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New longevity studies show Okinawa remains different

Date Posted: 2008-07-10

The longevity of Okinawa’s people continues to puzzle researchers and academicians around the world, leading to more new studies aimed at finding the secret.

Although the life expectancy of Okinawa men has declined a bit in recent years, they remain near the top of the worldwide statistics. For Okinawa’s women, the average age in the 80’s continues to be envied by both mainland Japan and other countries.

A Waseda University professor is the latest to research Okinawa’s people, where he finds “Real rich life is not measured by the sign post, but Okinawan people have very rich and very comfortable lives.” Professor Jun Nishikawa, who has been lecturing in Paris on the theme “Real Abundant Life in Japan Okinawan Signpost” , says his lectures are part of the 150th Anniversary celebration of Japan-France Exchanges.

Nishikawa’s research questions, and the answers developed from them and passed to lecture attendees, ranged from what young people are eating, and whether Okinawa’s happy-go-lucky mindset will continue. Nishikawa even delved into the people’s psyche to see if they were happy with the presence of U.S. military bases here. Some of his discoveries were, by his own admission, unexpected.

While mainland Japanese tend to flee their hometowns after growing up, Okinawa’s the opposite. Okinawans flock back home as quickly as they can, wanting to live near family. In mainland Japan, populations are declining, while in Okinawa, the numbers are rising. Nishikawa found that as many cities are economically and physically prosperous, Okinawa goes a step further with morally rich citizens.

Nishikawa says Okinawans tend to be optimistic and carefree, taking time to talk to others within their neighborhoods, sharing tea with friends and family, and taking care of strangers as well as family. “They give each other a lot of helping hands,” he said. The university professor says Okinawans’ income is the lowest in Japan, but it hasn’t deterred its citizens from sticking around and bonding closely.

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