7 Healthy Habits From Japan

Practiced by the Japanese, these secrets may lead to a long and healthy life!


A Japanese woman in kimono enjoys exercise as she walks through a bamboo forest.

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What is the secret to living a long, healthy life? You might find the answer to this age-old question (pun intended) in Japan. The country has had the longest life expectancy in the world, with an average of 85.7 years, Business Insider reports.

April 7 marks World Health Day 2021. The focus this year is on building a fairer, healthier world for everyone. This can start by bringing a healthy Japan right into your home! Discover the secrets to longevity from the Land of the Rising Sun with these healthy habits from Japan.

Food is thy medicine

The term Blue Zone appeared in National Geographic, in an article on long life by Dan Buetter. Through his travels, Buetter identified five regions where people live the longest, including Okinawa, Japan.  He said that, “There’s an Okinawan phrase, nuchi gusui, which can translate as ‘let food be your medicine.’”

For Okinawans, that means plenty of fruits and vegetables with heart-healthy fish. Lifestyle choices like eating a nutritious diet impact health positively, resulting in living a long, healthy life, according to Healthline.

A healthy Japanese lunch served in Okinawa.

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Maintain strong family and social connections

Humans are social creatures who thrive through connection. A 2017 study published in Innovation in Aging showed the positive impact that tight-knit families, and happy marriages lead to better health and a longer life. Remember to spend quality time with family, whether it is the family you are born into, or the family you choose.

This is maintained in Okinawa, according to  National Geographic, where residents have a lifelong circle of friends called a moai that support each other well into old age.

A Japanese family stays connected, enjoying a walk in the park.

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Drink plenty of tea

In the west, people often reach for a coffee in the morning as their go-to beverage to start the day. But one of the best-kept healthy habits in the Far East is drinking tea. Matcha, oolongcha, and ryokucha teas have remained a staple of the Japanese diet since ancient times, with amazing health benefits. A 2014 study of Japanese adults found that those who drank green tea each day lowered their risk of diabetes by 33 percent.

Pouring green tea Japanese style.

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Take off your shoes when indoors

Japanese traditionally do not wear their shoes in the house and change into slippers instead. It may seem strange at first. But when you think about it, it makes total sense! Shoes can carry infectious bacteria, according to Healthline, so consider taking off sneakers when indoors. After all, people wear their shoes in the dirty streets. The last thing you want to do is bring that all inside your home.

Shoes left outside a doorway in Japan.

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Soak in long, hot baths

Did you know Japan is full of natural hot springs? Volcanic activity throughout the island naturally heats over 3,000 geothermal mineral springs called onsen, according to BBC. The Japanese stay at inns to soak in the hot springs, while these healing waters ease muscle pain and prevent disease.

A Japanese man soaking in a hot spring gazes out at Mt. Fuji.

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Start the day with exercise

When you want to start the day off on the right foot, take a lead from the Japanese and exercise. Every morning, the Japanese traditionally participate in rajio taiso (radio exercise). According to The Guardian, it all started over 70 years ago when Emperor Hirohito started hosting a country-wide exercise broadcast to improve the health of Japanese soldiers. Today, the Japanese people continue the practice every morning, combining light movement such as bending, stretching, jumping, and toe touching.

Older Japanese couple stretching under a blue sky.

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Live with purpose!

You may have heard of hygge from Denmark or joie de vivre from France, but what about ikigai from Japan? The concept means “reason for being” and promotes having a purpose or direction in life. This results in more satisfaction and a longer life.  Everyone has a purpose. You just have to know how to find your passion in life.

A diagram illustrates the Japanese reason for being called ikigai.

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