Satoyama Near Lake Biwa: Satoyama Lifestyle is a Japanese Secret to Happiness

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If you want to find out Satoyama lifestyle and a Japanese secret to health, longevity and happiness, this is the blogpost you are looking for.


This is the continuation of my other post Satoyama Near Lake Biwa: Satoyama Lifestyle is the Japanese Secret to Health and Longevity.


At the end of the blogpost, I said the following:

Good news is that there is a new movement taking place in Satoyama by young people who have moved in from cities, and Satoyama lifestyle I am sharing is this new lifestyle because these young people are not only preserving the Japanese secret, they are upgrading it, from the secret to health and longevity to the secret to health, longevity, and happiness.


What do I mean by it?


First, Japan isn’t a happy country, even though it is a country of health and longevity. Therefore the Satoyama lifestyle which has been practiced through generations to generations can be the secret to health and longevity but not to happiness. However, this new Satoyama lifestyle developed by young generation can be the secret to happiness, as well.



What is the difference between health and happiness?


Some people often regard the two in the same context such as when we use the word wellness. It can often overlap and true health should include the state of being happy and true happiness should include the state of being healthy. Nevertheless, it is possible that one is healthy but not happy and one is happy but not healthy.


There are different definitions of happiness, and it isn’t simple to talk about happiness without setting the definition isn’t it? Let’s use the criteria from the World Happiness Report here to make the argument easier.

1.Social support so that you have friends and family to count on in times of trouble

2.Freedom to choose what you do in life

3.Generosity and how much people donate to charity

4.Absence of corruption in business and government


6.Healthy life expectancy


You know,  Japan has been ranked under 40th in the World Happiness Report for many years, which is surprising for a country with high reputation of health and longevity isn’t it? But it isn’t surprising to me and I can tell which areas Japan didn’t score high just from my general observation of the Japanese society.


2.Freedom to choose what you do in life

4.Absence of corruption in business and government


We lack the freedom to choose what we do in life. There is so much corruption in our businesses and the government.


So even though we may have high healthy life expectancy, because of these two factors we aren’t regarded as a happy country.


You can say those two factors are related to our political system and social system, therefore they are outside of our control unlike the actions we can take to improve our health. However, I think these two factors are ingrained in our culture including our Satoyama lifestyle, therefore we can’t ignore them when we look at Satoyama lifestyle as a secret to our well-being.


Now, let’s look at the 6 factors of Satoyama lifestyle which I looked at in the other post as the factors contributing to Japanese health and longevity.

1, They have a garden.

2, They belong to a neighborhood association and have a strong bond with one another: They often chat with one another and are never lonely.

3, They have an Ikigai because many of them are both Shintoists and Buddhists, so spirituality plays a big role in their life.

4, They are proud of their tradition and local culture.

5, They help each other

6, They are always busy doing something: They work in the rice field, vegetable field, cut trees in the mountains, fix their house, or play ground golf.


2 (They belong to a neighborhood association) is one of the causes of corruption in Japanese business and government. Well, it isn’t directly causing it, but the culture we see in our neighborhood association is seen throughout Japanese organizations whether it is a company, a political party, a medical institution, or even an academic institution: It is non democratic; only men can participate in decision-making process; you don’t often disagree with the leaders.


3 (They have an Ikigai because many of them are both Shintoists and Buddhists) is one of the causes of  lack of freedom to choose what you do in life. We are born to be a Shintoist since we all belong to a local shrine and a lot of us automatically become Buddhists as part of family tradition. We don’t have much choise. It goes to almost anything. You are expected to follow everything in your family; the job and the place to live.


The funny thing is this lack of freedom sustained our satoyama culture because it didn’t allow people to break the order of a sustainable lifestyle.


You need to understand this even if it sounds strange, having freedom means having freedom to live unsustainably, too, and through the process of modernization, many people gained freedom and moved to cities chosing occupations other than farming which created today’s unsustainable culture.


Even how undemocratic it looked, it did serve a certain function in the past.


And yet, since we are evolving as a civilization, the concept of sustainability is changing to include freedom. We need to find ways to live sustainably while enjoying our freedom and diversity.


That is what the young naturally conscious Japanese people who have moved to Satoyama are doing. They are reshaping the Satoyama culture to meet this new expectation.


Japanese Happiness and Ikigai aren’t What They Seem, But There is a Potential for them to be the Symbols of Sustainable Culture


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