BBC – Journey – Okinawa: The island of almost-eternal youth

On the Japanese island of Okinawa, known as the “island of longevity”, the locals refuse to die. Women live here longer than women anywhere on earth and the residents suffer from heart disease, cancer and dementia. Okinawan’s robust social life and strong sense of Ikigai, a unique purpose in life, often keep them over 100 years old and healthy.

As one of the world’s five “blue zones” for longevity, Okinawa is also unique because of the close ties between its residents. Most join one or more moai, an informal group of friends and colleagues who meet regularly, share common interests, and pool monthly dues to help members in need or support public works.

According to the book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to Long and Happy Life by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles, Okinawans eat a diet rich in vegetables and antioxidant foods, consume only a third of the average sugar intake in Japan, and eat their meals on small plates. They regularly exercise their bodies at low intensity and only eat until they feel 80% full, which is in line with ancient wisdom that advises against overeating. Kitanakagusuku Village in Okinawa even holds an annual pageant to celebrate women aged 80 and over.

The key to Okinawan’s joy and good health is her ikigai, the core of his true nature, which need not focus on a lofty, material, or power-driven goal. The authors write that every day you will discover and pursue your Ikigai to do the things that give your life meaning. But it is also important to reconnect with nature, to surround yourself with people who love you and stay active.

The secret of a long life apparently begins where our curiosity, intuition and friendships meet.

(Video by Shiho Fukada & Keith Bedford, text by Yasmin El-Beih)

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