This post is part of a series presenting full transcripts of speeches given at the Michio Kushi Memorial Service in Boston on January 31, 2015.
Greetings, I’m Michael Potter from Michigan, Eden Foods. I say, “Hello” to the Kushi family and to all of you. We have lost, humanity has lost a friend, a teacher, a great man. Our condolences to the family and especially to Midori, his wife. I like to believe – I like to think that Michio is in a more peaceful place now than he was here on earth now. Wendy Esko and I were commiserating the other day after learning of Michio’s passing and we concluded that Michio’s passing is the end of an epoch, about a 60 year epoch – 1954 to 2014 – 60 years.
I really do believe he is in a more peaceful place. And speaking about “peaceful”:
When I was a young man, a teenager – 18 years old, 19 years old – I was of the opinion and of the school of thought that revolution was a violent thing. Political power grew out of a barrel of a gun – Chairman Mao – things like that and I was involved with radical elements in my community. And, thank God! My sister handed me a book, “You Are All Sanpaku”! And I made a decision, as a teenager, okay, I’m not going try to change things by being violent. I am going to change things more fundamentally, more completely, more thoroughly, more effectively by focusing on diet; by focusing on the wisdom that my teachers, my macrobiotic teachers shared with me.
The “Order of the Universe” publications that I was reading at that time, they changed millions of people lives. They changed the direction of medicine, education, diet, agriculture. But, you know, I experience violent opposition to the change that wants to happen; that has been encouraged; that has been seeded by Michio. Ignoramus Press, by the Georges Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation, I was reading similar things at the same time.
The impact on humanity of macrobiotic teachings would be hard to over-estimate, in my opinion. Macrobiotic teachings stimulate – has stimulated the evolution of humanity and there is resistance to it.
Immediately preceding the beginning of the natural foods movement were the teachings of macrobiotics that were released to us and carried to us. After that, after the macrobiotic teachings happened, the natural foods phenomena began to happen all over the planet – Europe, Australia, Japan, United States. Macrobiotics was the origin of the natural foods movement. It’s largely been co-opted by big money interests, but that’s another story.
Universal consciousness was changed by macrobiotic teachers. Mine, yours, humanity’s consciousness has been changed and, you know, I watched as the planet changed. I watched as this universal consciousness was impacted by macrobiotic teachings. It’s more than spoken word or written word in books and lectures. It’s a consciousness amongst humanity that was impacted by macrobiotic teachings Macrobiotic principles – thank God I learned of them. You know I like to think that – I tell people –Eden Foods is a principled company – it’s a principled natural food company. I don’t often get to tell people though that those principles are the macrobiotic principles as defined, shared and taught to me by Michio Kushi.
The New York Times was in my office a little while ago and she was trying to get some understanding from me, “How did things start?” I don’t know how to answer her question accurately. I couldn’t even begin to think of a suitable answer. I went in to my closet and pulled out a stack of old “Order of the Universe”s. I put them on the table and I said, “That’s what started Eden Foods.” She got it.
And, I just want to, you know – in this environment and with you all, I just want to share – you know, I was thinking about coming here and being with you all and it’s an honor and I was driving in my car – “What am I going to say?” and I heard a song, “How do you sleep while your beds are burning?” Ladies and Gentlemen, our food, our medicine, our – you know – we are being poisoned! By and we need to – our beds are burning! How can we sleep? We have to address these matters agriculturally, food-wise and medicine-wise. Thank you.
This post is part of a series presenting full transcripts of speeches given at the Michio Kushi Memorial Service in Boston on January 31, 2015.
I am Toyofumi Yoshida of Mitoku Co., Ltd. In Tokyo, Japan. I was very shocked and saddened to learn of Kushi-sensei’s passing. I would like to offer my deepest condolences to his family. As you all – as you all know, Kushi-sensei left behind so many great accomplishments through his lifetime work of macrobiotic. All of us gathered here today prove that. I am sure each one of us has special memories with Kushi-sensei. I would like share a little piece of 47 years of history between Kushi-sensei and Mitoku Co., Ltd. Mr. Kazama who was founder of Mitoku, who was also my father-in-law, passed away three years ago.
Kushi-sensei and Kazama were introduced through a mutual friend. Kushi-sensei needed macrobiotic quality food in the US. I was told that Kushi-sensei was very set in his mind and he needed macrobiotic quality food and that was that. Kazama was not so sure but he decided believe Kushi-sensei and started to look for products that Kushi-sensei requested.
