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The Japanese Secrets to Longevity

The Japanese Secrets to Longevity

Japan is currently one of the most rapidly aging societies in the world with approximately 25% of the population being at least 65 years old. But what’s amazing is that the Land of the Rising has managed to keep their elders so healthy thereby lengthening their average life expectancy. In fact, according to a life expectancy report in 2019, while the average lifespan of the whole world is 72.6 years old, in Japan, it is 84.6 years. 

So, what’s their secret?

Actually, in Japan, there are no hidden tricks of miraculous formulation that keep them in good nick. In the Japanese mandatory educational program, children are taught to practice eating a balanced diet, to keep good hygiene, and to exercise daily.

  • Consuming a Balanced Diet

You know how there are times that you’re hungry and suddenly you see a McDonald’s and it's like a mirage of hope for your hungry tummy? Yes, that’s not how it is in Japan. Enormous chains like Kentucky Fried Chicken and Texas Chicken may be available, but they are not the big players in their food market. Be it outside or at home, the Japanese tend to prefer nourishing meals which tend to be balanced physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Food is respected so much that it is regarded as a gift from the mountain, the land, or the rivers. By enjoying a meal, you are essentially paying respect to those who prepare it. The Japanese diet mostly consists of lean and balanced food such as fruits, omega-rich fish, rice, whole grains, tofu, soy, miso, and raw vegetables.

The two principles for a Japanese diet follows two sets of principles: the inclusion of a set of fresh ingredients and the rules of 腹八分目(hara hachi bun me). What does “hara hachi bun me” mean? Well, it is a Confucian teaching that translates to "eat until you are eight parts full” - in simpler teams, ensure that you eat until you are nearly full but not quite at the bursting mark. This is a great rule to follow because most people gain weight due to eating too much or too frequently thereby placing your poor digestive system under pressure.

Another good practice to get into is to eat with chopsticks. If we serve only small pieces of food at one time, we will be less likely to engorge ourselves.

  • Ikigai (生き甲斐) - “Reason for Being”

At one point in our lives, we wonder why we exist - this is also known to some people as an annual existential crisis. And oftentimes, we simply accept our existence as it is. But for the Japanese, that’s not enough. Ikigai refers to the Japanese concept of “reason for being.” It consists of the mental state of four elements which are:

  • What you love
  • What the world needs
  • What you are good at
  • What you can be paid for

The idea of ikigai is to keep trying to find the purpose of your life, your reason for being, and the motivation that drives you to move each day. To add to this, researchers have found a positive correlation between having a life purpose and a reduction in mortality rate.

This is because individuals who at least have a gauge of their life’s direction, intention, and objective experience less fatigue, anxiety, and negative effects on their nervous system. Now, it is important to note - you don’t always have to find an answer. Everyone is different and their answers will differ. Having no answers doesn’t mean that you are in any way lesser. The main point is that life is a blank page. We just need to go on our journey to paint it in the colours of our choosing.

  • Practicing the Kami-no-michi Religion

Photo by Marek Piwnicki from Pexels

The majority of the Japanese people practice Shinto which is otherwise known as the kami-no-michi religion or the religion of nature. In Shinto, each living thing possesses an individuality yet is not separate from others. In essence, it is believed that we are part of a continuous current of life and we live in pursuit of this flow. As such, when coupled with ikigai, Japanese people tend to search for inner peace and by respecting Mother Nature, they pray for harmony in the world outside.

  • A Good Healthcare System and Cleanliness

Asides from their highly advanced healthcare systems, the Japanese have made a great effort to implement their vaccination programmes from birth with universal health insurance. They also regularly hold campaigns to promote healthy lifestyles. 

Image by Kanenori from Pixabay

Ever been to Japan? You would be hard-pressed to find even a piece of crushed can lying about on the streets. It is to the extent that even landfills are turned into beautiful eco-parks.

  • Tea Drinking

Photo by Charlotte May from Pexels

The tradition of drinking tea is deeply woven into their culture. One of the most popular tea is the matcha tea which is incredibly nutritious and possesses a high level of antioxidants. Fascinatingly, this tea can enhance your immune system, aid in fighting cancer, help with digestion and increase your energy levels. It is even said to be able to slow the aging of your cells!

  • Say No to Being a Couch Potato 

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The sedentary lifestyle isn’t preferred by the Japanese people. They love walking! Even when commuting, most Japanese people would either walk or cycle. In fact, their toilets are designed to squat rather than sit so they are no breaks even at your most pertinent moments.

 

References:

Kirk Spitzer. (2004). Secrets From the Longest-Living Place on Earth. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2014/longevity-secrets-from-japan.html 
Kirti Pandey. (2021). 9 steps to longer life: Learn longevity secrets from the Japanese people. Retrieved from https://www.timesnownews.com/health/article/why-the-japanese-easily-live-to-be-90-nine-secrets-from-the-country-with-longest-living-people-on-earth-longevity-average-life-expectancy/723500 
Nam Nguyen. (2017). The 3 Secrets to Japanese Longevity.  Retrieved from https://elemental.medium.com/the-3-secrets-to-japanese-longevity-dd58f50145c5 
Ruthie Darling. (2020). The Japanese secret to living to 100. Retrieved from https://www.considerable.com/health/aging/the-japanese-secret-to-living-to-100/ 
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