Seven Longevity Secrets of Nagano, the King of Japanese Blue Zones

I uploaded a video Seven Longevity Secrets of Nagano, the King of Japanese Blue Zones on August 8th.


Nagano Prefecture is the longest-lived prefecture in Japan at the moment. Many people think Okinawa is the land of longevity since it is one of the world’s blue zones, but in Japan, it was back in the 1980s when Okinawa was ranked high in the national life expectancy rankings. Nagano is ranked higher in average life expectancy rankings, healthy life expectancy rankings, and the rankings in the number of seniors working.

There is a book called Chojuken Nagano no Himitsu, The Secrets of Nagano, a Long-lived Prefecture. It was written by Dr. Takuji Shirasawa, a medical professor at Juntendo University Graduate School.

Today, based on this book and my own research and observation, I will share with you seven longevity secrets of Nagano, the king of Japanese Blue Zones.

1, Preventive Medicine

Because there aren’t many hospitals in Nagano, as a prefecture, they established a culture where people took care of their own health. They trained health advisers in each city or town and educated residences about diet and exercise.

2, High Vegetable Diet

The amount of daily vegetable consumption per person in Nagano is the highest in Japan. It is 379g while the national average is 301g. This is because Nagano is high land and it is difficult to grow rice. Vegetable farming is common there and Nagano is the biggest vegetable producer in the country. They eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruit so that they get plenty of polyphenols and fiber to feed their gut microbiomes.

3, Eating a lot of Beans

Unlike many prefectures, Nagano is not facing the sea and it was difficult to obtain seafood in the past. So they developed a culture of consuming a lot of beans as sources of protein. Still today, people in Nagano eat a lot of beans, such as soybeans, Azuki beans, and kidney beans.

As I shared with you in the video Japanese Blue Zones’ Diet, vegetables and soybeans are two key parts of the diets in the long-lived villages that Dr. Shoji Kondo discovered.



4, Miso and Mushrooms

The amount of miso and mushrooms Nagano people consume is the highest in the country, too. Miso is a superfood, it is a soybean-based fermented food.  Fermented food itself is good for gut microbiomes. Mushrooms such as Shiitake are also known as superfoods. They are part of Ma Go Wa Ya Sa Shi I. Recently though, there is another research that suggests the benefits of miso and mushrooms. According to Dr. Tamotsu Yoshimori, an autophagy expert, they contain spermidine and spermidine can activate autophagy, the cellular recycling mechanism.

5, Mountainous Region

Most people in Nagano live over 600 meters above sea level, and their daily movement gives them further cardio exercise effect. It is just like marathon runners doing highland training. The fact that Nagano is a highland makes their vegetables stronger and Nagano people eat these nutritionally rich vegetables.

6, Working in the Field

It is the case everywhere in the countryside, but people in Nagano work a lot in rice fields and vegetable fields. Their daily gardening becomes a good exercise for them. It is the case in all Blue Zones, too.

7, Ikigai

Ikigai is known as one of the longevity factors in Okinawa, but it is the same all over Japan, and Nagano isn’t an exception. In fact, Nagano has factors that contribute to people’s Ikigai a lot more than other prefectures.  Ikigai means a daily joy or motivation to live, and things like work, hobbies, and relationships can be Ikigais.  Nagano has the highest number of seniors working, and that can be their Ikigai. Many seniors participate in volunteer activities, and the number of community centers is the highest in the country. That means residents can take courses and take part in some community activities easily. The number of museums is high, and the number of people traveling is high, too. They all contribute to their Ikigais.



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

POD Paperback