Back then in Japan, big new machine and mass production line are in. Everything was about making how many more you can make as faster than you can. Olden traditional making were almost gone. Japanese yen was 360 yen against one dollar – US one dollar. US dollar was worth three times more than today’s rate. Yen was not traded freely. Export and import were very difficult. Against all that my father—in—law had travelled and researched all over Japan for long fermented miso made in the traditional wooden keg. Tamari and Shoyu made from whole soybeans not from defatted soybeans which was major in at that time. Wakame, Kombu and other seaweeds – they were not well known in US. Everything Kazama tried to put into shipping containers. Japanese government wanted to check.
Now Japanese food were widely known all over the world. Tofu, sushi, tempura and the other Japanese food become trendy. Who’d have thought non-Japanese will eat seaweed; having miso and shoyu in the regular household kitchen. Kushi-sensei did and believed almost 50 years ago. We have received so many ideas from Kushi-sensei for making good products for offer. Good products to make people happy and healthy.
I, on behalf of Mitoku, Co. Ltd., and I think I can speak for Mr. Yuko Okada of Muso Co., Ltd., also and other companies like us, along with all the producers that are committed to make old and traditional products will continue to our work to help Kushi-sensei’s mission and his work he left behind. Thank you. Arigato Gozaimashita.
This post is part of a series presenting full transcripts of speeches given at the Michio Kushi Memorial Service in Boston on January 31, 2015.
FRANCISCO (CHICO) VARATOJO
Hello good afternoon! Midori and Norio, and Haruo, and Phiya and Hisao, thank you so much for asking me to pay this last tribute to your father. It’s an honor and pleasure. Everyone has spoke a lot about Michio in different ways. I will talk a little bit about my relationship with him and what I knew about Michio as a human being.
I got to know him in 1977, I believe August 16, 1977. I am not sure of the date, I am sure of the month. I was 16 then. I was a young kid just starting macrobiotics and Michio, Aveline, and some of the children and some other friends, one of them – Bill Spear – here tonight, here this afternoon, I’m sorry, were there. So I went to the seminar. I sat in the first row and Michio called me on stage. I was extremely nervous, more than I am now, and I am a bit nervous. So, and you know we had this nail clipper demonstration – this famous counter-clockwise, clockwise things so – I got the counter-clockwise spiral and I thought he was reading my mind, knowing everything about my life, my past life, I really thought so! I was scared to death. So, I think he put his hand on my shoulder and it was obvious I was pretty nervous.
You know he had this mantra, which he said to many, many people, particularly young people which was, “Please come to Boston!” So I think he spelled that mantra – I mean he used to say this to everyone. I remember him in, like, in all consultations saying, “Please come to Boston” and in classes. So, I got it too. And this was like an enchanted word – would actually made me fly to Boston a few months later, February actually. It was very, very cold like now, I remember. I landed in Logan Airport. It was 15 degrees Celsius in Lisbon and it was minus 20. It was the coldest day of the winter, similar to the time we are in right now, for what was the biggest adventure of my life which was actually studying macrobiotics. Just out of, “Please come to Boston” sentence.
And over the years I was actually quite lucky to get to know Michio in many of his facets: Michio the father, Michio the husband, Michio the teacher, Michio the counselor, Michio the philosopher, Michio the politician, Michio the businessman. Michio could embody all of these really well. I mean he was one time discussing politics and the other time he was closing a contract at the same time he was giving advice to someone who was sick. So, Michio had this personality who really embodied lots of personalities but I think for the ones, the ones of us present here – the teachers, the students, teachers who studied with him – I think Michio was, more than anything else, our teacher. The one who drew spirals on the blackboard and the one who made the relationship with everything, like Evan Root was saying or taught oriental diagnosis or gave us consultations.
For me Michio was somehow, and someone else said this already, somehow my second father, not taking anything from you guys. So it was like both Michio and Aveline were like my second parents pretty much literally I can think. He was always like, he was always like the big teacher. One of his capacities was actually this capacity of really drawing people. I remember people in his lectures, they would hardly understand his English, which was actually pretty bad most of the time, and – but they would feel drawn by his energy. They would feel drawn by his quality. I remember one time we were actually in an airplane in Brazil and Michio stood up to go to the toilet or something and there was a lady who came out of nowhere on the plane and started, “Oh my God! You are a saint! You are something!” and I thought, “What is going on?” Yet, she did not know him. She just picked up something and went after him and, of course as usual, I had to rescue him as a bodyguard, which was one of my functions very, very often– driving, bodyguarding, running away from places and so.
If I would say something about him, Michio really had a huge dream. He wanted everyone on the planet to eat well, he wanted a pristine environment and he wanted to discover transmutation and many of those things that some people are following right now. But he always wanted that with good manners and elegance. Michio had this thing about good manners and elegance. Like you, you had to shape up and dress well and speak well and be gentle. So it was like, even in War he thought things should be, I don’t know, peaceful in war, I suppose – but with good manners. It was like – I think Michio really felt many times that he was like a Samurai and that his mission was the mission of a samurai and certainly his life does reflect that in many ways.
