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Surprising Answers to Surveys On What Okinawans Tend to Eat

Date Posted: 2004-04-08

Okinawans are not eating fish. It’s a surprise response to a survey conducted by Japan’s Meat Expenditure Union Center, which shows that although Okinawa’s an island surrounded by ocean, only 17.4% of the population eats fish.

“Why we Okinawans don’t eat fish, even though we have the longest lives of anyone in the world,” is puzzling to the Director of Okinawa Kaiho Bank. “The ocean is our life.”

The research center shows family dinners tend mostly to be meat. More specifically, the favorite is minced port, or ribs, or pork ham. By comparison, 30% of northern Japan residents eat fish for dinner. Northern prefectures use much fresh ocean food. Tokyo residents came in second in fish consumption at 25%, followed by Kyushu and northern Honshu with 24%, and middle Japan with 23%. Okinawa was at the bottom of the survey.

“Healthy food is the fish,” a doctor says. “We have to eat fish a lot.” Specialists say, though, that “Okinawan people are the vegetarians. A lot of people eat vegetables and fruits.”

The doctor also noted “Okinawans have become Americanized a lot, so they eat tacos and hamburgers. That’s why a lot of minced meats are prevalent at dinnertime.” At the same time, the doctor noted that Okinawans are in love with canned tuna fish, often called sea chicken, as it’s readymade fish, easy to fix for dinner.

They also note that fish is popular during gift giving seasons, such as Obon, the new year, and end of year parties. Dozens of canned tuna fish packages are favorite giftpacks, notes Kaiho Bank’s Mitsugu Iha. “Shouldn’t we eat fish more, especially fresh ones? We have good fresh fish in the neighborhood. Otherwise we lose our healthy life.”

Recent studies show that the longevity of Okinawan men is down to 27th in Japan. Okinawa once led the statistics. Women, however, still top the rankings of the 52 prefectures. On average, women in Okinawa are 87 years of age. Men’s life expectancy has dropped from 78.6 to 76.2 years.

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