Why Does Japan Have Such A High Life Expectancy?

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Miho Shimizu is a Japanese freelance writer settled in Shizuoka with her husband and two rabbits. Fascinated with travelling at the age of 18, she has spent most of her long holidays exploring incredible spots around Japan. She also loves to listen to music, draw, and read novels over a cup of green tea.

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For the past decade, Japan has successively ranked among the top countries with the longest life expectancy in the world. According to some statistics, Japanese people on average, are expected to live over 80 years regardless of gender, which is about 10 years longer than the global average life expectancy. 

But how do Japanese people stay healthy and live such a long life? Are there any hidden secrets behind Japan’s longevity? Here you will learn the five secrets which help Japanese people stay healthy and maintain the world’s highest life expectancy! 

1. Japanese Healthy Diet

Sashimi is very healthy and top quality here in Japan

Traditional Japanese meals consist of healthy, low-calorie dishes which mainly contain plenty of vegetables, fruits, beans, fish, and other types of plant-based foods. Although the amount of meat consumed per person in Japan has been rising every year, some statistics show that the Japanese eat less meat compared to other developed countries in the world.

Instead, a large variety of fresh seafood has been traditionally used in Japanese meals. This is mainly because Japan is surrounded by the sea. Most popular Japanese seafood dish options include Sushi and Sashimi, which have also been getting more popular around the world in recent years as a healthy diet.           

2. Drinking Tea

There are many health benefits of drinking a cup of tea daily

From ancient times, a large variety of tea has been consumed around the world as a tasty and healthy beverage. Japanese people especially love green tea, which contains a small amount of caffeine compared to black tea or coffee. Health benefits of drinking green tea include lower risks for a range of diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, to name a few. 

In addition, tea contains a substance called antioxidants, which is also found in fruits and vegetables in high proportion. This substance boosts your immune system, so drinking a moderate amount of tea on a daily basis will protect your body from diseases ranging from a light cold to cancer. Antioxidants are also exceptionally good for anti-aging, which helps your skin look young and beautiful.                            

3. Smaller Food Portions

Japanese portion sizes look small, but are very filling

If you have ever visited restaurants or cafes in Japan, you might have been surprised by the foods served in small portions. There is also a traditional Japanese term, “Hara Hachi bu”(腹八分), which means it is healthy to stop eating when you are 80% full. If you keep eating until you are completely full, you take in extra calories and experience a sudden increase in blood pressure, which could eventually cause serious diseases. This is why many Japanese people believe light meals will help them live long life.

4. Less Fast Food

Japanese junk food of course is very popular, but not as common as in the west.

Compared to western countries, it is said that Japanese people eat less fast food thanks to their high level of health consciousness. For breakfast, many Japanese prepare healthy dishes such as rice, miso soup, and grilled fish at home. Others who don’t have time can grab quick meals at convenience stores such as Onigiri (rice balls), which typically cost only ¥100. 

For lunch, Japan boasts a large variety of healthy options to choose from. Some of Japan’s fast food restaurant chains mainly serve udon noodles, soba noodles, sushi, and gyudon (beef bowls), which are reasonably available and are the most popular choices among busy workers. If you order a typical gyudon set meal in Japan, it will come with a small salad, miso soup, Japanese pickled vegetables, and an egg.

5. Commuting by Public Transport instead of Car

Walking to and from the station can really add up in terms of the physical benefits.

If you live in or are planning on moving to urban areas in Japan, such as Tokyo and Osaka, owning a car is not necessary. In big cities, the public transport system is advanced and incredibly reliable in terms of accuracy and safety. As a result, many Japanese people take public transport such as trains, buses, and the subway to offices or to school every day, which helps them get more exercise than driving a car. Commuting by bike has also become more popular in recent years as an eco-friendly and healthy option, thanks to the spread of bike lanes nationwide.    

As you’ve learned from the article, Japanese people live a long life because they simply eat healthily and exercise on a daily basis by commuting by public transport. When it comes to healthy food options, you will never have difficulty finding places where you can enjoy a variety of healthy, tasty, and affordable Japanese dishes like locals.

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