SEOUL, South Korea — The world’s oldest known man, Alexander Imich, born in 1903, died Sunday in New York. The torch will most likely be passed to 111-year-old Sakari Momori, who comes from a country full of elderly people: Japan. The Guinness Book of World Records is investigating.
That’s not really surprising. You’ve probably heard a similar story before: The Japanese have the highest life expectancy of any major country. Women on average live to 87 and men to 80 (compared to 81 years for American women and 76 for American men). The Japanese can live 75 of those years disability free and fully healthy, according to the World Health Organization.
For decades in the US, the health mania over Japanese cuisine has taken on a life of its own, with books on the timeless “Okinawa diet” and a host of others purporting to have cracked the mystical, enlightened ways of the East.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but anybody who pushes the image of 90-year-old Zen monks taking refuge in a remote mountain monastery, feasting their life away on sushi and vegetables, is full of it.
So is anybody who proclaims the innate superiority of Japan’s food supply to the “Western diet” (How many wonderful, green healthful diets can you choose from in all of North America and Europe?).
And contemporary Japan can be a stressful place. Its hyper-urban people work long hours, at 1,745 hours per worker in 2012, suffer through a long and deadening commute, and can easily fret when a subway hold-up makes them just minutes late for meetings with their bosses… see more