The Ryuku Islands consist of a few dozen islands stretching over a thousand kilometers from Kyushu to Taiwan. Famous for its unique language, cuisine and distinct indigenous culture, the prefecture is also known for the incredible longevity of its people.
In particular, Okinawa is held in high esteem. —
Unlocking the Secrets to a Happier, Longer Life
Ryukyuan philosophy, with its heavy emphasis on nature and balance, may be at the heart of Okinawan longevity. Despite being subjugated by mainland Japan in the late 19th century, the local Ryukyuan culture has managed to survive, with many ancient customs and ideologies still revered today. Above all else, the Okinawan people have clung to a philosophy that emphasises the world over the self and seeks to add simplicity and purpose into every aspect of life.
The Okinawan people maintain a tradition known as moai, which provides ongoing social security networks for one another. This safety net allows them to support one another in times of financial distress or ill-health, and erodes the stress of isolation, particularly in old age.
Another reason Okinawans are thought to have a long life: food. The local diet is typically rich in vegetables, with modest servings of seafood and soy products on the side. Sweet potatoes, leafy greens, yellow root vegetables, tofu, and bitter melon, all make an appearance alongside a surprisingly modest amount of fish, lean meat, and fruit. Okinawans are also notorious for their love of tea, with turmeric tea front and center thanks to its ability to soothe the heart, the mind, and the soul.
A Life of Purpose
Much of Okinawa’s way of life is intrinsically linked with ikigai, a Japanese concept that translates to ‘a reason for being’ or a ‘life purpose.’ It’s part of the reason that Okinawans have a reputation for being master craftsmen, fishermen, gardeners, and philosophers. And stems from a strong belief in having a passion at the center of your life and to always act mindfully and meaningfully. A definite nod to Okinawa’s indigenous dynasty.
Nature, purpose, diet, movement—these have long been known as key factors in living a long and healthy life. But what Okinawans bring to this approach is the unique perspective of a people who have survived their neighbours, world wars, and modernity. A perspective that goes beyond anything as simple as drinking turmeric tea or cutting red meat from your diet.
Okinawa itself is unlike anywhere else on Earth, and perhaps it is the place itself, in the Ryukyuan temples, the pristine coves, and the dense green forest, that allows its citizens to live to such a ripe old age.
No matter your age, Japan has plenty of food, activities, and traditions to keep your soul feeling youthful. Check our our Japan Travel Guide for more information about this astonishing destination.
This content was created in partnership with the Japan National Tourism Organization and Japan Airlines.