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Why Are the Japanese in Japan the Longest Living People

At age 16 I was a volunteer at a hospital bacteriology lab. I became a chemist for U.S. government. Then I studied health & related fields.

Japanese Woman in Japan Doing a Yoga Pose and Doing Zen Archery

Japanese woman in Japan doing a yoga pose.

Japanese woman in Japan doing a yoga pose.

Japanese woman doing zen archery. This is mostly a spiritual discipline.

Japanese woman doing zen archery. This is mostly a spiritual discipline.

Japanese-- Longest Living People

The Japanese or people in Japan are the longest living people. The island of Okinawa is part of Japan and has the highest rate of people over 100 anywhere. This article is about the reasons for this that can help you to live longer. The information below shows that this is not a genetic thing.

This article was written March 31, 2013. When people are trying to sell things from Japan, they will say that thing is the cause of it so you will buy it. But there are many different factors contributing to this long lifespan. Here is the article that motivated me to write this: The Healthiest People on Earth: What’s Their Secret?

If you live in Japan you’re probably feeling pretty good. The quality of health there is ranked number one in the world. If you live in the U.S. it’s a different story, and not one to feel good about.

America’s health score ranks close to the bottom. Where the nation soars to the top is in money spent on health care—billions of dollars more than any other country.

Readers of the global study will naturally want to know the secret of Japan’s success. The spoiler is that no one knows exactly. Some experts go as far as to say that it’s a combination of factors, but that’s about as certain as it gets.

The United States tied Norway for 29th place in male healthy life expectancy and tied Estonia for 33rdplace in highest female healthy life expectancy.

Now some people will not like the following since it is very controversial. But I am including this since I noticed something interesting about the other healthiest countries. Part of how long people live is the IMR (infant mortality rate). For example if you have 100 babies and 50% die as infants and the rest live until 100 years old, then the average lifespan is 50 years old.

So let us just get this out of the way. This webpage has a chart of the lowest IMR and countries getting the least and most doses of vaccines. Compare the countries with the lowest IMRs that correspond to the number of vaccines that they get to the countries on the article above that motivated me to write this.

Japan gets the lowest number of vaccine doses at 12. The U.S. is the highest with 26 doses of vaccines. The U.S. has the 34th lowest infant mortality rate. Japan has the 3rd lowest IMR. If you disagree with this (vaccines), then just ignore it and keep reading about the Japanese lifestyle for things that are not controversial.

Part of the Japanese culture is for them to appear as peaceful and calm as possible in public. If they act stressed out or angry, they dishonor themselves. It is kind of a Buddhist thing. The easiest way to appear calm and peaceful is to be calm and peaceful. I was in Japan at age 14 for 3 weeks for a Boy Scout Jamboree even though I lived in Philadelphia, PA, USA. The first link about the article that motivated me to write this above says:

They strive to be kind and forgiving, calm and patient.

So we know that stress may be the worst thing for health. One study showed that people with highest level of stress were similar to people smoking 5 cigarettes a day as far as health. I also saw an article saying that Japan or the Japanese culture is based on kindness. It said that they had the best customer care in the world. Here is that webpage about that.

You are supposed to watch the video on it to be surprised. But I do not know if you will do that or if the link will be broken at some point so I will ruin the surprise. In a Japanese subway/train place some white people were trying to figure out what tickets they needed from the ticket machine and were having trouble. So the ticket machine opens up and a Japanese man comes out of it to assist them. Watch the video to see this.

So they were stressed out trying to figure out how to use the machine but then they felt good when someone came out to assist them. I know another thing that is part of their culture is to take a bath in very hot water for a while to relax, not to clean themselves. They take a shower before entering the bath-- at least in the hotels that we stayed in. So the Japanese make sure to take care of their mental health.

