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Do we need to eat so many Japanese macrobiotic products?


Jane from London saw an advert saying;
"we have over 250 natural macrobiotic products from Japan"

and she asked:

 Do we need to eat Japanese foods in order to be eating a macrobiotic diet ?
 

Can people overdo on Japanese macrobiotic products ?

 Is it profits before what people really need?
 

Isn't macrobiotics about living from local foods and resources ?

Several people below have responded to these questions.

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David Kerr - Christina Cooks - Leila Bakkum - Craig Sams - Carl Ferré - Hiroshi Umemura
Phiya Kushi - Jane Steinberg - Joe Waxman - Angelo Macrocasa - Steven Acuff - Paul Kern
Patrick McCarty - Jean Richardson - Gero Plath - Michael Potter - Roberto Marrocchesi - Denny Waxman

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What are your views ?
e-mail us
!


 

 

 

Do we need to eat Japanese foods in order to be eating a macrobiotic diet?

No, of course not. One ought to eat foods that are local and seasonal, but also consider one's ancestry, condition, constitution and lifestyle. The more perishable (or yin) the food, the more local and seasonal it should be. Ideally, fresh fruits and vegetables would be local and seasonal. With modern transportation, people can get anything, anywhere and any time. (But one may feel cold eating watermelon and bananas in London in the winter.) More yang, staple foods like dried grains and beans, which are inherently designed to survive from year to year for planting, are suitable food around the globe, still considering climate.

Temperate climate grains would be the primary staple for people whose ancestors came from a temperate climate. Some dried foods, like seaweed's, are suitable for most people, most of the time. The ocean covers much of the Earth, and seaweed's are mostly vitamins and minerals. Salt (yang mineral) is nearly universal and not seasonal. We can enjoy Japanese foods because we are from a temperate climate and of temperate ancestry. Personally, I enjoy many ethnic grains and beans of European origin. They feel more familiar to me than Asian foods.

I dearly love Japanese food, but even after nearly 30 years, it does not feel as "familiar." I think the benefit of eating Japanese macrobiotic food is that we can learn alot from traditional foods and diet. I appreciate the balance, presentation, and discipline. In America, much tradition has been lost in the "melting pot." One can also go to some other part of the world and live with indigenous people and eat their traditional diet, to experience non-Japanese macrobiotics. All indigenous people were "macro" before modern society intervened.


Can people overdo on macrobiotic Japanese products?

One can overdo anything!

Is it profits before what people really need? I don't know how this question relates to the topic. If it means that Japanese macrobiotic food is too expensive, then it might be wise to learn how to make your own miso, shoyu, umeboshi, etc. I can't speak for any other than my own business, which provides Japanese macrobiotic food. It involves a lot of hard work for very little profit. The cost of importing food (especially since the American Bioterrorism laws went into effect) is exorbitant. Foreign exchange rates and politics are also factors.

Isn't macrobiotics about living from local foods and resources ?

Absolutely. Grow and make your own, or at least try to know who grows and makes it for you. I would like to see the global food economy scale back to small, local trading villages.

Jean Richardson (Goldmine Natural Foods Co)

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There is no need to use any oriental foods and the macrobiotic diet of Hufeland was European. Zen macrobiotics includes Japanese and Chinese foods but is not limited to them. Marco Polo introduced lots of Chinese foods to Italy 800 years ago and it is fine to do this. We for sure do not have to eat Japanese foods in order to be eating a macrobiotic diet. They do make it seem like they make the best quality food and we got to pay the high prices to get it. They priced me out years ago. For some profits have gotten to be more important than health of people and that is sad. You are thinking about what I have wondered about for years and it is hard to get clear about the truth of the matter. Maybe they should start calling that Japanese diet trip Shoku-yo and stop calling it macrobiotics that would be more honest and historically accurate.

Generally we should eat local & in season. The Japanese make some great health food products and they have their value like Chinese Herbs. Charak Samhita says best medicines came from the mountains. So for cures in extremes we can use special herbs from far away places. On the other hand there is an element of greed that has corrupted the promotion of some of these Japanese products that are called macrobiotic. Also they tend to view salt as a cure all when in fact excess salt shortens life.
Some of the Japanese products took hundreds of years to learn how to manufacture it is an art and deserves more money if it is higher quality.

