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Diet Based on Health and Tradition Comes Home (February 9, 2006)

The Mother's Western-style lunch box (MOTHER'S ORGANIC•MARKET)
What is the secret to staying healthy? For an increasing number of Japanese people, the answer is macrobiotic food. A macrobiotic diet is a diet that emphasizes natural ingredients and is heavy on brown rice, beans, and fresh vegetables grown without artificial fertilizers. Foods to avoid, according to the macrobiotic philosophy, are meat, dairy products, frozen and processed foods, and artificial sweeteners. Yet the diet differs from vegetarianism in that it allows non-fatty types of fish and shellfish, as long as they are eaten occasionally. An interesting aspect of the macrobiotic trend in Japan is that it is taking place in the country where the macrobiotic diet originated, after many years of popularity overseas.

Health and Tradition
The macrobiotic food theory developed in Japan between the end of the Edo Period in the 1860s and the early years of the Meiji Period that began in 1868. It was during this time that some Japanese doctors started advocating the health benefits of their country's traditional cuisine.

A major figure who promoted this diet was Sakurazawa Yukikazu, known by the penname "George Osawa" in the United States, a thinker whose career spanned the years before and after World War II. He and his followers helped spread the popularity of this food in the United States and Europe, calling it "macrobiotic," a word that combines the ancient Greek terms macro meaning "large" and bios meaning "life." The thinking is rooted in the ancient Chinese theory of yin and yang, the idea being to achieve health by restoring and sustaining your ki (spiritual energy) through diet and lifestyle.

The Mother's Japanese-style lunch box (MOTHER'S ORGANIC•MARKET)

The macrobiotic philosophy has much in common with modern dieting regimes as it advocates eating large amounts of fresh vegetables along with other low-fat, high-fiber foods. So it is no wonder that macrobiotic food caught on in the United States, particularly among people concerned about the dangers of obesity and lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes. Perhaps the most famous American advocate of the macrobiotic way is the pop singer Madonna, who employs a Japanese chef, Nishimura Mayumi, to cook for herself and her family. Having taken hold in the West, the macrobiotic philosophy is now in the process of being reintroduced to its country of origin, Japan.

Macro Convenience
In Tokyo, Macrobiotic Marche opened in 2005 on the first floor of a shopping complex that surrounds Ebisu Station, offering such items as sugarless candy and sandwiches made entirely from organic ingredients. The facility includes a cafe, a grocery store, and an information booth. On the second floor, meanwhile, is the Macrobiotic Academy, which teaches macrobiotic cooking.

In a similar vein, a chain of organic supermarkets called Mother's, which operates stores in the Tokyo metropolitan region, began offering macrobiotic bento (boxed lunches) in December 2005. The lunches are rich in grains and entirely organic. Besides the lunches, the Mother's stores deal in organic food items that have been grown using no, or reduced amounts of, agricultural chemicals.

Even some larger supermarkets and department stores are jumping on the bandwagon by offering vegetables and bento that are macrobiotic or organic. And the trend has not escaped the mail-order industry. Several firms have started delivering macrobiotic foods to people's doors, so that customers don't even need to leave their homes to obtain their favorite macrobiotic items.

The growth of these businesses underscores consumers' desire for fresh and natural food in an era when so many food products are processed, frozen, or laden with additives.

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Copyright (c) 2006 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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