Ikigai: Nagano’s Secret to being the King of Japanese Blue Zones

Writing about wine in Nagano made me want to drink Shinshu wine. Shinshu is Nagano’s old name. It says this wine was made using 100% Shinshu grapes. It tastes very much like grapes. I am used to drinking European wines, recently Spanish and Italian wines, and compared to them, it tastes more fruity.

Yesterday, I shared with you five keys to Nagano’s longevity, but actually, there are more, and one of them is Ikigai, according to Dr. Takuji Shirasawa, the author of Chojuken Nagano no Himitsu, The Secret of the Long-Lived Prefecture Nagano.

Ikigai means daily pleasures or some kind of purpose that motivate you to live. Something that keeps you going. For many people, work is their Ikigai, for others hobbies are their Ikigais, or relationships such as family relationships or having a sense of community.

In Nagano, I already told you that the number of seniors working was the highest in the nation. That means it is probable that many of these seniors have Ikigai.

Also, the number of seniors participating in some kind of volunteer activities is high, the number of community centers is high, the number of museums is high, and the number of seniors going on vacations is high, they are all within the top ten.

These factors all contribute to Ikigais. For example, community centers usually offer classes or other social activities to the member of the community and they play an important role especially in the countryside.

What is interesting about Nagano’s case is that it is all done by a collective effort. As a prefecture, Nagano decided to be the land of longevity and has taken all kinds of measures. The salt reduction movement is one. The hospitals and the government all worked together to educate the public on how much salt they should use in each cooking and so on.

In that case, is it all up to the municipality? Well, you can always move to such a state or town if there are municipalities dedicated to improving the health of their community.

Or, you can initiate it yourself. In Chapter 12 Adding Hygge to the Japanese Diet in my book The Ikigai Diet, there is a section called Create Your Social Circle by Sharing the Ikigai Diet. There I introduced a tip to start your own small community. You can create a blue zone of your own.

In fact, it is always better to build your own because when the government gets involved, everything has to stay within the scope of Western medicine, and you can’t apply alternative approaches no matter how effective they are. I have spoken to municipal health officials, and believe me they don’t know anything about health and longevity.

By the way, it is Friday today, which means the last day of my intermittent fasting. I practice Hare and Ke Intermittent Fasting, where I skip breakfast Monday to Friday because during the week is the Ke period, and I take a break on the weekend because it is the Hare period. Today I am completing the 12th week of my second round. Each round is for three months, so I have done intermittent fasting for six months. I am proud of myself. It feels great each time when you complete something, doesn’t it? To celebrate it, I will take a break for one week starting tomorrow. When I finished my first round three months ago, I took a break for one week because it happened to be the Golden Week, the Japanese longest national holiday. This time I might take a break for two weeks because Obon holiday week is coming the following week. Anyway, it is good to take a longer break between your rounds, so that you can create a bigger cycle of pain and recovery.


Nagano: A New Japanese Blue Zone

Five Keys to Nagano’s Longevity, Making it the King of Japanese Blue Zones

The Ikigai Diet: The Secret Japanese Diet to Health and Longevity

POD Paperback