Green Tea

The most common beverage in Japan is tea and the most popular tea there is green tea. Their green tea includes gyokuro, sencha, bancha, matcha (powdered green tea), konacha and hojicha. This may be the healthiest herb that exists and that is why the Chinese and Japanese drink it as their main beverage. Green tea is the most alkaline food that exists. Here is the original chart of it created by biochemist Dr. Ragnar Berg in the 1930s. Green tea has an acid binding score of 53.50 while spinach is only 28.01.

The Japanese in Japan are Very Health Conscious

The people in Japan are a very health conscious people-- much greater than the people in America. The last I heard was that their number one selling health supplement was not a vitamin, mineral or a chemical. It is a whole food called chlorella that is an algae and similar to a seaweed.

What is well known is that Japan is an island so the Japanese eat a lot of fish. But many Americans live on the coast where there is a great supply of fish. And fish is easily available all over the United States. But the Japanese also eat a lot of seaweed that also comes from the ocean. Whereas eating seaweed is not that popular in the U.S.

See the article: Health Benefits of Seaweed. Where I live we can get a lot of different seaweeds by going to an Asian supermarket. Before I hike I was snacking on some nori-- a seaweed. I offered some to a friend to try. He tried it and after that he became someone that would snack on nori. Seaweed is very high in trace minerals since the sea or ocean is loaded with trace minerals like iodine. Many medical doctors believe that Americans do not get enough iodine that contributes to them getting cancer.

I was talking to a Japanese woman from Japan that was visiting America for some college classes. She said that even though Japanese eat meat, it is nowhere near the amount that Americans eat. Also Americans eat a much greater amount of food than the average Japanese and they create a lot more waste according to her.

The obesity rate in Japan is 20% but not really. They call a BMI of over 25 obese whereas in America you need a BMI (body mass index) of over 30 to be obese. In the United States the obesity rate is 35% and rapidly growing. The 20% is also blamed on the Japanese adopting a more American or Western diet. Wikipedia says:

Using the WHO criteria Japan has the lowest rate of obesity among the OECD member countries at 3.2%. However, as Asian populations are particularly susceptible to the health risks of excess adipose tissue the Japanese have redefined obesity as any BMI greater than 25.

An article says that since the tsunami killed 20,000 people the Hong Kong women live longer than Japanese women. Wikipedia's life expectancy figures for 2010 show Japan as the highest (82.73 overall) with men at 79.29 and women at 86.96. It says that Hong Kong women are 2nd at 84.30.

It has the United States ranked as 40th longest living people in the world with 77.97 overall, 75.35 for men and 80.51 for women.

The Japanese are known to eat a lot of soybeans or soy and especially fermented soy. In the U.S. the authoritarian websites like those of the government say that soybeans are healthy but other ones say that only the fermented soy is healthy. Note that most of the soy in the U.S. is GMO so that may change things. I love the taste of edamame beans that are soybeans.

There is a fermented soy that is the only source of the MK-7 form of vitamin K2. It is called natto or nattō. This is supposed to help take calcium out of the plaque in the arteries and put it into the bones. Dr. Mercola says that this is the new vitamin D. For more on this see The Health Benefits of Natto-- an article written by me. Below is the enzyme that causes this sold.

Now here is a list of foods that a webpage that is down says is responsible for Okinawans living so long. They live longer than the other Japanese. As far as stress, the Okinawans are known for being very laid back like "Don't worry, be happy!"

1. Sweet potatoes/yam

2. Soy

3. Goya-- a type of melon

4. Konnyaku-- a Japanese jelly derived from the starchy tuber of the Konjac plant.

5. Shiitake Mushroom

6. Gobo-- a root vegetable

7. Hechima-- a gourd or squash

8. Seaweed-- I talked about this already

9. Turmeric-- this spice contains the phytochemical curcumin that may be the most powerful anti-inflammatory that exists.

