According to a study, Japanese people live longer than people in other countries of the world (second only to citizens of Monaco). An average life expectancy in Japan is about 85.3 years. In comparison, Americans, on average, live for up to 80 years.
Here are a handful of reasons why Japanese people live for so long.
The traditional Japanese diet is healthy and balanced.
The typical Japanese diet is high in grains and vegetables and people there don’t eat as much red meat as they do in the United States or Western Europe. Red meat has a lot more cholesterol than fish, which gives a person a higher chance of getting heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.
Also, Japanese people don’t eat much dairy (which is a source of saturated fat that can contribute to heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s), have smaller plates, and drink lots of green tea instead of coffee (tea is full of antioxidants).
Traditions include spending a lot of time with family.
Taking care of older members of the family and helping out around the house is an important tradition in Japan. There are also multigenerational families in Japan, which means 2 or more generations may live in one household. So having the whole family around is normal, and it can be a great psychological boost for older people, urging them to enjoy the time they have with their family.
Ikigai: having a reason to wake up every day
Ikigai literally means “reason for being.” It’s the concept of having a direction or purpose in life that was born in Japan and is now gaining popularity worldwide. Japanese psychologist Michiko Kumano describes ikigai as devoting oneself to things one enjoys and having a feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment.
Researchers from Tohoku University found that people that know about and practice ikigai can have a reduced risk of heart disease and live longer.
Japan can teach us about cleanliness.
The world remembers viral videos of Japanese students cleaning their schools — Japan has a reputation as one of the “cleanest” nations in the world (which is made clear by looking at the numbers of plagues in Japan compared to that of Europe). And it doesn’t need to be proven that cleanliness leads to good health.
It doesn’t always seem like a cultural norm in the rest of the world to wash your hands and shower every day, but keeping clean will help you to avoid diseases (especially when you’re elderly) and can keep you from getting sick.
Japanese use the “Hara Hachi bu” method to avoid binge eating.
Hara Hachi bu means “Eat until you are 8 parts (out of 10) full” — it’s a Confucian philosophy that teaches one to avoid overeating and eat until you are 80% full. The authors of The Okinawa Program: How the World’s Longest-Lived People Achieve Everlasting Health And How You Can Too, Bradley and Craig Wilcox and Makoto Suzuki, suggest that this method can extend elderly people’s life expectancy by restricting the number of calories consumed.
Japanese people are active walkers.
Not only do a lot of Japanese people eat healthily, but they stand and walk a lot. Many citizens, especially older people, walk, bike, and take the train to work (instead of a car). Cars are actually not that popular, and it’s easy to take a train almost anywhere you need to (which is why the train system in Japan is so great).