But he did pursue his dream relentlessly. I did work a lot with him and I met very few people with this drive and resilience. He was unstoppable. Often times the second shift at home would start at midnight and when everyone was very tired. I remember working with him on proof reading some books. It was 4 o’clock in the morning. I was completely exhausted. I am much younger than him. I was exhausted and Michio was reading and in my mind I was going, “He cannot be doing this right. We are too tired. So, he is just pretending he is reading or something.” And then he said, “Chico! We got to change this, this is no good!” I said, “What do you mean, Michio?” It was like a little sentence, something that was really not that important and he was really awake and I would say, “Oh boy, this is – this is amazing how he can do this! It’s amazing how he could actually have this incredible drive.”
He always – he was always wanted to change the world. He always had big plans for everything. He always targeted really high. He always targeted for the stars. Michio did never want anything small. Never, that I know of anyway.
But he had, and I really miss this, he had an incredible sense of humor. Sometime peculiar. Sometimes a little not so easy to grasp. But he had a very funny sense of humor which he could use in consultations very often. Not everyone understood what he meant sometimes. But I remember one time I had with him, which is not a big story, but was something that was quite impressive for me. We were travelling together in Europe, after Aveline died, so we were just visiting several countries in Europe. We had this dinner in which, you know how these dinners go, they take forever, everyone is asking questions and Michio would always say, “Yes” and there’s a point he says, “Chico! Let’s go out.” So, I find a sort of a good excuse. We come out. It’s a very beautiful spring day and it’s very late. It’s about one o’clock in the morning. We come out to the street. We want a bench to sit but there’s no bench to sit so we both ended up sitting on the sidewalk dressed up in suits. And, we sit down and Michio starts telling jokes. You know these jokes about, “There was this Italian and a Jew….”. He started, and I have never heard him do anything like that, so he goes – he makes up this joke and replaces the Italians and the Jews by the macrobiotic people and the Japanese. You go no, I know. And I started playing the game and I would add the Portuguese and we were laughing like crazy. We were laughing like crazy. Then we went to the hotel and I said, “Gosh, I never heard Michio telling jokes! This was the first time.” This is and he actually – he knows jokes! He knew all these jokes about Japanese people, which I won’t say here. But he could be really, really funny about it and lately in these last few years, I would always call him on his birthday. So I would say, “Happy birthday, Michio!” and he would reply back, “Happy birthday to you too, Chico!” We were not born the same day, by the way, and I’ll just have to stop at some point. He’s really funny. And so, I will miss, I will miss, his… I will really miss his sense of humor.
I mean, I do think, and quite a few people have said here, that Michio really played a very important role in the contemporary world. He did contribute to many, many, changes in the areas of health, of course, diet, environment, ecology, spiritual development, personal development. Michio really had an enormous task there and he did – I do hope that the coming generations would actually appreciate his work and that they would, they will give him the acknowledgement he deserves. I mean, a few people have said this already but if it wasn’t for Michio and Aveline, and yes, of course other people too, but these two in particular, many of the things we do take for granted right now we actually – we would not have. Like, Alex did mention eating brown rice at a hotel or even sleeping in a futon, or dressing in nice quality cotton, or actually having organic food. As far as I know both Michio and Aveline went to the farmers in America and paid a fortune just to be able to get organic rice that no one wanted to grow.
And they were really relentless about it. They were…and Michio really carried it with the energy of a samurai and he didn’t care much about his health. On respect to this his drive was a lot more important than how he was feeling. I’ve seen Michio sick a few times. I remember one instance he was in Lisbon for a seminar. He was visibly tired. He was actually feverish. He was – he was really not feeling so well and we had about four hundred people. So, I opened the curtains and I see all the people waiting. We’re late and Michio tells me, “Chico, do you think we can cancel?” And I say, “Ya, Michio we can cancel but this is really going to be a problem. We have 400 people in the room. Cancelling this event is going to be very difficult but I will if you tell me so. I will go there and stop it.” He said, “No, no, no, no. no I will do it.” So we walked on to the stage and he was very tired and started warming up and warming up and warming up. He ended up with a standing ovation.
So, I will just finish by saying that while I mostly admired on him was his uncanny capacity to actually jump from, you know, to transcend logical and intellectual thought and to tune in to his intuition and to have a glimpse of the spiritual world. Michio could do it better than anyone else. So thank you very much Michio. Please rest in peace. Thank you very much.
