Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ms. Kitanakagusuku

Post by Anna Boom

Being Healthy is the Thing: Introducing Ms. Kitanakagusuku!

Some of you may know, I am half Japanese. My family lives here on Okinawa too, in fact very close to Foster. If you have ever joined us for the Off-Limits run and stayed through to the end, you would have run right through my family's hood.

The area where my family lives is called Kitanakagusuku. Don't be intimidated by the number of letters. Just pronounce it as it is written—Kita naka gu su ku. One of the beauties of the Japanese language is that hiragana is pronounced exactly as it is spelled. We don't have any of the “i before e” or “silent t” business. Anyone who forgets which there, they're, their to use, knows what I mean.

As you have heard, life here in Japan and Okinawa have the quality of life that promotes longevity. Japanese women have held the longest life expectancy for the past 25 years!

To celebrate this fact, the Japanese have festivals celebrating milestones in life. As the population grows older, places are coming up with ways to celebrate healthy lifestyles in older folks.

Let me introduce my aunts, my mother's older sisters. The woman in the middle is my aunt, also known as Ms Kitanakagusuku.

Ms.K in the middle with her sash. Photo courtesy of L.Sanchez
The village came up with this way to honor the women of Kitanakagusuku who have the longest average life span on Okinawa. What a beautiful thing to celebrate: an active, spirited life. 

My aunt keeps herself very engaged everyday. She is involved in learning new things such as swimming and playing the koto. She continues to work on learning English so she can talk to my random American friends who join me on a visit to her home. Ten years ago, when my mom was alive, they went every night to Comprehensive Park and while my mom trained for the marathon, my aunt would walk.

She eats a normal Japanese diet with vegetables and a little meat and eats hara hachibu. Have you heard of this? It is all about moderation. You eat till your stomach (hara) is 80% (hachibu) full, not 100. I teach my kids this way of eating, which my family thinks is pretty funny. These American kids walking around, talking about hara hachibu, a very Okinawan way of eating.

What does this have to do with running or training? Nothing and everything. Although my aunt does not run, she is active, which keeps her body and mind in tip top shape. She eats moderately, which keeps her thin and healthy. These are the components of a healthy lifestyle: being active and living in moderation and maintaining that for 80+ years. Easy, right?

You are in the perfect place to start this lifestyle, today. Okinawa, Japan.

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