.. grow beautifully where I live (the New
England region of New South Wales, Australia). I can
honestly say that both of my kids are absolutely thriving
and we get many comments on their beautiful skin and
hair, and their
health in general.
I would love other practitioners to respond with how
they have adapted their diet to their own culture -
I think this could be very enriching for all of us to
hear. I was intrigued by the comment that bancha has
loads of caffeine. and would love to see the scientific
evidence to support this.
I have never experienced the effects of too much caffeine
(headache, jitteriness etc )no matter how much bancha
I consume. I thought it was a shame that Roger felt
the need to suggest Aveline Kushi may have had bad habits
or marriage troubles which led to her cancer. Life is
a challenging adventure and few of us can honestly say
that we don't from time to time do things to help us
cope that may not be
for our highest good (Michio's coffee and cigarettes
On the other hand, I certainly would have been greatful
for more openness from the Kushi's about their health
troubles simply because I am sure we could all learn
from their experiences. But let's remember to respond
with compassion, not judgement.
Finally, it is worth noting that the longest living
people in the world today are those living a traditional
lifestyle in Okinawa. There are many, many factors influencing
their longevity, but one of those factors is most certainly
dietary practices which strongly mirror those recommended
by the Kushis. I also read about a French woman who
lived to be 113. A peaceful village life, and cycling
well past the age of 100 are
mentioned as factors influencing her longevity. But,
she also consumed red wine daily, as well as dairy products
among other things. Food for thought.
I would be really happy to hear others comment.
Madeleine Lawrence (Armidale, Australia)
Just a quick reply to Roger Mason's article:
For someone who has penned a book on macrobiotics, and
forgive me for saying so, you do not seem to have much
of a grasp of the subject. That fact becomes blatantly
apparent to anyone reading your article who has navigated
this path for any length of time.
I would normally not take someone to task for presenting
themselves as an authority on macrobiotics when it is
apparent that is not the case. However, this case is
different in that you invoke the Kushi family name and
comment on their misfortune as if you are speaking on
behalf of macrobiotics in general.
If you really understood macrobiotics and had studied
with Michio you would realize that the only life, and
more importantly, the only death you have to worry about
is your own. Michio was nothing but a messenger and
bearer of gifts from a long forgotten world. What is
important at the end of the day is how we make use of
those gifts and ancient wisdom to empower us on our
journey through Infinity.
For most of us it was never about the idolization or
deification of Michio or Ohsawa. We each have our cross
to bear and that holds true for our teachers and mentors.
What unites us as macrobiotic practitioners is our common
humanity and attempt to unconceal the underlying order
and elegance of the universe so that we can live a life
of possibility and, dare I say, magic.
As Michio used to remind us over and over again we have
come from Infinity, we live within Infinity and we shall
return to Infinity. There are no exceptions.
I read Roger Mason's posting. I've also read many of
his booklets. Time and time again Mr. Mason exposes
his lack of knowledge of modern macrobiotics. I don't
know where he gets his information about macrobiotics
but it is at least 40 years out of date.
And his writings are filled with biased statements about
the Japanese such as "Japanese people are generally
secretive and keep their affairs close to their chest."
And he still thinks of macrobiotics as "Japanese
macrobiotics." What is he talking about? He needs
to fast forward, get out of his Japanese-bashing rut,
and learn about macrobiotics as it is being taught today.
He says that macrobiotics aspires to a 100% whole grain
diet and doesn't include green or yellow vegetables.
Really? For someone who fashions himself a scientific-minded
person, he needs to do better when it comes to the facts.
He states that no one in macrobiotics fasts and no one
does vigorous exercise. Huh? This man
must be a hermit in a cave who hasn't been to a macrobiotic
gathering, class or spoken to a macrobiotic teacher
of the last two decades. Go to the French Meadows Summer
Camp in California and see if there is not vigorous
Yes, Aveline and Michio Kushi both developed cancer.
Was this a shock to the macrobiotic world? Yes, of course.
Why did this happen? Who among us will ever know for
sure? We can have our opinions. Whose will be the right
one? And does it matter?
In my opinion, Michio and Aveline did more good for
more people and the natural foods movement through their
years of dedication to their work than they did harm
by getting cancer. Am I saying that we should not question
why they got cancer?
No. It's normal to wonder about it. Everyone is free
to explore this if they wish. But, in my opinion, the
macrobiotic principles are not bound to any particular
teacher and his or her personal life and personal practice
of macrobiotics. What someone does with the macrobiotic
principles, even if a popular teacher, is their own
personal choice. Who am I to judge them?
In my opinion, Roger Mason would really benefit in updating
his understanding of modern macrobiotics as
taught in America by American teachers for Americans.
I still find it odd that he would title his publication,
Zen Macrobiotics for Americans, and then go ranting
about how macrobiotics is too Japanese.
What could be more foreign and Japanese-sounding to
Americans than the word "Zen?" I can appreciate
his wanting to explore macrobiotics and ask questions
of it, but the first step, it seems to me, is knowing
what you are talking about before you can intelligently
question and critique it. The macrobiotics he describes
is something I don't recognize as being taught by the
majority of macrobiotic teachers today.