Hello everybody! Dear friends, my name is Horriah Nelissen. I am the oldest daughter of Adelbert and Wieke Nelissen from the Kushi Institute of Europe in Amsterdam. I will read a message from my mother, Wieke Nelissen, and in spirit of my father who recently passed in the beginning of September.
Both Wieke and Adelbert, my parents, have seen Michio and Aveline as their great teachers and guides on their path of macrobiotics. For their children, I am the oldest of five children, Michio and Aveline were like grandparents to us. For a long period of time Michio and Aveline were both present several times per year in Amsterdam and other Dutch cities where seminars took place. Their first encounter was in 1975 when Michio and Aveline visited Europe for the first time. At that time Adelbert and Wieke were already practicing macrobiotics for 8 years. They started in 1968, learning from the book of “Zen Macrobiotics” by George Ohsawa. Their understanding of macrobiotics was little, limited at the time – writing down in a diary “Horriah”, me, “got one raisin! Oh, oh, oh will that be okay?” I read that diary and, oh, I’m glad that I’m still alive! They started already, the first macrobiotic food store in Amsterdam and sourdough bakery called, “Manna”.
And the first Michio Kushi Seminar of Europe took place in London and Michio was speaking there for a group of acupuncturists. My father was there and he attended those lecture and he was so overwhelmed by Michio’s teaching that he immediately phoned home to all the workers of Manna Company which was already growing at the time. They had to drop their work immediately and come to Paris where Michio and Aveline would teach next, as soon as possible.
Paris was for Michio and Aveline like entering the Lion’s Den since in France several of the old students of Ohsawa were teaching there and Michio was a little bit seen as an intruder with too many modern ideas about macrobiotics. The seminar was very successful and Michio and Aveline took the most challenging step into the world of macrobiotically successfully.
That same year in the fall, Michio came for the first time to Holland and taught for over 300 very grateful students. For Adelbert and Wieke Michio was it was like Michio and Aveline made order in their macrobiotic life – their daily experience. Suddenly everything made more sense to them so that one raisin became a normal box, I think.
And it was in the beginning for them, for a long relationship, between my parents and Michio and Aveline. Adelbert organized more than forty times all kinds of seminars with Michio and Aveline with students from all over Europe in many different languages. You cannot maybe imagine, but it had to be translated always in maybe eight different languages for all the teachings.
The Kushi Institute of Europe was established in 1978 as an educational center for leadership programs. Here are some of the absolute highlights of the seminars and conferences Adelbert and Wieke organized for Michio and Aveline. In the 80s a conference for medical professionals was organized for the World Health Organization in Brazzaville, former Congo resulting in to a conference in France in Bergerac for very interested Doctors. In Brazzaville Adelbert visited markets as preparation before Michio came and in small villages he would gather all different kinds of products as samples to present the macrobiotic standard diet to those World Health Organization Doctors. Even he found brown rice and tofu. So it became clear that in a poor country like Brazzaville, a macrobiotic standard diet was possible to eat.
In the 80s the Kushi Institute in Amsterdam organized a number of conferences on AIDS and Cancer. Although Michio and Adelbert had various meetings with the Chairman of the Governmental Cancer Organization, the interest in healing power of macrobiotic food was very low at the time. Healthcare in Holland was so well organized, why would people take care for their own health if everything was paid by the Government? On the contrary and at the same time there were numbers of people very interested in the philosophy and the macrobiotic diet and also in family members, which became, at the end, one of the trademarks of the Kushi Institute of Europe.
Between 1980 and 2000 Michio and Aveline conducted several times, four levels of spiritual development training in the south of Holland in a monastery. And other very popular seminars were “New Medicine for Humanity”, “The Destiny of Mankind”, “The Cause of War and the Art of Peace”, “The Essence of Macrobiotics”.
When Michio and Aveline came for the first time to Holland, Wieke and Adelbert made them taste sourdough bread from their bakery. Especially Aveline was immediately very fond of this traditional Dutch bread. And also they introduced them to Tempeh. You might well know Tempeh by now, but Tempeh was originally a fermented soybean product from Indonesia, a former colony of Holland. And Aveline and Michio didn’t know this food – not originally Japanese. So they decided to put this immediately, together with the sourdough bread, into the macrobiotic standard diet and now tempeh is spread actually all over the world.
Michio loved Amsterdam but not the weather. Still some of you maybe also know. He would always make a joke saying, “Welcome to the Winter Conference!” even in the middle of the summer. And once he tried to adapt to the Dutch habits by trying to ride a bicycle. But he didn’t come far. After a hundred meters he gave up, actually. In Holland you have also bikes with side wheels. Maybe we should have given one like that.