Daivd Kerr

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Ah, yes, Japanese products for health…not in my book. For me, but you have to understand that, here in the states, I am considered to be on the ‘fringe’ of macrobiotics…for me, macrobiotics is simply whole, unprocessed, seasonal foods cooked in balance with your lifestyle, climate and condition, locally produced when possible…period! I think that the Japanese have given us much in the way of understanding nature and how we fit into the picture…I also think that some Japanese products are priceless to our health…but I think people can surely overdo them…generally they are too salty for us in Europe and America…profits play a large role, as you know, in marketing to people for ‘what they need.’ People’s well-being and true appreciation of nature and our impact on the planet are rarely the first priority in business…that said, it is wonderful to at least be selling foods that can be healthy, as opposed to junk…

I hope this helps a bit…

Christina Cooks

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You do not need to eat strictly Japanese foods in order to be eating a macrobiotic diet. However, there are several products used in the macrobiotic diet that are not available locally.

Everyone's body needs vary, and whether you can "over-do" on macrobiotic Japanese products would depend in an individual's body make-up.

As for profits before what people really need. . . . we are a very small company with a VERY small profit margin. It is extremely expensive to import goods from overseas, and we try to always offer the highest quality items, and we always try to offer organic products when available. Everyone that works at Great Eastern Sun is here because we believe in providing quality products for consumers - we don't work here because we are being paid well!

Typically, one does associate eating the macrobiotic diet with eating locally grown products, but again, there are several items that are not available from local resources. There are foods that we provide that are grown in Japan because the terrain and climate lend themselves to the best growing conditions of the product.

Leila Bakkum (Great Eastern Sun)

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I think a some of the problem stems from an originally poor or confused definition of "macrobiotics." As I mentioned in some of my previous articles, "macrobiotics" should not be used as an adjective to describe a diet, let alone food products. It is simply the art and science (and daily practice) of longevity.

With regards to Japanese food products versus locally grown (unless, obviously, you live in or near Japan) the main factors involved here are far beyond the simple question of going against philosophical principles:

1. The commercial availability of high quality traditional foods
2. Globalization of the Food Industry
3. Economic and Political Power Structures

These days in any cosmopolitan area it is practically impossible to eat locally no matter what kind of diet you follow. Indeed, most available food is part of a vast global economic network that has developed tremendously in the last fifty years since world war II and originally began since the early days of sea-faring colonization. Nowadays, with instant communications and high speed delivery networks, and a global market economy backed by powerful governments that ensure a world entrenched in the dependency of international products; to worry about high quality Japanese food products is ridiculous when compared to the whole global food economy. At this point, any dollar spent in support of high quality traditional foods, no matter what country they are from, is a support to preserve rapidly disappearing traditional practices. This is similar to the fact that buying organic helps resurrect and maintain traditional agricultural practices, not to mention being good for the environment.

Don't worry too much though, traditional Japanese food products are also at the mercy of globalization. When you buy hig quality traditional miso or shoyu from Japan you are also supporting organic grain and soybean farmers in the USA, Canada and Central and South America. What would you prefer the world do? Eat McDonald's hamburgers from hormone and pesticide fed beef grown in Argentina together with French fried potatoes from another part of the world or have traditional processed products from Japan made from organic ingredients from the USA and other places? I suggest people consider finding global solutions facing real people instead of imaginary ones facing so-called imaginary "macrobiotic" people. There is an appropriate quote from an old Japanese movie: Why worry about your beard when your head is about to be cut off?

In other words, the problem is not an either/or situation. It is a situation that calls for the uniform support of all ancient and traditional practices while, at the same time, figuring out how to globalize and feed the rest of the world with higher quality food products.

