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Gushiken: Talk about a village of seniors!

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2009-11-12

Travel to northern Okinawa frequently brings visitors into contact with old, historic communities, but Gushiken Village is really something else! It’s old, all right, in every sense of the word.

The people are old. So old, in fact, they and their village proudly hold records for their longevity. Consider this: there are 185 households in Gushiken Village, a total of 390 people. Thirteen of those are more than 100 years of age, while another 16 are over 90, and still another 48 are over 80. Starting to get the picture?

More than half of Gushiken Village’s population—120 people—are older than 65, but under 80. Overall, more than half the population over 65! That’s a feat, and just one of the mysteries of this quaint little village.

What’s more important, the citizens of Gushiken Village are not sedentary. There’s one 98-year-old gentleman who rides around town on a bicycle and stops to play games at pachinko parlors. Another fella’s 95, and he is dating a nurse. Yep! Still dating, and what’s more, goes to town to sing Karaoke. Not to be outdone, the elderly ladies are vibrant and active, and even have a group that plays golf.

All over 80, the citizens of Gushiken Village live life to the fullest, every day. They say there are lots of reasons for their health and longevity, giving some credit to the pure fresh water coming from underground and flowing from the village fountain. They claim the great fountain called ‘Fupugaa’ has been protecting them since ancient times.

These villagers are actively looking at the future, though. They’re involved in a great project called ‘Field and Paddies Space Maintenance Work’, a project to give villagers use of fountain water. Originally begun simply to preserve the fountain’s water, it’s expanded to becoming a village activity. Gushiken Village obtained ¥2 billion in state subsidies money for the project, which is allowing them to terrace the fields, grow more farm fruit, add a water mill, and extend running water to the road station’s restaurant and conference room.

The fields continue to grow, long grass overflowing as the villagers fulfill their dreams. They began the project in 2003, and are aiming to finish by next March. They expect the new project’s fields and paddies will bring a rich future to their ‘young’ children, while promoting tourism. The older villagers have their visions of fields undulating with heavily laden stalks of yellow-gold rice, as they look to their happy pasts with nostalgia and the future with profound excitement. They’re convinced summer never ends on Okinawa, and welcome visitors.

Gushiken Village is a part of Motobu City, just north of Nago City 120 kilometers north of the capital city of Naha. Nearby Nakijin Village is a World Heritage Site with its Nakijin Castle Ruins. Around Gushiken Village are deep green forests and serenely peaceful homes in groves of trees…homes surrounded with tropical flowers blossoming, the fresh breeze blowing and never changing. They call it The Twilight of the Gods, the Village of the Gods, Gushiken Village, and they invite everyone to come visit.

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