The last time Michio visited Amsterdam was to celebrate his 80th birthday. Many of his old students gathered for a big party with delicious food and artistic performances of professional macrobiotic musicians and dancers. It was a wonderful evening during which everybody could express his or her gratefulness for Michio’s teachings. In Holland his many students and especially our family will remember and cherish Michio and Aveline for their wonderful teachings and guidance for so many years. Adelbert always spoke so highly of them and always felt extremely connected with both of them. May their spirits guide us all to One Peaceful World. Thank you.
Thank you Evan and Eric. I am not sure I am up to equaling their wonderful memories and presentation. I’ve prepared some remarks including putting Michio in context, but I do have one amusing story that I would like to share with you.
Michio Kushi touched the lives of tens of thousands of individuals and families—often one by one—with his personal advice and guidance, as well as his lectures, seminars, and conferences. He transformed the lives of millions with Erewhon, his pioneer natural and organic foods company, and with his books, videos, and cassettes. He influenced billions with the breakthrough scientific and medical studies he inspired at Harvard Medical School, the Framingham Heart Study, and other medical centers that led to new national and international dietary guidelines and the transition toward a predominantly plant-based diet. He changed the way America and the modern world eats and heals.
And, parenthetically, I might add that just this afternoon as we checked in at the Marriot Copley Hotel, being a good macrobiotic, I looked at the – the first thing I did – even before looking at the television, was looking at the Room Service menu and I was delighted to find that among all the food that were offered was short grain brown rice, for Room Service! Amazing!
Of course Michio changed – he set the direction for realizing humanity’s eternal dream of one healthy, peaceful world. As a catalyst for calm, steady, orderly change, Michio’s impact on our era is boundless. He and his devoted wife Aveline trained a generation of whole foods teachers, chefs, and food producers. They taught a generation of healers, physicians, and other health care practitioners how to diagnose, prevent, and relieve chronic and acute disease naturally without, for the most part, harmful drugs, surgery, and scans. They inspired the first prison projects to rehabilitate offenders with diet. Their students brought together warring Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the Middle East. They introduced nondenominational spiritual training practices that led to union with the universal spirit, with God, or what Michio called One Infinity.
Like Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and other great teachers of life, Michio was not always understood or appreciated in his lifetime. Like them, he had flaws and deficiencies. But in the unfolding chronicle of history, Michio will be remembered as one of humanity’s greatest prophets, healers, and spiritual teachers.
There are many teaching stories and memories of Michio, as we have heard this afternoon. In the years to come, they will be collected, circulated, and cherished. I would like to share with you just one treasured memory that illustrates his kindly spirit, merry sense of humor, and light, amusing teaching style.
Michio, as many of you know, was renowned for his sharp intuition of food quality. From a single taste, he could discern every ingredient in a food or dish, as well as each step of its cultivation, harvesting, food processing, and cooking.
The first time I managed the Kushi Institute in Becket in the late 1980s, we had a staff dinner on Friday evenings in the then small staff dining room behind the kitchen in the Main House. We had just completed our weeklong Residential Program and that evening Michio was still counseling and joined us late after we had finished eating. It was the main dinner of the week, usually featuring fish or a special tofu or tempeh dish for those who preferred a vegan option. That night, as I recall, we had prepared cod, red snapper, or some other white-meat fish and were all relaxing after a rewarding, but long, intense week.
When Michio’s consultation was over and he joined us, we immediately made him a plate of brown rice, veggies, and sea veggies, as well as a generous portion of the fish. We had a congenial conversation while he ate, but soon we noticed that he was eating the rice and veggies, but hadn’t touched the fish. “Aren’t you going to taste the delicious fish?” someone asked. “It’s really fresh and tender.” Michio smiled and said very simply, “It’s not good.” “What!!??”, we all thought! It was nicely cooked, balanced with ginger, lemon, or daikon, and very delicious. Again, we remonstrated with him that we all enjoyed the fish, and he should have some to replenish his energy.
Without saying a word, Michio stood up with a bemused expression and went to the radiator where Marbles, the nearly blind calico cat was sleeping by the windowsill. Marbles was the last survivor from the former Franciscan monastery that occupied the Becket property for many years and had one barely functioning eye. Michio carefully awakened Marbles, picked him up and set him on the floor, and took a piece of fish from his own plate and put it on a saucer in front of this elderly cat. Marbles bent down and with his one eye, looked at the morsel. After smelling the fish, Marbles turned up its nose, fluttered its tail, and turned around and proceeded to resume its nap by the radiator.
We were all left speechless. Even old Marbles, the blind antique cat wouldn’t touch the fish and had better intuition than all of us senior teachers and expert cooks combined! He hadn’t lost his marbles after all. We had!
