That’s not bluster. At the latest count, 15 of Ogimi’s 3,000 villagers are centenarians. One hundred and seventy-one are in their 90s. Even in Japan, which currently has more than 70,000 people aged 100 or over, that’s a remarkable statistic.
What can Okinawans tell us? Why does Ogimi and elsewhere on the island have a history of a long life? That comes down to three main factors—diet, social practices, and genetics—explains Craig Willcox, a professor of public health and gerontology at Okinawa International University and a co-principal investigator of the Okinawa Centenarian Study, which has been investigating Okinawan longevity since 1975.
Life on the islands is different from much of the rest of Japan. The climate is sub-tropical, with mild winters. Okinawans live amid scenic island beauty and have a reputation for being mellow; the laidback approach to punctuality here is known as “Okinawa time.”
Society is structured so older residents retain purpose, or ikigai, in their lives. Giving some in Ogimi an ikigai is the local craft of weaving basho-fu textiles, where the time-intensive cleaning of fibers and spooling of thread is done by groups of older women. It’s not just a way to remain socially active; it gives the weavers a way to supplement their income and contribute to the village economy. Naturally, the basho-fu center is run by a 98-year-old from a family full of centenarians.
Then there’s the way society stresses mutual support through moai. This Okinawan social mechanism brings groups of people with a shared interest together, allowing them to develop emotional connections. Willcox notes that belonging to multiple moai is common. “I know one man in Ogimi who is in seven,” he says. “And people are loyal to their moai; I met a group of 80-year-old women on an outlying island who had been in a moai together since they were in elementary school. I’m in one, too—our common interest is slow food.”
According to nationalgeographic.com