The Peculiar Response Japanese Centenarians Give When You Ask Them What They Eat

How to eat for a long and happy life

A watercolor illustration of an elderly couple.
Illustrations: Kaki Okumura
A group of birdwatchers I bumped into on a visit to Inokashira Park
A group of birdwatchers I bumped into on a visit to Inokashira Park
A group of birdwatchers I bumped into on a visit to Inokashira Park. Photo: Kaki Okumura

‘I eat everything. And I especially like sweets.’ — Motoi Fukunishi, one of the oldest men in Japan, living until 110.

Of course, when you meet a centenarian, there’s a question that crosses everyone’s mind:

  • “Eating delicious things is a key to my longevity.” — Misao Okawa, the world’s oldest living person until she passed away in 2015 at the age of 117. She also revealed that she ate lots of sushi and slept for eight hours every day.
  • “I eat everything. And I especially like sweets.” — Motoi Fukunishi, one of the oldest men in Japan, living until 110.

It was terms such as ‘like’ and ‘delicious’ that they used to describe the kind of diet that carried them for over 100 years.

When we talk about a healthy diet it’s tempting to refer to nutrition science and just credit whole foods, colorful vegetables, and healthy fats to live well and call that information enough. If we were robots or computer algorithms, it would be enough, and eating well would be easy. But humans are more complicated than this because food is not just what builds, nourishes, and heals our bodies, but it plays a profound role in our identity, our culture, our relationships with others, how we see ourselves, and how we experience joy. It’s why at the end of the day, those who live well see eating well not just as a daily chore, but as a joyful part of their life.

A trio of hands sharing hotpot.
A trio of hands sharing hotpot.
A horizontal teal brushstroke used as a line break.
A horizontal teal brushstroke used as a line break.

Born in Dallas, raised in New York and Tokyo. I care about helping others learn to live a better, healthier life. My site: www.kakikata.space 🌱

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