Thank goodness Japanese makers have been careful to preserve the artistry and craftsmanship of many of their traditional practices for hundreds of years up to now and your dollar helps to support them. If you have any doubts about it then go to Japan and see for yourself; especially now since there is a big threat to the very existence of these traditional Japanese practices from inferior, less expensive but booming Chinese imports into Japan itself.

As far the quality of the food products themselves, the Japanese have mastered the art of fermentation and the natural preservation of everything from grains, beans, vegetables and so on, only to be rivaled by European wine and cheese makers. A simple measure is, if you can travel with it without any refrigeration or other artificial preservative and it still be edible when you get to your destination (with mold and all), then it's good enough to eat. That applies to any food. Like organics: if its good enough for the insects then its good enough for you. In the end, however, what would be better and more efficient is to export the know-how and expand and develop it further. This is a huge opportunity that people like Georges Ohsawa saw and took advantage of and continues to be available today for anyone else interested.

Globalization is a necessary move forward for the planet and yet so is localization and the preservation of time-tested traditional practices. The real question is how to do both with all of humanity winning in the end. It is a question far more interesting and meaningful than trying to adhere to some conceptual principles. And not coincidentally, by tackling the larger problem you've already solved the smaller one. As Yoda would say: Do or do not. There is no try. In other words: Do "MACRO"-biotics (think and live big) or Do Not. There is no try. Be the principle instead of trying to live by them.

It is a self-destructive illusion to divide the world between an "us" vs. "them" (and it is that particular way of thinking that perpetuates the problems, small and large, which we continue to face - and create - in the world today.) It is all "us." In case you haven't noticed, the name of the biggest game in town is the survival and development of humanity. Are you game?


Phiya Kushi


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I think there has been at least a partial misunderstanding. We do promote the fact that we have 250 different macrobiotic quality foods, but only 70 of them are imported from Japan. That's 28% of the 250.
Japanese Traditional Foods such as these that Eden offers:

Brown Rice Udon 100% Kuzu Noodles, Mung Bean Pasta 100% Rice PastaSoba 100% Buckwheat Soba
Lotus Root Soba Mugwort Soba, Jinenjo Soba, Hot Pepper Sesame Oil,Toasted Sesame Oil Brown Rice Vinegar, Ume Plum Vinegar Furikake Sesame Shake, Bonito Flakes Dried Tofu
Shredded Diakon Pickled Diakon Radish, Kuzu Root Starch, Lotus Root Slices, Maitake Mushrooms Sliced Shiitake Mushrooms, Whole Shiitake Mushrooms, Pickled Ginger Shiso Leaf powder,Tekka Umeboshi Plums
Umeboshi paste Wasabi powder, Shoyu Soy Sauce 3 kinds, Tamari soy sauce, Mirin cooking wine
Ponzu sauce, Genmai Miso, Hacho Miso, Mugi Miso, Shiro Miso, Natto Miso
Agar Agar bars Agar Agar flakes, Arame, Hiziki, Kombu Nori, Sushi Nori, Wakame leaf,Wakame flakes Bancha tea, Kukicha tea Genmaicha tea, Hojicha tea Lotus Root tea, Mu#16 tea, Matcha powder, green tea
Mochi Rice Crackers Brown Rice Chips, Brown Rice Crackers Sea Vegetable Chips
Nori Maki Crackers Vegetable Chips, Wasabi Chips Kombu Balls, Bifa-15 bifodophilus supplement, Ume Plum Balls,Ume Plum Concentrate, Dandelion Root Extract, Dentie Toothpaste
Dentie Tooth Powder.

Further unlock and make available the wonderful nourishment and healing power of the vegetable kingdom.Many of them are useful to those attempting to heal or recover from maladies / illness, and they are delightful.

Supporting the artisans that produce these is nurturing human evolution, health and happiness.
Yes, living on local foods and resources is wise. Cultivating and supporting local resources has been the backbone of our efforts here at Eden Foods for the past thirty-five years. Most of what we offer people
is locally produced. In the cases of sea vegetables, soy sauces, and misos the most local sources for these for us here in Michigan of the type of quality that we seek is still Japan. In the case of the misos
and soy sauces, we ship locally grown soybeans to Japan and then import them back as finished goods. If this was possible locally we'd do it, but it's not at this time. I look forward to the day that it is. Sea
Vegetables, at least some of them, I see coming to us from Japan for the foreseeable future. The quality, know how, and techniques for producing these will not be approximated in North America in my life
time.

