Michio Kushi has helped guide humanity toward a healthier, more peaceful world for more than sixty years. After coming to America from his native Japan after World War II, he and his wife Aveline pioneered in the development of macrobiotic education and the introduction of natural foods, holistic healing, and other sustainable ways of life.
Since the mid-1960s when the Kushis started Erewhon Trading Company, the groundbreaking natural foods store in Boston named after Samuel Butler’s utopian novel, the organic, natural foods revolution has spread around the world. Macrobiotics introduced and popularized organically grown whole foods and naturally processed foods, including brown rice, millet, whole wheat, and other whole cereal grains; adzuki beans, chickpeas, and other beans; miso, tofu, shoyu (natural soy sauce), tempeh, and other traditionally processed soy foods; nori, kombu, wakame, hiziki, and other mineral-rich sea vegetables; daikon, kale, burdock, kuzu, and other fiber- and mineral-rich vegetables; white sea salt, toasted sesame and other unrefined vegetable oil, umeboshi plums, and other seasonings and condiments; amasake, brown rice syrup, barley malt, and other natural sweeteners; bancha twig tea (kukicha); and other healthful foods and beverages.
Macrobiotics influenced the U.S. government’s landmark report Dietary Goals for the United States (1977), calling for sweeping changes in the modern diet, and contributed to the development of the Food Guide Pyramid in the early 1980s. Since then, national dietary guidelines have continued to strengthen. The grain, cereal, pasta, and bread group, which constitutes the foundation of the Food Guide Pyramid, now includes whole grains such as brown rice, millet, and barley as its major portion. Since 2002 when the U.S. government took over organic certification, organic food has become the fastest growing segment of the food industry. Today, more organic food is sold in supermarkets than in natural foods stores.
In the 1970s and 1980s, following pioneer medical tests on macrobiotic subjects at Harvard Medical School, the Framingham Heart Study, and other institutions, the medical profession began to recognize and integrate macrobiotics and other alternative and complementary approaches. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, and other leading scientific journals, the macrobiotic studies were the first to show that high cholesterol and high blood pressure were major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and that a balanced, largely plant-based diet could help prevent and, in some cases, relieve cancer. In addition, many of the holistic practices that Michio and Aveline Kushi helped introduce, including shiatsu massage, acupuncture, palm healing, meditation, and visualization, are now widely offered at medical centers, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, and other institutions.
The Kushis went on to found the East West Foundation, the East West Journal, the Kushi Foundation, the One Peaceful World Society, and other organizations to spread macrobiotics worldwide. Over the years, Michio Kushi has guided thousands of individuals and families to greater health and happiness in personal consultations, lectured to physicians and scientists, advised governments, inspired medical research, and served as a consultant to natural foods businesses and industries.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the Kushis’ basic dietary approach began to be adopted by modern medicine and government agencies, and they lectured at the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and other international venues.
In 1999, the U.S. government officially recognized the contribution of macrobiotics to modern society by creating a permanent macrobiotic collection at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. At a gala reception in honor of the Kushis, the director stated:
The National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution is honored to present the [Special] Collection on Macrobiotics and Alternative Health Care. This collection of health, nutrition, and personal family materials and artifacts documents important and little studied aspects of American life and culture. . . . The significance of macrobiotics in American life is little understood although it relates to such broad historical issues as the postwar move toward a more healthy diet, our increasingly global culture, alternative healing, peace studies, and traditions of grassroots activism.
Books and literature by the Kushis and their associates, along with samples of macrobiotic quality foods, are periodically exhibited at the Smithsonian in conjunction with special events and activities.
Michio Kushi’s Background
Born in 1926 in Wakayama prefecture, Japan, Mr. Kushi graduated from Tokyo University. His studies centered on political science and international relations, especially past and contemporary efforts to create a federation of governments to establish world peace. He came to the United States in 1949, settled in New York, furthered his studies at Columbia University, and met Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann, Upton Sinclair, Pitirim Sorokin, and other prominent scientists, authors, and statesmen. To expand his understanding of human behavior across time and history, Mr. Kushi also studied, and was deeply influenced by, Western civilization, Middle Eastern culture, and Indian philosophy and medicine. His father was a professor of Renaissance history in Japan, his mother taught at Christian schools, and young Michio had been brought up in a unique East West social and cultural environment.