Without another word, Michio resumed his place and finished his meal. No one said a word. No one had to. Michio—a Tiger in the Far Eastern Zodiac—had gently proved his point. He was a genial big cat at heart, a tiger sleeping in the bamboo forest, as he liked to say, but one that slept lightly and kept an eye open to protect the other creatures of the jungle. Our ignorance was boundless! With that one wordless gesture, he showed us how infinitely more there was to learn. Truly, Michio was an amazing teacher of life.
Scientific and medical studies are increasingly documenting the benefits of macrobiotic and allied holistic approaches. Just before Michio died, researchers at Tufts University and Johns Hopkins Medical School approached us at Kushi Institute to cooperate in the first controlled, randomized clinical trial of a macrobiotic approach to breast cancer. In our last meeting with Michio in December, a few weeks before he died, Edward Esko and I went in to Brookline and reported on this development. Michio was thrilled. If successful, it would realize his and Aveline’s dream of nearly fifty years. It would contribute to a new treatment paradigm and help millions of women and their families. It is simply a matter of time, as Michio predicted, before macrobiotic principles and practices, though often under various names and forms, will govern society.
Like Moses, Jesus, Lincoln, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Michio did not overcome his final challenge. He suffered a sudden health crisis brought on by too much speaking, counseling, and traveling during the last year of his life, as he went the extra mile to spread his message of enduring health and peace.
In a talk to the Levels students last spring, Michio shared a poem that he had composed about Jesus sacrificing his life for humanity. The poem went like this:
For One or for Them
I become Food
Nourishing Their Life and Dream…..
And I Die
In retrospect, Michio’s last poem was prophetic about his own destiny. Though he failed to cross the river Jordan himself, he led the modern era through the Wilderness to the Promised Land. He passed the torch on to us and the next generation to lead modern society safely through, what he called, “the Spiral of History” , into the New Era of Humanity. He was truly a man of the age and a man for the ages.
Farewell, dear Michio. May your spirit ascend peacefully into the world of light on the wings of our prayers and thoughts. May you become one with the universal spirit on your eternal spiritual journey through the stars. May we be in loving harmony forever. Thank you.
My name is Eric Utne and 47 years ago I stood where you couldn’t hear me and I had been sent here from Minneapolis by a friend named, ”Toad”, who told when I was sick, he said, “Hey Man! There’s this Dude in Boston who can teach you to be your own Doctor with FOOD!” and I went, “FAR OUT!” – quit Architecture School and found my way to Boston and Michio’s lectures in the Arlington Street Church.
The first night I came it was a hot summer night and I sat in the front row and I realized that Michio would invite the students sitting in the front row to read letters from students like Evan Root in Japan or Brazil or France telling about their studies and activities. So I hid in the back row – or it didn’t or I hadn’t – there was only about 50 people here so it was clearly the second stage of the macrobiotic community. I realized I was being a coward so I forced myself to sit in the front row and, sure enough, the next hot night, Michio called on me and he handed me a letter and it was from someone in Brazil writing about the Japanese community – the Japanese macrobiotic community in Brazil and their recipes for miso.
And I stood there shaking and within two sentences I was dripping sweat on the floor and within two paragraphs there was a puddle on the floor. And Michio was standing just like that [makes motion] and then he came and patted me on the back and he took the letter – it was single-spaced, onion-skin, 7-pages long – and he said, “Thank you, Eric!” and he never asked me to read a letter in front of the group again.
Michio attracted a very interesting group of people. Some people came because they were sick, others came because they wanted to learn about the order of the universe and yin and yang, others because they wanted to find a “natural high”. All of us were looking for alternatives to the conventional wisdom and Michio was nothing, if not, unconventional. He made us question reality and to reconsider it right from the most basic level.
A place opened in Michio’s house on Gardner Road and I asked if I could live there and he said, “OK!” and I remember a few things about living in Gardner Road:
Number one, I remember Lily’s laugh. Lily was always laughing and that house was full of laughter. Number two, I remember Aveline cooking shrimp, eggs and mochi for her children and then we got to eat brown rice, miso soup and veggies and I thought we were getting the better deal.
I also remember Michio being a father to Norio. I remember Michio sitting at the kitchen table and Norio in the kitchen and Michio saying, ”Norio, please, go to school! Please, Norio, go to school! Norio, please!” I’m not sure if Norio went to school.
Another time during a hot summer of 1970, I was managing Erewhon. I had gotten the job because Michio had told the manager, Roger Hillyard, to hire me. Roger said, “I don’t want to hire you but Michio made me!” I said, “Why?” He said,”Michio said you’re going to be a world leader someday!” We both laughed.