10. Mugwort or fuchiba that is a spice

11. Hihatsu-- a type of pepper

12. Fennel or ichiba that is a spice

Please note that fish or pig (pork) was not among these 12 listed. They do not consume dairy and try to eat until only 80% full-- called hara hachi bu. This article says:

*All quoted research was from an article published in the 2009 issue of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, entitled “The Okinawan Diet: Health Implications of a Low-Calorie, Nutrient-Dense, Antioxidant-Rich Dietary Pattern Low in Glycemic Load”

The Okinawa Program book

The Okinawa Diet: Living to 100

Secret of Long Life in Okinawa- the elderly here are very active getting plenty of exercise

World's Oldest Person Celebrates his 116th Birthday in Japan. He eats rice, pumpkins and sweet potatoes.


Matt on January 17, 2020:

Didn’t mention the mainly vegan diet

Chuck Bluestein (author) from Morristown, AZ, USA on May 23, 2016:

It gives a link where it comes from-- Human and Experimental Toxicology. The only thing permanent is change. The earth used to be flat. The sun used to orbit around the earth. The cause of rickets and scurvy used to be unknown-- lack of vitamin D and C. Things change.

April on May 22, 2016:

I gave birth to both of my children in Japan and have raised them here. There are definitely more than 12 vaccines and they definitely give them before the age of 1! Most of them are, in fact. I don't know where you're getting your information, but it's wrong, regardless of where you stand on the vaccine issues.

Gopakumar on June 01, 2015:

Absolutely informative for a better life. Appreciate it. GK

JOANNA on June 01, 2015:

Very good article to read. It gives us good idea about what we can do so we can live longer.

Martha Char Love on May 29, 2014:

Excellent article, Chuck! I like the way you look at a range of reasons for Japanese longevity. Having spent a little time in Japan, I would also add that there is a feeling of "safety" from crime in Japan and this is much different from living in many areas of the USA. I do believe that the Japanese diet is quite alkaline, with green tea and miso for instance as a daily staple, and this positive is different from the typical Western diet. Thank you for covering so clearly this important question.

Chuck Bluestein (author) from Morristown, AZ, USA on August 16, 2013:

They do honor their parents but most Japanese are Buddhist.

ii3rittles on August 16, 2013:

My theory... They honor their parents.

"Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." - Exodus 20:12

If you honor your parents, we are told we will have a long life. :)

TurtleDog on May 20, 2013:

Great post! Caught this on Twitter. I didn't realize they were # 1 in health care. Up and awesome Thanks

Brenda Kyle from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA on April 01, 2013:

Great timing on the hub. I started eating miso soup daily, it has many of those beneficial ingredients. I made a decision to live healthier and they are a model for the diet portion. The stress part takes a lot more effort to stop.

Hezekiah from Japan on April 01, 2013:

After living in Japan for over 12 years I can say that the majority of Japanese do eat healthy. And they do enjoy their food. That doesn't mean cut out the calories but they are a good balance of foods. Fish, Seaweed, Rice, meat, noodle, pickles and meat (sometimes fried) but its the balance that matters. Why wife would never give me a place of simple Rice and Meat. There will always be numerous other dishes of Miso Soup, Veg and Fish to balance it out.

nancymaggielee on March 31, 2013:

Great information, thank you for a very interesting hub.

Chuck Bluestein (author) from Morristown, AZ, USA on March 31, 2013:

Some of the doctors are concerned with how young infants are when they get the vaccinations. So it would be better to wait until they are 2 before injecting them with poisons. Vaccines do contain aluminum and formaldehyde.

I do not know why people are concerned about the formaldehyde in vaccines. Formaldehyde has been used for decades to preserve dead animals and it never hurt any of these dead animals.

Margaret Perrottet from San Antonio, FL on March 31, 2013:

What an interesting article, with facts that should concern Americans. I think that so much of the health problems in this country can be attributed to a combination of stress, poor diet and lack of exercise. The Japanese seem to handle all of these matters much better. I also read you article about vaccinations, and see that Japan waits until children are two years old before they give them any. I'm not sure how I feel about this controversial issue, but the dangers are something that we should consider. Voting this hub up, interesting and useful - and sharing!

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