We use these foods because they delight and help us achieve our goals. Macrobiotics is not national. It is personal and spiritual. The Japanese culture just so happens to have refined certain aspects of food preparation beyond any other. It is important that some of this beauty be transplanted and nurtured into our youthful culture in the U.S.A. The culture here is astonishingly naive when it comes to food.

Michael Potter (Chairman and President of Eden Foods)

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I am not sure what "profits before people" means. Finely crafted foods, using the highest quality ingredients, passed down through a family for centuries is hard to compare with a more mass produced product. In the same way that personally cooked meals using these ingredients is going to cost more than a restaurant meal. Many Western societies lost the traditional methods due to wars and diasporas, something that Japan was sheltered from for many years. Their family, yuuki and small businesses kept developing in a time honored and labor intensive path. Many western companies are stepping up to create excellent products: Clearspring and Kendall come to mind. In some cases these Western products are very good...in many cases they are in the early stages of developing a great food and it will take
more time. It is always best to use local resources, but it is acceptable if the food come from the same climate zone, looked at as a band that circles the globe.

Many of our chefs are creating some fine recipes for the Western palate: Kramer, MCarthy, McAteer, Nelisson, Porter and many more....but the highest quality ingredient really makes the difference in a dish both from taste and an energetic feel. If it is a Japanese product like Miso, Shoyu, Takuan, umeboshi or Hokkaido beans that will make the difference in my dishes for me and my clients, then that is what i will use. These are the seasonings, the flavors of my dishes...my vegetables, my grains, my beans are from my countryor my temperate climate. I think it is a nice balance.

Jane Steinberg

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No, we do not have to eat Japanese foods to be macrobiotic. The basis of macrobiotics is whole grains and vegetables. These can come completely from your backyard.

The use of some Japanese products such as natural shoyu, miso, umeboshi and others have very important uses in a macrobiotic diet. They can only help someone regain and maintane their health if used accurately. Furthermore, with such heavy pollution of every kind in our modern world, these Japanese products may even be necessary to really keep our health. They have the greatest ability to neutralize and discharge heavy toxins and radiation. Generally, we can not have the strongest health without certain Japanese products. Why not use them?

Even though the prices may be higher than other foods, if we really know the value, then it doesn't seem too expensive. I would rather give that money to a food company than to a hospital. Are they too expensive? How much is your health worth?

The Japanese have developed and refined these products for thousands of years. We may even be able to improve on them if we make them in the West. Japan has certainly improved on Western technology. Every part of the world has something unique to offer the rest of the world. Why not use all of it?
We can only gain. Thanks for asking. I have given this some thought, and will continue to do so.

Joe Waxman

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- Do we need to eat Japanese foods in order to be eating a macrobiotic diet?

We think you do not need to adhere only to Japanese foods. Japanese traditional eating habits had been meeting macrobiotics naturally. (Japanese usually implement a macrobiotic diet without knowing it.)
For this reason, we think Japanese foods have many advantages as macrobiotic diet. Please see: http://www.muso-intl.co.jp/ENGLISH/Macrobi/Macrobi1.html We recommend to take traditional food styles but do not insist on Japanese foods.

In a hot country, India, people have been eating spicy foods like Curry (Ying) to cool down the body.
It does make sense from a macrobiotic point of view. But adhering only to Japanese foods there, does not meet a macrobiotic.

- Can people over-do on macrobiotic Japanese products?


Over- doing is no good for anything. The balance of food is important but the style is not.

- Is it profits before what people really need?

Both are important. We cannot meet needs without profits as business.

- Isn't macrobiotics about living from local foods and resources ?

It is true that the ideals for macrobiotic are "local production for local consumption".
However, world economy has been globalized and it is impossible to keep "local" nowadays. Also, it is very difficult to find foods free from chemical additives these days. In this situation, we think that providing good quality macrobiotic food is our company mission.