And…But Michio saw something in me that I think a mentor does for his student. I felt seen by Michio. Even though he never told me that, but through Roger and through his welcoming me into his home I felt seen and it was a kind of nurturing that made me blossom, such as I have.
One time, coming back from Erewhon, actually probably a number of times, I was so exhausted. I was eating very strictly, trying to be a good macrobiotic and for me that meant eating as simply as I could. In Gardner Road we would take our shoes off downstairs and then go up to the second floor where the household activities were, in the kitchen. And I was so tired from working at Erewhon that I would fall asleep on the bottom steps – probably pass out. And then everyone who came home after me would just step over me and leave me there sleeping on the steps.
One time I was so unbalanced that my ankles had swollen to the size of elephant ankles. I wanted to heal myself but I couldn’t figure out whether I was too yin or too yang and finally, after weeks of trying to heal myself, I would ask Michio. I didn’t want to bother him. He was a very busy man. But he was sitting at the kitchen table preparing a lecture and I said, “Michio-san? May I ask you a question?” And he looked up at me and pulled out a cigarette. I think it was Kent, I’m not sure. He lit the cigarette and let the blue smoke hang over his face and he said, “Yes! What is it?” And I said – I lifted my leg up on the chair next to him and I showed him my ankles and I said, “I can’t figure out what to do!” And he squeezed them and he said, ”Very interesting, isn’t it?” Then he said, “Take five umeboshi plums every day for five days and see if that helps.” Five umeboshi plums every day!!?? Is he trying to kill me? What I realized what he was really saying was, “I don’t know. Figure it out yourself, you idiot!” What a great teacher he was!
I think Michio would have been a worthy winner of the Nobel Prize.
So after leaving Boston I put my name on a magazine and as a result of that I got involved in the Nobel Peace Prize. I was on the Board of the Nobel Peace Prize forum for years, for seven years, and I met many of the winners of the Nobel Prize. I think Michio would have been a worthy winner of the Nobel Prize.
Michio started the organic and natural foods revolution. As he understood that was the way to lay the foundation for peace, to create peaceful people. But he did something I think even more important than that. Arnold Toynbee, the historian, said that the most important event of the twentieth century was not the invention of the automobile or the television or the computer or space travel. It was none of those. It was the coming of Buddhism to the West; the meeting of East and West. And I don’t think there was any person in the last century who’s done more than to bring East and West together than Michio Kushi.
Now we all know about the Nobel Peace Prize but there’s another prize that is the highest honor that can be given in Japan and it’s the Order Of The Chrysanthemum. I hope that Michio is honored with the Order Of The Chrysanthemum. I leave you with that.
We are all blessed to have met and to have known and to have been seen by Michio. His legacy lives on! Thank you!
“Michio”, means “man of the way”. Michio = Man of the way. [In Japanese “Michi” means “the way”]
First off, I’d like to just acknowledge that we’re here for Michio; Michio that lives inside us. Michio that is in each other who’s here as we greet each other; Michio’s work in the world beyond us in all the people who couldn’t come here and now, of course, Michio in the heavens. All here for Michio and I want to thank the family so much for this occasion to do this, not just now but also for sharing Michio with us for all these years. Can you imagine sharing your parents with thousands of people around the world? Sharing the time and then the family giving the community this opportunity? So grateful, thank you.
I first met Michio in 1965 in New York City. I was attending – I was hanging out with Michel Abehsera and Michio was coming to town for a weekend seminar so a friend of mine and I, of course, went there. And what an evening it was! It was the beginning of the rest of my life. It was a small group as things were in those days, maybe six or eight people around a coffee table in a living room and Michio just picked something, I’d forgotten exactly what it was, it was something like a bean on a plate and then he began to talk about it. And then he began to draw spirals on the blackboard and the interrelationship of yin influences and yang influences and the next thing you know across the day, step by step, stage by stage, we were at the parameters, if there is such a thing as a parameter of the infinite universe, and there he left us for the day. We went home. Came back the next day. He took us step by step back down through, right back home to the bean on our plate and *poof*, you know, that was it!
And that’s how we made our way home to our apartment that night, literally jumping, dancing and whooping – the joy exploding in our hearts from the vision that Michio, the beacon, that he broadcast into the world that reached those who were ready to hear it.
I’m sure all of you have some kind of a similar experience to that. So my friend and I, when we left the building, spontaneously started jumping and dancing in the street, twirling, whooping! And that’s how we made our way home to our apartment that night, literally jumping, dancing and whooping – the joy exploding in our hearts from the vision that Michio, the beacon, that he broadcast into the world that reached those who were ready to hear it.
