Okinawa is known abroad for the land of longevity, but in Japan, Nagano Prefecture is famous for a long life because it had been ranked number one in the Japanese national longevity ranking for many years.
However, last year, the men in Shiga Prefecture beat Nagano for the first time to be in the lead. Apparently, there are 692 centenarians in Shiga.
Since Japan is known for the country of longest life expectancy, being ranked number one in Japan should mean Shiga is one of the healthiest areas in the world.
Shiga Prefecture is located in central Japan next to Kyoto and it is famous for Lake Biwa which is the biggest lake in Japan. Shiga is also known for Omi-merchants and Omi was the old name of Shiga.
Unlike Osaka and Kyoto, Shiga is a rural prefecture and the majority of our land consists of Satoyama. It was featured in a BBC documentary program Satoyama: Japan’s Secret WaterGarden, as well.
And I think Satoyama lifestyle has a lot to do with our longevity.
This is something I wrote some time ago but it is relevant to what I have been talking about in the past few days, so I will write it again.
Was Shiga Ranked Number One in the National Longevity Ranking in 2017 because of Ikigai?
In the book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, Héctor García gives the following factors contributing to their long life seen among the centenarians in Ogimi Village in Okinawa.
1, They keep a vegetable garden
2, They belong to some form of neighborhood association
3, They celebrate all the time with music and dance
4, They have an Ikigai, an important purpose in their life
5, They are proud of their tradition and local culture
6, They are passionate about everything they do
7, They help each other
8, They are always busy doing something
When I read this part, I wasn’t surprised because most of them are elements seen among my neighbors in Hino, Shiga who are in their 80s.
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 don’t necessarily celebrate all the time since we don’t have a custom of dancing and singing like they do in Okinawa.
4, They have an Ikigai because many of them are both Shintoists and Buddhists, so spirituality plays a big role in their life.
5, They are proud of their tradition and local culture. People in their 70s aren’t anymore but people in their 80s still retain their pride.
6, They are not necessarily passionate about everything they do
7, They help each other
8, 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.
Out of 8 factors, 6 of them are seen in old people in Shiga and I think it is the same in Nagano if I try to remember the time I was living in Nagano.
As I stated in my book IKIGAI DIET, these 6 factors were also seen in Tochigi Prefecture when I lived there, but not in Tokyo.
What I can see from that is these factors are common in Japanese countryside since all 4 locations including Okinawa are in the country.
Another word, these 6 factors are characteristics of traditional Japanese lifestyle which I call Satoyama lifestyle, and Satoyama lifestyle is contributing to Shiga’s long life, not only Ikigai.
One additional thing makes people in Shiga live long, I think, is that we have very few natural disasters. Another factor I can think of is that Shiga has a tradition of making fermented foods since some of the Omi-merchants were in the fermentation business. Especially Omi-Hino-merchants were famous for making miso, soy sauce, and sake.
Fermented foods are considered to be good for our health; they benefit intestinal bacteria. Even some Western doctors such as Justin and Erica Sonnenburg recently recognize the effects of microbiotas and intestines for our well being and longevity.
The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long-term Health
Having said that, people made fermented foods at home everywhere in Japan regardless of prefectures, so I don’t think it is only relevant to Shiga, and what we need to look into isn’t the lifestyle of a particular region, but the Satoyama Lifestyle in general which was common in pre-industrial period in Japan.
Therefore, I decided to feature it in my book IKIGAI DIET, especially the diet, since there is so much to cover in our traditional diet alone that is not known in other countries.
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