Before coming to America, Mr. Kushi met George Ohsawa (Yukikazu Sakurazawa), a prolific Japanese author, health educator, and world traveler. Kushi’s interests and Ohsawa’s teachings complemented each other so well that their newly formed friendship and collaboration would last until Mr. Ohsawa’s death in 1966. In the late 1950s, they started to apply the term macrobiotics, a traditional term for the way of health and longevity to their teachings. The word goes back 2500 years to ancient Greece and the teachings of Hippocrates, the father of medicine, whose motto was “Let food be thy medicine, and thy medicine food.”
Together with his wife Aveline (1923-2001), Mr. Kushi built on and expanded the teachings of Mr. Ohsawa and the long lineage of dietary philosophers and health reformers around the world. For the past half century, Mr. Kushi has been vigorously engaged in teaching and learning activities throughout the U.S., Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. In 1978, he founded the Kushi Institute in Brookline, Massachusetts, in order to teach a new generation of students to meet the challenges of modern society. In 1985, Michio and Aveline opened a new campus of the Kushi Institute in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts, and in 1990 educational activities were consolidated at a 600-acre estate in Becket. Thousands of people have attended programs at the K.I. over the years, and many of them have gone on to become teachers, chefs, counselors, and shiatsu practitioners. Today there are also active, dynamic Kushi Institutes in Europe (with headquarters in Amsterdam) and in Asia (with headquarters in Japan) and an estimated 500 to 1000 macrobiotic centers around the world.
In the late 1980s, Mr. Kushi gave a pioneer seminar on a dietary approach to AIDS to hundreds of doctors in Gabon, West Africa, at a conference sponsored by the World Health Organization. In 1995, he received the Award for Excellence from the United Nations Society of Writers for One Peaceful World and other books. He was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize with recommendation from volunteers from the American Bar Association. In Washington, D.C., he made a presentation on macrobiotics to the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a citation in his honor. He is president of the Green Cross Group of Japan. Aveline Kushi passed away in 2001.
Michio Kushi has written over fifty books, including The Book of Macrobiotics, The Cancer Prevention Diet, Diet for a Strong Heart, One Peaceful World, The Book of Do-In, Macrobiotic Palm Healing, Holistic Health Through Macrobiotics, and The Gospel of Peace: Jesus’s Teachings of Eternal Truth. He is the father of five children, including one of whom, passed away, and many grandchildren. Michio lives in the Boston area with his wife Midori Hiyashi Kushi
Descended from rural samurai, Aveline grew up in the deep mountains of central Japan. From ancient times, her village was renowned as the home of Princess Kushi Inada-Hime, the Wondrous Princess of the Rice Fields, who with her husband introduced rice, soybeans, and other foods to the island nation.
From her devout Christian parents, Aveline inherited qualities of faith, patience, and perseverance that would see her through the hardships of World War II. After surviving life-and-death illness, she left her position teaching schoolchildren and went to Tokyo to enroll in the macrobiotic school: Maison Ignoramus (The School of Ignorance) founded by educator George Ohsawa. There she became inspired by the dream of realizing a world of enduring peace by elevating humankind’s physical, mental, and spiritual health, beginning with eating a balanced daily diet. She also studied martial arts with Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido.
Recognizing her leadership ability, Mr. Ohsawa sent her to America in 1951 to help spread his teachings. She met Michio Kushi, and the two started traveling and teaching together, and they eventually married.
Erewhon Trading Company was founded in Aveline’s home kitchen, and thanks to Aveline, rice farms in California, Arkansas, and other states first began to grow organic brown rice in the United States.
As mother to four sons and one daughter, Aveline took an avid interest in family and women’s health to which she devoted many classes and seminars. In addition, she mastered and taught several traditional arts and spiritual practices, including Noh drama, the tea ceremony, futon-making, haiku composition, painting with watercolors, and chanting and meditation. She wrote many books including The Book of Miso, Aveline Kushi’s Complete Guide to Macrobiotic Cooking, and her autobiography Aveline: The Life and Dream of the Woman Behind Macrobiotics Today. Her own favorite book was the teachings of Namboku Mizuno, an 18th century Japanese diet and health reformer, which she translated and published in English as Food Governs Your Destiny. Lily, the Kushi’s daughter, passed away in 1995.
Aveline passed away in 2001 at age seventy-eight and is buried on the Kushi Institute property in Becket. An Aveline Peace Park is being planned for the site.