As health and longevity becomes the number-one concern for people around the world, a hotel on the Japanese island of Okinawa will be sharing local secrets for a longer life with guests. Samuel Ballard reports
Okinawa, a subtropical prefecture in southern Japan made up of more than 150 different islands (the largest is also called Okinawa), is offering travellers the chance to learn one of its great secrets – how to live to a healthy old age.
The islands are one of five areas worldwide known as “Blue Zones”, which are recognised for the longevity of their inhabitants. (The others being Ikaria in Greece; Ogliastra in Sardinia; the community of Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California; and the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica.) (There is an interesting TED Talk you can watch here to learn more.)
Okinawa boasts 35 centenarians for every 100,000 inhabitants, five times more than the rest of Japan, which already has a high average life expectancy (83.7 years).
Dr Craig Willcox told The Guardian that a major factor in their longevity is diet. He said: “The Okinawans have a low risk of arteriosclerosis and stomach cancer, a very low risk of hormone-dependent cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer.
“They eat three servings of fish a week, on average … plenty of whole grains, vegetables and soy products too, more tofu and more konbu seaweed than anyone else in the world, as well as squid and octopus, which are rich in taurine – that could lower cholesterol and blood pressure.”
With the coronavirus pandemic forcing millions of people to stay at home and think about their own health and mortality, it is perhaps a good time to take lessons from the Okinawans. When travel bans are lifted, a trip to this Japanese island could be just what is needed to start a healthier chapter of life.
The Halekulani Okinawa is a local hotel that opened last summer – it is running a “Secrets of Longevity” retreat, whereby guests can learn how to emulate the lifestyles of the Okinawans. (Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the property will be closed until at least May 31, 2020.)
The two-night, three-day package, includes lessons on the concept of ishoku dogen (medicine and food coming from the same source). Prices start from ¥230,000 (£1,726) per person.
Those looking to learn more about the culinary side of Okinawan longevity can also book themselves on a food tour with Taste of Okinawa.
The experience takes visitors around local food markets and then into a test kitchen where they will learn to cook local specialities, such as mozuku-su (Okinawan seaweed – a superfood cooked in sweet vinegar) and goya champuru (melon stir-fried with tofu and egg).
Bade Haus Kume Island, meanwhile, is offering the world’s first deep-sea water hot-spa facility. Travellers can bathe in local sea water, which supposedly has healing properties. In this they will be rejuvenated in the same way that Okinawans have been for centuries.
Other experiences in the prefecture include sunrise yoga with Drifter and a visit to the island of Kudaka, which is meant to be inhabited by Amamikiyo – the god of Okinawa’s islands. There you will find many spots for quiet contemplation and prayer.
Immortality Retreats was one of the trends highlighted in Globetrender’s recent Future of Luxury Travel Report, which can be downloaded below.
Globetrender’s editor and founder Jenny Southan wrote: “According to Bank of America, the ‘super longevity’ market could be worth US$600 billion by 2025, with companies such as Illumina, Novartis and Alphabet, which owns Google, on the cusp of ‘bringing unprecedented increases to the quality and length of human lifespans’ through innovations related to gene editing, big data, artificial intelligence, drug development and ‘moonshot medicine’.”
The Nine Pillars of Blue Zones
Move Naturally: outdoor experiences that enhance the value of physical activity taking place outside of a traditional gym
Purpose: learning the value of purpose and how to apply personal skills and passions in pursuit of living longer and better
Down Shift: learning routines that reduce stress that can lead to chronic inflammations
80 per cent Rule: following the Okinawans mantra hara hachi bu that encourages to stop eating when 80 per cent full
Plant Slant: eating delicious plant-based meals
Wine at 5: toasting the sunset with family and friends to create meaningful friendships that lead to a fulfilled life
Belong: connecting with others through events and celebrations to live a better and longer life
Loved Ones First: learning the value of spending time with family. Centenarians put their families first
Right Tribe: exploring the key role that being part of a sociable community plays
What’s coming next? Trend reports available to download HERE