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In Session: From Nourishing Life to National Nutrition: Diet and Health in Japanese History
4: From Shokuyô to Macrobiotics: Postimperial Wellness in Japan and the World
Thursday, March 25, 2021
8:30am – 10:00am EDT
Columbia University, United States
This paper explores the development of macrobiotics, a Japanese dietary regimen and theory of nutritional health that found groups of enthusiastic adherents around the world in the 1950s and 1960s. First under the name of shokuyô (“food cure”), macrobiotic thought and practice emerged in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Japan as a critical response to the hegemonic claims of European medical science. Yet macrobiotics was also shaped, especially over the middle decades of the twentieth century, by the Japanese as well as Western imperial projects in East Asia, and by their aftermath. Examination of the transwar efforts of shokuyô/macrobiotic proselytizers to, as they put it in 1953, “sound the alarm about the crisis of Western European civilization,” offers new insights into the persistence of alternative forms of wellness and consumerism as a postimperial effect.