A surely not insignificant proportion of Okinawa Island’s economy now comes from the countless documentarians and academics who visit in search of the secret of longevity. Inhabitants of the Pacific island do, after all, live for an awfully long time. There are a disproportionate number of centenarians and women there live longer than any on the planet, earning it the moniker “the land of the immortals”.
Why and how? Author and adventurer Dan Buettner went to find out in Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones (Netflix, available now).
The answer was, unsurprisingly, multifaceted. But diet plays a major role. A massive 67% of Okinawans’ calorific intake comes from purple sweet potato, a favourite due to its typhoon resilience.
But crucially they’re eating less, thanks to an “ingenious little trick”. A pre-meal intoning of the phrase “hara hachi bu” – stop eating when you’re 80% full.
Community, a sense of purpose and a lot of getting up and down from sitting on the floor also play a role.
All familiar facts to viewers of How to Live to 100, a show with an identical premise that aired earlier this year hosted by the far more engaging Jon Snow. Buettner by contrast was cringingly American, speaking to everyone he met with keynote speech projection.
The real star was Ometa-san, a 101-year-old woman filmed playing – with genuine competitiveness – a ring toss game with her family, before busting out her sanshin (a banjo like instrument) for a sing-song. She also danced around with a wine bottle balanced on her head, seemingly just for the lolz.
“You’re still a kid” she told the 61-year-old host when he asked her the secret to a long life. Her answer: “This laughter brings us longevity.”