We recommend to people to eat local foods in season, especially fundamental foods like grains and vegetables. Our main export products are Japanese traditional seasonings like Shoyu, Tamari and Miso which are produced by Japanese tradition and climate. No one can produce the same product in quality outside Japan. We think these seasonings cannot be a staple food but can coexist with local fundamental foods. If people enjoy Miso soup more instead of chicken broth soup, it would be more "macrobiotic".

Hiroshi Umemura (QC of MUSO Co., Ltd. Japan)

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No, we don't have to eat Japanese food to be macrobiotic!!!! There are SOME Oriental foods such as miso, seaweed, maybe ume plums that are definitely worth including in one's diet but ,apart from that, I think that too much Japanese food would, how can I say,tone down my cultural identity as an Italian and this, in my opinion is NOT Macrobiotics!!!! Macrobiotics, from a dietary point of view, is the ability to eat all what my environment is offering me using the principles of Yin and Yang or, if you prefer,
the principles of expansion and contraction.
Unfortunately I think that often, even in our Community, profit comes before, needs.

Angelo Macrocasa from Italy

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Do we need to eat Japanese foods in order to be eating a macrobiotic diet?

Japanese sea vegetables are the best – well prepared, carefully washed and packed (think nori and hiziki particularly). But I don’t see any reason why European producers couldn’t do as well. With sea pollution increasing everywhere the primary concern should be the quality of the seawater in which the vegetables are grown. Wasabi can be replaced with horseradish. Shoyu and miso are good for umami flavours and the mellowing that takes place during long fermentation's probably makes them better than quick and dirty methods of getting glutamic acid, but it’s still pretty close to msg. If you’re deficient in intestinal flora, there are far more effective ways of boosting the population. Whole grains and vegetables are the core, not eating to much is the hardest thing for most people. Quantity is the issue people tend to avoid by focusing on quality.

Can people overdo on macrobiotic Japanese products?

People can overdo anything. Each to his own. It’s a lot harder to overdo macrobiotic products than junk products such as burgers, coke, ice cream, booze or nightshades like tomatoes or cigarettes.

Isn't macrobiotics about living from local foods and resources ?

Yes, but it’s also about enjoying tea and cocoa and other foods that don’t grow in our region. We shouldn’t really be living in Northern Europe, unless we exist on seal blubber and rabbit meat, but the Gulf Stream has made it habitable and here we are. The first Hokkaido pumpkins came from Massachusetts, via Commodore Perry, to Yokohama and then to Hokkaido, then to Belgium, then to England. There are all sorts of strong and self-interested health, social and economic reasons to support a local economy – but health should come first.

Is it profits before what people really need?

When people can make profits it indicates that there is demand. There are people making profits from processing products like miso and seaweed in the UK. I find the implicit utilitarianism of the question worrying – we aren’t in Mao’s China now, perhaps we should be, given current rates of overconsumption of resources, but let’s get it into perspective and not become obsessively frugal. The macrobiotic way puts justice first and to worry that a few producers in Japan or importers in Europe are making profits by supplying Japanese commodities is to focus on the wrong issues. Apart from anything else, because Japanese products are commodities nowadays, there is little profit to be had from them. That’s one reason I stopped importing from Japan in the early 1980s – there was more money and less competition doing products that appealed to macrobiotics but weren’t standard undifferentiated (and undifferentiatable) kuzu, shoyu, miso and nori.

Just for your interest - I stopped using umeboshi some time ago, just pick a harvest of sloes every autumn and salt them. They are just as good as umeboshi, perform exactly the same function, virtually indistinguishable in a kuzu or arrowroot gel. The UK equivalent is wild service berries, which people used to pick whole branches of in the autumn, then hang in the kitchen and people would eat when they needed the sorbic acid, 'ratted' by hanging.

Craig Sams

 

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Do we need to eat Japanese foods in order to be eating a macrobiotic diet?

