CONTRIBUTED BY ANNA TIENTER
As a half-Japanese person here in Okinawa, I am blessed to have my family nearby at all times. In fact most of them are very close to Foster in the village of Kitanakagusuku. This is where the Nakamura House and the Nakagusuku castle ruins are both located.
Kitanakagusuku: don’t be intimidated by the number of letters. Just pronounce it as it is written: Kita naka gu su ku. Easy, ne? 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. This is also what makes it difficult for some Japanese to spell English words. My own kids, who attend Japanese school, are awful spellers, even though they are fluent English speakers.
Back to the topic though, as you have heard, the culture here in Japan and Okinawa have a 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. And as the population continues to stay healthy into their later years, places are coming up with ways to celebrate active lifestyles in folks of all ages.
Let me introduce my aunts, my mother’s older sisters. The woman in the middle is my aunt, also known as Ms Kitanakagusuku.
The village came up with this to honor the women of Kitanakagusuku, who now have the longest average life span on Okinawa. What a beautiful thing to celebrate: an active, spirited life.
My aunt keeps herself very engaged in life. She is involved in learning new things still today such as swimming, and playing the koto. She still works 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 Okinawa City 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 til 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.
And to keep her skin beautiful, you can guess what she does. Avoids the sun! Yes, sunblock 100+ UV block, long sleeves and driving gloves, never leaves the house without a hat and avoids any midday outdoor activity.
Ms. Kitanakagusuku, or Ms. K as my cousin and I call her for short, is a wonderful role model for anyone striving for beauty at your age right now. Stay active, continue to learn, eat in moderation and hold it for 80+ years. Easy, right?!
You are in the perfect place to start this lifestyle, today. Okinawa, Japan <3