And a while later, a little bit, a few months later, Michel took me aside and said, “Got a call from Michio. They’re getting moved on from Wellesley. They were, you know, they were kicked out of Cambridge and they went to Wellesley and set up a wonderful East West Institute, Aikido Dojo, etc. Next thing you know the Town Fathers, Board of Selectmen, [said you], “Gotta leave town!” So, at this point there was no 24/7 guy around. It was just – family was there – some others had left ‘cause the Institute wasn’t ever able to operate anymore.
So he put out a call, “You know a helper down there by any chance of use?” We went out to a café and he said, “You know Michio needs some help up there. Would you like to go?” I packed my bag and left the next day and showed up here and that was the beginning.
I met the wonderful group of men here today, kids at that time, and the love that exuded from each one of you was just such a welcome that it still warms my heart after all these years. So together we moved and they started the study house at Gardner Road. We started up the Erewhon store. The lectures before they were here were just on bags – the people coming, again half a dozen or so – sat on the bags of grain that were in the side storage room there. And that worked up until a point, until the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) raided the place and we had to be very careful and segregate education from food. Never the twain shall meet.
So, they located that little room on the side there, wherever it is – on the side entrance – sort of an oval table and for the next while a group of – and it began to build, little by little, you know – 8, 10, 12, 14 people around that. And you know, I saw a fair amount of dancing and twirling after those things on the street right here. It was an explosion really for those who were ready for it.
But it wasn’t without it’s difficulties even though they’d been moved, they been moved, he’d been moved from town to town. Gardner Road was always on the edge. We were ready with – anybody who was Japanese visiting was a relative. That way the single house family thing didn’t come [into question] and then all these other people were just visiting and this and that.
But that wasn’t the only thing. They had tabs on us and there was often a plain clothes car parked across the street watching. Some of the community members were even stopped by authorities. The amazing thing was they knew everybody who was involved names was – “What about this person? What about that person?”. And sure enough, Michio, there was a full press to send him out of the country. And it was thanks to Wally Gorell’s father who was very close with Senators. Was he a Senator himself? I can’t remember. But anyway, he explained to a very good friend that this guy had saved his son from a life of that, you know, at that time there was a lot psychedelic action and young people getting into drugs and macrobiotics wasn’t that. It was a way out of that for a lot of people. So that sort of righted the ship.
Anyway, the first year at Erewhon was kind of slow. It took a year before very – I could sleep between customers if I needed the rest – go back lay on the – I’d heard the dingle bell and come up – another person. But one by one more people came and everybody came wanted to help. People came because they wanted to learn and they wanted to help. They wanted to share – this was a dream that was shared. And when Haruo spoke this morning and said about the extended family, it’s the family that lives in that extended dream.
So, as more people came Sanae Restaurant opened up and then people could eat – sort of developed a motor, you know: buy food there, get introduced to it here, eat there, go there, and then Tao Books came in where Erewhon used to be and then it was like a three-way motor. And it was, then Boston became like a school, really. We were here to learn and we were here to help.
Michio was very strategic. He had a plan. It was always kind of a moving target but it was to establish the way of health, the way of peace and the way of life in the age of humanity here on the planet earth. And so, when would meet around the table at night at Gardner Road, there was always a talk ‘til 2am around the table. And it was, “You take Italy! You take Spain! You take…” It was a grand scheme of people who were going to train here. And he always thought that it was up to the Boston group. There were other people teaching macrobiotics here and there in the world – people, students of Ohsawa’s but he said to me, “They are very good, very confident and all but this is up to Boston friends. This world change is up to Boston friends”. So, that strategic planning was for health, freedom and happiness worldwide.
I want to say and I think that it probably goes for a lot of people in this room – at least to some large degree – and that is my own life is completely – he was the most influential person in my life, outside of my parents, without question, except maybe the person who introduced me to him or the person who introduced me to him.
But in another way it was a radar here that was tuning into that and, you know, I was going to get here somehow, just like you were going to get here somehow. And everyone I know now – it’s just like a trunk. I’ve branched out here and there but all of those wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for what happened in the trunk. All those branches belong to the same tree and I’ve got a few little for my family tree – people I have known.
So, thank you Michio for the love, guidance, help and encouragement and, in reviewing my life with Michio for this talk, I had gotten many letters from him. I was amazed how much he put into us. Detailed letters, who’s doing what, I got in Japan. And in every single letter he always said something about loving one another, guiding each other, helping each other and encouraging each other. And as the new ones came along to help them, guide them and so forth. So he had this kind of way of – well, I think it was similar to what Norio said, if anyone read it. He wanted to know that there was peace and cooperation in the family and that the energy was flowing and he always wanted that for us and we have that in our macrobiotic DNA now. S0 thank you for this opportunity, dear family, to speak about the man who changed my life and our lives. Thank you.