I don't think anyone would seriously answer yes. Japanese foods increase the variety of possibilities with macrobiotic cooking, which many people appreciate. Some Japanese foods like miso have long since been produced in the West. Is American or European miso a Japanese food? I have made miso from common Swedish beans. Some seaweeds are Japanese, others are Irish, French, American and Canadian.

When I toured Japan and its organic food production many years ago, some of the producers of these foods expressed to me their sincere gratitude to their Western macrobiotic customers. They told me that before Western interest in their foods they kept production going because it was a family tradition they were proud of. They said that in the post-war era of Japan the Japanese people had lost interest in good qualtiy and wanted food only as cheap as possible. One elderly man told me his family and friends were the only consumers of his products for several years.


Can we overdo the Japanese products?

Yes, we can. We can also overdo the avoidance of them.

Are profits more important than people?

Most of the producers of Japanese macrobiotic foods are small companies, even family businesses. Obviously top quality costs more than mass produced and the strong Japanese curency has not helped matters either. When I knew Mr. Kazama of the Japanese distributor Mitoku in the 80s, he was running
that macrobiotic food business more as a hobby, while his real income came from the other business he had.


Is macrobiotics about local products?

Yes, it is partly, but it is also about free-thinking. The Japanese have adopted a lot more from our food culture than we will ever take from theirs. I like several Japanese specialties and would not consider dropping that enjoyment because of ideology. I used to lecture in East Germany and Czechoslovakia under Communist rule. Those people were forced by the situation to eat only locally grown foods. I admired their dedication to continue without the delicious seasonings such as umeboshi and tamari.

Steven Acuff


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Some very interesting and important questions, but honestly,
I feel unable to answer them.

What I can say is that Mitoku is exporting now for over 25 years traditional Japanese products. A lot of them are made by small family-run companies which would probably not exist anymore if macrobiotics all over the world did not buy them. Often, the quality is exceptional and cannot be compared with similar products manufactured in Europe or elsewhere. This is not only due to different manufacturing methods but also because of the unique climate in Japan (hot, humid summers and cold, dry winters).

I believe a company which is involved in the business part of macrobiotics should not answer these questions. Maybe a macrobiotic teacher or the Kushi Institute would be in a better position to answer these questions.

Gero Plath (International Division-Mitoku Japan)

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It could be, the Japanese know they work with very high standards of quality. Unbeatable. It sounds racist and it probably is, but quality-wise they have the best. We could try to beat, but my guess is we better stick to make good Ferraris, fashion shoes, wine & olive oil (we Italians, that is) and each country has unique features or products that are unbeatable in their own field. I go nuts for English oatmeal porridge, lager beer, and elegance.

It's not important, they may if they wish, we already do with coffee, spices, drugs, tropical fruits, Chinese or Indian products of all sorts. However, with Japanese foods. We have a cost problem, and THAT is going to be the limiting factor.

Is it profits before what people really need?

Yes, but so it is with just about everything in this world. One can really do Macrobiotics simply and cheaply if he/she is ingenious and yang enough, but are we so needy? ask our east Europe macro friends.

Roberto Marrocchesi (from Italy)

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Do we need to eat Japanese foods in order to be eating a macrobiotic diet?

NO. Yet there is nothing else that is strong and effective as miso and umeboshi.

Can people overdo on macrobiotic Japanese products?

If by overdo you mean use only Japanese items and think this makes it MB, the answer is YES. But I don't consider having miso soup daily overdoing it. (Having to have FU, TEKKA, and some of the hard to get stuff, is a bit much! - although I like these products, I don't use them much - maybe 1-2 x per year)


Is it profits before what people really need?

I don't think it is motivated by profits. With the Yen exchange rate, Japanese products are just plain expensive (many years ago this was not the case). Perhaps it is more the case of over zealous to use products that are (were) recommended by Japanese teachers that we respect.

Isn't macrobiotics about living from local foods and resources ?

YES!


Patrick McCarty

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First, your questions reveal a basic understanding of macrobiotic and I feel you knew the answers to all the questions before sending them in the first place. And, having glanced at some of the responses already posted such as the one from Jean Richardson, I believe you have some very valuable information on which to base your current thinking. Still, I believe something is missing.

