Japan and Longevity

I’ve been living in Japan for 17 years now and one topic has come up many times. Why do Japanese people live so long? The answer, as most would expect, is complex, but I think I have some simplistic answers from first hand experience.

Observation #1

Every year the city I live in give a health check for all of its adult residence. The cost is very low-$5 for people under 40 and around $12 for people over 40 taking in a much bigger range of tests. This is common all over the country. They give you a print out of the last several years results and this year and a consultation to make sure everything is alright or to tell you to see a doctor about something drastic, say cholesterol or high blood pressure.

I think this is an easy example of how people here are conscious that their health is important. In the States people usually go to the hospital as a last resort and by then it is too late. Here, though health care is not free, there are checks which would pick up most of the major problems people could come across, and find them at some earlier stage than-”What is wrong with me?”

Observation #2

Food is something elemental and it makes a big difference on your health. People my area eat locally grown vegetables and rice. They buy domestic fruit, they eat fish caught from the ocean this morning. The time between taken and table is reduced and this ups the health prospects.

Sushi is amazingly healthy. It is low in oil and highly digestible. Put it together with good rice and clean drinking water and you have a recipe for a stronger body, if…..

Observation #3

If you are active, and people here are just plane active all the time. Planting flowers, growing their gardens, cycling to the supermarket, walking to the clinic, hiking in the hills for wild plants to eat, you get the picture. It seems like everyone has to walk someplace and even though where I live is considered a car culture that doesn’t stop anyone from hopping on a bicycle and doing business around town just for the excuse that “Gas prices are going up next weekend.”

Observation #4

People take baths nearly every night. Whaaa? How is that important? Are you saying we don’t and we stink? Nope, I am saying they relax and probably sleep better. Taking a bath every night is a sure fire way to fall asleep quickly and soundly. It relaxes you and in that is good health.

Why this idea?

There are many other things that make up this topic so obviously these are just my observation, but they were prompted by something. The other night the news gave the projections for the country of Japan as a whole and some interesting statistics came out. As my wife shook her head in woe the newscaster said the average life expectancy for women in Japan in 30 years will be 91 years old and 86 for men. Right now it is 84 for women and 80 for men. I find this information both funny and frightening. As my wife said, “That will be the average age?!?!”

I see her point. The area where we live is above average on the life expectancy scale, so there are going to be even more older people around in 30 years? Oh, wait-that includes me!

Keep writing, and living.


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