Okinawa Culture as a Blue Zone

We found our second Blue Zone on the other side of the planet, about 800 miles south of Tokyo, on the archipelago of Okinawa. Okinawa is actually 161 small islands. And in the northern part of the main island, this is ground zero for world longevity. This is a place where the oldest living female population is found. It's a place where people have the longest disability-free life expectancy in the world. They have what we want. They live a long time, and tend to die in their sleep, very quickly, and often, I can tell you, after sex.

They live about seven good years longer than the average American. Five times as many centenarians as we have in America. One fifth the rate of colon and breast cancer, big killers here in America. And one sixth the rate of cardiovascular disease. And the fact that this culture has yielded these numbers suggests strongly they have something to teach us. What do they do? Once again, a plant-based diet, full of vegetables with lots of color in them. And they eat about eight times as much tofu as Americans do.

More significant than what they eat is how they eat it. They have all kinds of little strategies to keep from overeating, which, as you know, is a big problem here in America. A few of the strategies we observed: they eat off of smaller plates, so they tend to eat fewer calories at every sitting. Instead of serving family style, where you can sort of mindlessly eat as you're talking, they serve at the counter, put the food away, and then bring it to the table.

They also have a 3,000-year-old adage, which I think is the greatest sort of diet suggestion ever invented. It was invented by Confucius. And that diet is known as the Hara, Hatchi, Bu diet. It's simply a little saying these people say before their meal to remind them to stop eating when their stomach is [80] percent full. It takes about a half hour for that full feeling to travel from your belly to your brain. And by remembering to stop at 80 percent it helps keep you from doing that very thing.

But, like Sardinia, Okinawa has a few social constructs that we can associate with longevity. We know that isolation kills. Fifteen years ago, the average American had three good friends. We're down to one and half right now. If you were lucky enough to be born in Okinawa, you were born into a system where you automatically have a half a dozen friends with whom you travel through life. They call it a Moai. And if you're in a Moai you're expected to share the bounty if you encounter luck, and if things go bad, child gets sick, parent dies, you always have somebody who has your back. This particular Moai, these five ladies have been together for 97 years. Their average age is 102.

Typically in America we've divided our adult life up into two sections. There is our work life, where we're productive. And then one day, boom, we retire. And typically that has meant retiring to the easy chair, or going down to Arizona to play golf. In the Okinawan language there is not even a word for retirement. Instead there is one word that imbues your entire life, and that word is "ikigai." And, roughly translated, it means "the reason for which you wake up in the morning."


Habits and culture of the people with the longest life-expectancy on the planet.

Folksonomies: meaning purpose aging longevity

/society/work/retirement (0.536700)
/health and fitness/disease/cancer (0.448833)
/travel/tourist destinations/japan (0.414406)

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Okinawa:Country (0.738487 (positive:0.320629)), America:Continent (0.701467 (negative:-0.143748)), Tokyo:City (0.356759 (neutral:0.000000)), Hara:Person (0.325073 (neutral:0.000000)), golf:Sport (0.313756 (negative:-0.362306)), Arizona:StateOrCounty (0.303974 (negative:-0.362306)), Sardinia:Country (0.278823 (neutral:0.000000)), Fifteen years:Quantity (0.278823 (neutral:0.000000)), 3,000-year:Quantity (0.278823 (neutral:0.000000)), 80 percent:Quantity (0.278823 (neutral:0.000000)), 800 miles:Quantity (0.278823 (neutral:0.000000)), One fifth:Quantity (0.278823 (neutral:0.000000)), 97 years:Quantity (0.278823 (neutral:0.000000)), one day:Quantity (0.278823 (neutral:0.000000))

Life expectancy (0.926825): dbpedia | freebase
Ryukyuan languages (0.858654): dbpedia | freebase | yago
United States (0.830599): website | dbpedia | ciaFactbook | freebase | opencyc | yago
Demography (0.825078): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Okinawan language (0.815113): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Pension (0.777637): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Longevity (0.752552): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Japan (0.747031): website | dbpedia | ciaFactbook | freebase | opencyc

 How to live to be 100
Proceedings of Meetings and Symposia>Speech:  Buettner, Dan (Sept 2009), How to live to be 100, Ted Talks, Retrieved on 2013-11-27
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: anthropology longevity


    04 MAR 2015


    How to live longer.