I invite Roger Mason to any of my courses in order to
learn about macrobiotics as it is currently practiced.
In turn, I would hope to learn something from him about
what he teaches in regards to supplements. He seems
to know a lot about them.
In response to "Why the Kushis Have Cancer,"
I would advise all people interested in the healthiest
ways of eating to read these two books: "The China
Study" by T. Colin Campbell, the largest study
of diet and health ever done on a human population,
plus a review of nutrition studies done since the late
60s. The New York Times calls this study "the Grand
Prix of Epidemiology."
The other book is "Healthy at 100, the Scientifically
Proven Secrets of the World's Healthiest and Longest-Lived
Peoples" by John Robbins. Of the four cultures
studiedand they are all similar in their eating,
exercise and living habitsthe Okinawans of Japan
have the longest disability-free lives planet-wide.
On page 57, you'll see the chart on "How the traditional
diets of these long-lived cultures are remarkably similar."
On page 90, there's an excellent chart "Comparing
the Diets of Americans and Okinawan Elders." You
see there that the Okinawans eat 34% vegetables, 32%
grains, 12% traditional soyfoods, 11% fish, 6% fruit,
3% meat/poultry/eggs, and 2% dairy products.
I'm so glad the Kushis were my teachers and that they
just happen to be Japanese. They taught us why and how
to base our diet on grains and vegetables, and what
traditional soyfoods are, and I'm forever grateful.
Suggesting that clients in counseling and cooking classes
read these books adds a reality-based quality to what
I have just read Rogers article on Michio and
Aveline. I do not often feel compelled to write a response,
but I surely do this time around. First I marvel at
how many times Roger makes a reference to how little
he knows about the personal lives of Michio and Aveline
and yet he sets himself up as their judge as not being
good examples of the macrobiotic way of living.
His lack of knowledge of their intimate lives and health
leaves me wondering what his ultimate agenda might be
here. Does discrediting Michio and Aveline and their
way of life make him feel more secure in his own choices?
Does it give him permission to alter his practice of
natural living to suit him? Please understand that there
is no need of this. If anyone has studied with Michio
on any level, you know that he has always taught us
to think for ourselves, to judge what works for us,
that we have free choice and must adapt the way we live
and eat to our own needs.
Michio and Aveline, for all the years that I knew them
had a vision for humanity that can not be called into
question. He never set himself up as a god or saviour
of mankind. He is a philosopher who has the idea that
we can change the course of life and disease with food.
If we hold him in a god-like position, that is our
and if we do that, then of course, we will
be disappointed when he shows himself to be human and
to have flaws and habits that may not be best for him
anyone. To suggest that he has swept his illness under
the rug is preposterous. He has spoken openly many times,
as did Aveline. And to insult her as a human woman with
suggestions that her bad habits and bad marriage led
to her death is beneath human dignity
beneath the lifestyle we say that we live.
Macrobiotics is simply a natural way of living, creating
the most balanced space you can in your environment.
It is a beautiful way to live that can help us to heal,
not only from disease, but as humans. It is also not
just a Japanese way of eating or preparing food. All
world cultures ate seasonal, whole, unprocessed foods
at one time and all we need to do is embrace our own
ancestry and we will find our way, macrobiotically-speaking.
It just so happens that Michio and Aveline (and Ohsawa)
were Japanese and with that culture comes a way of thinking
that is very different from the West. So it is up to
us to find our own voices and speak our own truths
we perceive them from the teachers who came before us.
The wisdom of the East has value that can not be disputed
and many of us have learned to adapt and alter theories
so that they are more comfortable for Westerners. If
we find the practice of macrobiotics to be boring, we
need to look at the way we practice it.
Personally, I do not agree with all that I have learned
within my macrobiotic lifestyle. I studied, experienced
and moved my practice to a place where it works for
me and that is what I teach my students to do as well.
I believe in rigorous exercise (not to rid us of excess,
but to make and keep us strong and vital). I believe
that our modern food supply has been seriously compromised
and that most people require supplementation as a result.
I also think that with aging, we may need to supplement
as our ability to assimilate nutrients slows.
I also love and respect Michio. I have learned so much
from him. I use that knowledge day after day. I have
never found him to be secretive, arrogant or judgemental
of my choices. He has always been a great supporter
of every risk, adventure, new way of doing things and
experiment that I have tried. With all that I have learned
from him, the most important lesson was that he was
just like us, with frailties and flaws. He was my teacher
and I respect him, but I have never placed him in a
position of power over my life.
Perhaps that is why I am never disappointed when he
shows himself to be all too human
just like us.
Rather than judge Avelines life and Michios
path, we should learn from the wisdom he so generously
shared. I, for one, would not be doing what I am doing
so successfully without the understanding he guided
Lets stop sniping at each other and work together
to help humanity find its way to health and peace, in
whatever small way we can.