If you had attended Ohsawa’s school and had asked him these questions, he would have asked you to answer for yourself without copying from anyone else, including his own writing. In other words, his goal was to teach people to learn to think for themselves. If one made a mistake it could lead that person to greater understanding and thus there was/is no wrong answer. He might say, “try it for yourself and see.”

Looking at the questions themselves, the answer to the first one may be different depending on each person’s condition and purpose. One following a macrobiotic diet for health reasons may find that she or he “needs” foods of a certain quality that are only available from Japan, or any other country for that matter, at one time or another.

One practicing macrobiotics to raise his or her judgment may need “Japanese foods” at one time and not at other times. The same could be said for those using a macrobiotic diet for gaining happiness, for elevating consciousness, for overcoming fear, for finding freedom, and/or for any other purpose. Thus, I believe determining one’s purpose is necessary in order to answer the question fully. Second, I recommend listening to your intuitive voice.

Macrobiotics is about freedom, not enslavement. Thus, I would caution against any one overdoing, or becoming too dependent, on any food, Japanese or otherwise. Ohsawa said it plainly, “quantity kills quality.” My personal interest is in seeing macrobiotics presented in a more liberating and unlimited way. Lists of “foods to eat” and “foods to avoid” are okay at the beginning but at some point each person needs to graduate from such lists and to include as wide a variety of foods as her or his condition and purposes allow.

What is your life worth? What is happiness worth? No one that I know is getting rich teaching macrobiotics or selling “Japanese foods.” If you really need the food for life or happiness I would suggest being grateful that it is available and paying the price with great joy so that others may benefit from such quality food.

The final question does raise one of the basic principles of macrobiotics – eating local foods. The magazine, Macrobiotics Today, is presenting some of the core teachings of macrobiotics and discussions about these teachings in each issue starting with the May/June 2005 issue. To paraphrase Herman Aihara, “One is healthy and strong when living on the products of one’s nearby surroundings, ideally by growing one’s own food.” This does not mean, however, that non-local foods are to be excluded when needed or useful for one’s purpose.

In closing, those who grow local organic food deserve our support as do those who produce good-quality, special-use foods from Japan or any other country. Consider Ohsawa’s description of eating according to Supreme Judgment, “eating anything one wants with great joy and gratitude.” I wish you well in your continued practice.

Carl Ferré
G O M F

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We hope you grow a big garden or at least have a co-op or natural food store to provide fresh grains and vegetables of approximately the same latitude. Although you can be macrobiotic, eat well and be healthy without any Japanese foods, some are highly recommended, particularly seaweed and miso. Both of these are produced in countries besides Japan, but the Japanese are the best. Seaweed found in every Chinese market is typically of wretched quality. The best seaweeds, from Japanese companies like Mitoku, are grown in clean waters and harvested at their peak, carefully, so you get the best quality and no contaminants. Pricey? How much do you use? And it swells greatly when soaked and cooked. Not only in the winter, when organic produce may come from far away, be expensive and not so fresh, but also in summer, seaweed adds a rich combination of easily assimilated minerals and nutrients to maintain balance and vitality, and you’re not eating bowls of it, just small amounts, pennies per day. What’s good health worth? Look what you spend on … well, we won’t get into that.

Miso Master (made in USA) makes a good, every day, inexpensive, traditional unpasteurized barley miso, but the miso from several of Japan’s families has been patiently, carefully crafted by hand for centuries. Many pasteurized, commercial misos are used only for flavor and they can render savory even the poorest cook’s soup, but I’m referring only to traditional, high quality unpasteurized miso which makes not only good soup but good health. Among other things, these misos chelate heavy metal ions (thus aiding their excretion). These unpasteurized misos also establish a beneficial culture of microorganisms in the intestines which greatly aids assimilation, synthesis and is integral in the formation of healthy blood. I know of no other practical source of these microorganisms. The effect of these misos on your health is dramatic, not subtle, and certain Japanese ones are the best. Expensive? Again, how much do you use? A tablespoon per day? For even the spendiest miso, that’s less than 50 cents per day for a dramatic improvement to your health.

