Okinawa Prefecture is known for the longevity of its people, but Ogimi Village in the Northern Okinawa Main Island is specifically known as the “Village of Longevity”, and people conscious of their health are becoming more and more aware of Ogimi’s name not only in Japan but throughout the world. What is the secret of their longevity? In Okinawa, grandfathers are called “Oji” and grandmothers “Oba”, and we’d like to learn the secret to their longevity from their way of life.
Oji and oba in Ogimi Village rely on traditional meals made with vegetables and fruits grown naturally to maintain health and enjoy life. In 1993, the Federation of Ogimi Village Senior Citizen Clubs issued the “Greatest Longevity in Japan” declaration to invigorate the community issuing the following tenets.
At the age of 80, I’m still a child (sarawarabi), When God comes to call me at 90, I tell him to wait until I turn 100.
Let’s keep going strong as we get older, and not depend too much on our children.
If you appreciate longevity, come to our village,
We’ll provide you the blessings of nature and teach you the secrets of longevity.
We, the seniors of Ogimi Village, proclaim our village the “Longest-living Village in Japan.”
The statue saying “Greatest longevity in Japan”
The elements that support the mindset able to make such a powerful declaration contain the wisdom of longevity. So, what are those elements? When you actually visit Ogimi Village and talk to people, three main components emerge.
1. Our rich natural environment includes the sea, rivers, and mountains, and we live “without worry or hurry,” and relax.
2. We practice a diet that includes a wide range of nutrients from various sources such as meat (animal protein), island vegetables, and fruits.
3. In the spirit of the “lifelong activity”, we participate in the events and social activities of our village.
First, regarding the natural environment. Although the relationship between stress and longevity cannot be confirmed from a scientific point of view, it goes without saying that the natural environment, such as air and water, has a direct impact on health. Also, being able to live at your own pace is mentally healthy, and as the saying goes, “a healthy mind lives in a healthy body.” The absence of stress may contribute to a longer healthy life expectancy.
As for the diet, one of the characteristics of Ogimi Village’s eating habits is that the traditional Okinawan diet has been firmly preserved. The owner of the Emi no Mise, a restaurant (reservation only) visited by many people from in and outside of the prefecture including world-famous chefs, says, “We opened this shop to keep the rhythm and wisdom of life alive.” The traditional Okinawan diet contains a lot of green and yellow vegetables and seaweeds that are rich in minerals, high-quality proteins such as pork and tofu, and incorporates nourishing herbs. It can be argued that the residents’ longevity is due to their inherited practices and the wisdom of their ancestors, who managed their health well.
Specifically, comparing the average Japanese meals to the diet in Ogimi, the following four points are obvious. In Ogimi Village,
a) People eat meat often
b) The consumption of green and yellow vegetables is about three times higher
c) The consumption of legumes including tofu is 1.5 times higher
d) They eat plenty of fruits
Eating meat and legumes means eating protein. Protein is a major component of cells and the ingestion of high-quality proteins such as tofu, meat, and milk is believed to improve the function of immune cells. High immunity supports a healthy long life without diseases. As for the consumption of green vegetables and fruits, including carotene (vitamin A) and also nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, potassium, iron, calcium, etc., all are believed to be a factor supporting healthy longevity.
As for activities, you’d often see many elderly people busy working on fields and in harbors not only in Ogimi Village but also elsewhere in Okinawa. Being healthy, people can connect with the community in many ways through work, sports and recreation. When people in Ogimi get older, it’s not about retirement, but laughing, singing and dancing, sharing happy and fun things with friends, feeling positive, and enjoying life. This is the secret of their longevity. And it looks like wisdom.
In Ogimi Village the rich nature and healthy eating habits, the spirit of mutual assistance and lively social life activities and a strong sense of independence are well-balanced. It can be argued that such a lifestyle created the “Longevity Village”. In Ogimi Village, a Minpaku program (homestay) has been created, in which people can experience the harmony, “bond” and compassion between the people and nature by participating in farming and dairy work. So why not try it?