George Ohsawa

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Young Ohsawa in Paris, 1920 Ohsawa (3).jpg
Young Ohsawa in Paris, 1920

George Ohsawa, born Nyoichi Sakurazawa (櫻澤 如一), October 18, 1893 – April 23, 1966, was the founder of the macrobiotic diet. 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. He wrote about 300 books in Japanese and 20 in French. He defined health on the basis of seven criteria: lack of fatigue, good appetite, good sleep, good memory, good humour, precision of thought and action, and gratitude. [1]



Ohsawa was born into a poor samurai family in Shingu City, Wakayama Prefecture. He had no money for higher education. Around 1913, he joined the Shokuiku movement, studying with Manabu Nishibata, a direct disciple of the late Sagen Ishizuka, in Tokyo. William Dufty describes the background ("Nyoiti" is a variant transcription of "Nyoichi"): [2]

The gradual introduction of sugar into the Japanese diet brought in its wake the beginning of Western diseases. A Japanese midwife, trained in the techniques of Western medicine as a nurse, fell ill and was abandoned as incurable by the Western doctors she had espoused. Three of her children died the same way. The fourth, Nyoiti Sakurazawa, rebelled at the notion of dying of tuberculosis and ulcers in his teens. He took up the study of ancient Oriental medicine which had been officially outlawed in Japan. Sakurazawa was attracted to the unorthodox career of a famous Japanese practitioner, Dr. Sagen Ishizuka. Thousands of patients had been cured by Ishizuka (through traditional use of food) after they had been abandoned as incurable by the new medicine of the West.

Ohsawa writes in his books that he cured himself of tuberculosis at the age of 19 by applying the ancient Chinese concept of yin and yang as well as the teachings of Sagen Ishizuka. [3]

Later he traveled in Europe and began to spread his philosophy in Paris. It was in this period that he adopted his pen name "Ohsawa", supposedly from 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. In 1931, he published The Unique Principle explaining the yin and yang order of the universe. [4]

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

In 1961, he wrote Zen Macrobiotic, referring to the macrobiotic diet that had been advocated by Christoph Hufeland in Germany since 1796. Subsequently, the philosophy of Ohsawa has been referred to as Macrobiotics.

While he was in France, Ohsawa wrote a number of books in French, which were published by Vrin Publishers in Paris. Among them were L'Ere Atomique (The Atomic Age), written during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In this book, as in all the books Ohsawa wrote, he devoted considerable space to explaining how macrobiotics can shed light on many social problems as well as the causes of war, and 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. [5]

Ohsawa also created a stir by predicting the deaths of several notable people, including John F. Kennedy [6] based on the condition known in Japan as "sanpaku" (literally "three empty"), a traditional Japanese physiognomic diagnosis in which a white area below as well as to each side of the iris appears when the eye is viewed straight on. This anomaly was considered a sign of extreme fatigue that made one accident-prone and slow to react. Samurai were trained to watch for this feature to assist in determining how formidable an enemy would be in hand-to-hand combat. Sakurazawa Nyoichi used this diagnosis in his teachings and Ohsawa adapted it as a more general diagnostic indication of one's general state of health. The assassination of President Kennedy led Tom Wolfe to write: [7] [8]

Abdul Karim Kassem, Ngo Dinh Diem, and President Kennedy, all sanpaku and, now, shot to death, all destroyed by the fate of the sanpaku, which is more than coincidence and should be an alarm signal to men and nations, say the Macrobiotics, for thus it has been demonstrated by their leader, George Ohsawa, Japanese prophet of the Unique Principle.

This article caught the attention of William Dufty, who, finding relief in the brown rice diet recommended by Ohsawa, became an advocate of macrobiotics, and traveled to Paris to meet with Ohsawa and publisher Felix Morrow. Ohsawa handed Dufty a package, and said, "Here is a lifetime of writing. Do your best with them. It's your turn." [9] In 1965 Morrow's firm, University Books, published Ohsawa's writings under the provocative title You Are All Sanpaku.


Ohsawa died of a heart attack at the age of 74. [10]


The following bibliography of the writings of George Ohsawa is from page 218 of You Are All Sanpaku:

Translations by Ohsawa

Japanese works

See also

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  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. William Dufty (1975), Sugar Blues , page 84
  3. Carl Ferré, ed. (1994). 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.
  4. Georges Ohsawa (1931) The Unique Principle, link from Google Books
  5. G. Ohsawa (2012) L'Ère atomique et la Philosophie d'Extrême-Orient, J. Vrin ISBN   2711641341
  6. Tom Wolfe (18 August 1963) "Kennedy to Bardot, Too Much Sanpaku", New York Herald Tribune
  7. Tom Wolfe (12 January 1964) New York Herald Tribune Sunday Magazine
  8. William Dufty (1965) Introduction to You Are All Sanpaku, page 10
  9. You Are All Sanpaku, page 39
  10. Michio Kushi & Alex Jack (2003) Diet for a Strong Heart: Michio Kushi's Macrobiotic Dietary Guidelines, St. Martin's Griffin.