Virtually every culture has foods and aspects worth considering. While at the Kushi Institute, several cooks alternated in the planning and preparation of meals. Two of them were Japanese, Myume (MY-OO-MAY) and Mariko. I could always tell when they cooked. The food, although simple, was always more delicious and deeply satisfying. Profound! Amazing! I still wonder how they did it, but I’m sure it had something to do with their Japanese cultural heritage. I dearly miss them.

Paul Kern

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Macrobiotics is a Traditionally Based Diet by Denny Waxman

Macrobiotics is a traditionally based diet, not a traditional one. It is based on the traditional diets of the world's long standing cultures. Macrobiotics has its dietary roots in the Far East, Middle East, India, Eastern and Western Europe, Africa and the United Kingdom. We have combined the unique foods from each area along with the cooking styles that are appropriate to where we live.

The traditional grains of the U. K., barley, oats and wheat are regularly used in the standard macrobiotic diet. Sourdough from Europe is also frequently included. Cous-cous from the Middle East and North Africa, pasta from the Far East and Italy and corn from the Americas are a few more examples.

We use azuki beans from Japan, lentils from Europe and chickpeas from the Middle East. We also use sea vegetables that were traditionally eaten in all coastal regions and island countries, not only in Japan. Historically, regular pilgrimages were undertaken to gather sea vegetables and sea salt. Sea vegetables are now harvested in many places around the world. We use sauerkraut and other brine pickles from Europe and umeboshi plums and daikon radish pickles from Japan-and the list goes on.

The modern macrobiotic diet seems more Japanese because of the use of certain traditional Japanese products and cooking styles that are used on a regular or occasional basis. These include unique soy products such as miso, shoyu, tofu, sea vegetables, umeboshi plums and vinegar.

Do we need to eat Japanese foods in order to be eating a macrobiotic diet?

No, we do not! Does it make sense to include them? Yes, it does. They add a unique nutritional value that makes it easier to practice a vegan style of macrobiotics, if we choose. These foods also have the ability to enhance the flavor of our cooking. For example, hummus, from the Middle East is commonly eaten as part of the American macrobiotic diet. Over the years, at various gatherings, I have observed that hummus made with umeboshi paste or vinegar is often preferred over the commercial variety. Hummus is more delicious when made with umeboshi, even to someone not familiar with macrobiotic foods. I have seen barbecued corn served with a dip made from umeboshi paste, rice syrup and shoyu devoured by people who said they would never go near macrobiotic food.

Can people over-do on Japanese macrobiotic products?

Anything can be overdone.

Isn't macrobiotics about living from local foods and resources?

Ideally, yes. It is best to choose from the highest quality, locally produced foods available. But remember that for the best health, we need to create a balance between the highest quality foods and what is locally available. For example, if the ground water in our locality is polluted, it is best to choose water from elsewhere but as close to home as is feasible.

In the practice of macrobiotics, there is an order to choosing foods. Country of origin is paramount. It is more important than where a food can be grown or is processed. When we live in a temperate climatic zone, it is best to choose daily foods that originate in the same or a similar climatic zone. For example, although potatoes and tomatoes are grown in North America, they originated in the Andes Mountains, in a tropical environment. Tropical foods are used more selectively than temperate foods.

More perishable foods, those foods with a high water content that lose their freshness quickly, such as fruits and vegetables, are best grown or gathered as close to home as possible. Foods that can be stored for longer periods of time, such as sea salt, sea vegetables, well-aged pickles and fermented foods, grains and beans, can be chosen from further away. When we require foods that originate further from home, we choose those from east or west of where we are living, not from north or south where climatic differences are more dramatic. If we live in the Northern Hemisphere, it is important not to choose foods from the Southern Hemisphere. The magnetic charge which creates the basic structure of food is opposite in both hemispheres.

Is it profits before what people really need?

As far as I can see, all of the companies selling commonly used macrobiotic food products are making high quality, simply processed food widely available. In my opinion, health is the motivating factor for these companies.

 
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