how to live to 100? 

Okinawa Archipelago, Japan


Umeto Yamashiro, 99 years old

Yomitan village, Okinawa prefecture, Japan

When I was younger I had a humble business; I sold odds and ends. It was enough to survive, but barely. When I was 80 years old I decided to realize my dream of becoming a dancer. I approached a traditional Okinawan dance troupe that performs for tourists and, as I was truly determined to learn, they gave me a chance. Now I am the star dancer!

I am in perfect health, I have no illnesses and I take no medication. At my last medical exam my doctor was jealous of my impeccable health. The secret? Laugh, laugh and laugh! Don’t let anger, hatred or worry live within you. Make an effort to love and accept all others. Be active, go out, party, dance, play music and embrace life!

The death of my husband was a liberation. My marriage was not always easy, but, at the end of his life, my husband did thank me and tell me that I was a magnificent wife. Thus we parted with our hearts at peace.
That being said, I love being single! I flirt constantly with men, the young as well as the old. I love to flirt, to seduce, to please, to laugh, and to tease the tourists with my alluring conduct. I never go out without applying my makeup and lipstick. I even bought a luxury perfume that cost 130$ American! I smell marvellously good!


Seikichi Inmine, 90 years old

Nakijin village, Okinawa prefecture, Japan

I am very disciplined. I wake every morning at 3 o’clock and I breakfast with a bit of miso soup, some rice and some vegetables. I never eat more than 80% of my fill. Then, I walk for an hour. I have been practicing this morning walk for 20 years, and on the rare occasion that I can’t take my walk I feel terrible. I then move on to my garden until noon before eating with my wife and taking an afternoon nap. Sometimes, I go golfing with my neighbours. I’m always sure to come home for 6:30 because in the dark I risk walking on venomous snakes. 
I pay attention to what I eat. I grow almost everything I eat and I use no pesticides. I am almost independent, apart from the miso and the rice.


Hamako Kikuyama, 92 years old

Onna-son village, Okinawa prefecture, Japan

I am very social and busy. I have many friends with whom I do numerous activities. We do aerobic exercise, golf parties, painting, cooking, everything. I am also a farmer and I sell my products at market. When I was younger, I was employed by the Americans, in the tourism sector; I sold cruise tickets. Since I retired at 70, I have been bored so I decided to throw myself into agriculture to keep myself busy and meet people.
When I was a young woman, it was war here. The American soldiers requisitioned our house, the beach was full of warships, and there were antipersonnel mines everywhere. My family and I had a hideout in the mountains, but we had nothing to eat. My elder sister went to the villages to steal sweet potatoes from the gardens. That’s how we survived.


It’s difficult for me to approach this subject since that period was so painful, but I have no resentment towards the Americans; after all, they gave me a job. All that to say, I am very worried about the conflict between Japan and North Korea. We must avoid another war at all costs.
There is a lot of juvenile delinquency on our island, and that worries me for my grandchildren. Every time I see the sun rise, I pray for them; even if I am not religious, I pray.



Ryozen Tomoyose, 89 years old

Onna-son village, Okinawa prefecture, Japan

My life began abruptly. When I was 13 years old my two elder brothers were killed during the war, and that was a tragedy for my parents. As I was the only survivor amongst my siblings, I wanted to ease their pain by behaving in an exemplary fashion. I abstained from smoking and alcohol and I tried to take care of them, to work hard and to make them proud. I have no resentments towards the Americans who killed my brothers. On the contrary, I consider the American soldiers to have been victims of the war, just as we were. I forgave them a long time ago. In fact I have many American friends. If I could address myself directly to Donald Trump, I would beg him to avoid war at all costs. As the most powerful man on the planet, he has that power. 
Each first and 15th day of the month I pray to my ancestors. I offer them jasmine tea and food on a small altar that stands in the living room. This is the current practice amongst the elderly of Okinawa, a practice that comes from shamanist traditions


I think that the secret to longevity is to be active. I walk thirty minutes each day, good weather or bad, and I take care of my garden. I also grow sugar cane, which is physically demanding, and I exercise at the community centre, as well as push-ups and stretches on the beach. I generally sleep 10 hours per night. Each morning, I take a coffee with friends. Friendship is fundamental, one must maintain harmonious relationships with the greatest number of people possible. Luckily the elderly are respected in Okinawa; for example, since we have village feasts, we have the honour of eating first. It is a way of showing respect that I like very much.
My wife has the tendency to seek out quarrels. In the face of her stormy character, I have no choice but to shut my mouth and endure her recriminations. I recognize that, at one time, I didn’t appreciate her enough. I learned, at my cost, that one must never criticize the food cooked by one’s wife. Today I enthusiastically compliment each culinary effort, even the most inept


Emiko Miyazato, 95 years old

Ogimi-son village, Okinawa prefecture, Japan

In 1945 I was working in an aircraft manufacturing plant near the city of Hiroshima when the nuclear bomb exploded. My colleagues and I watched the mushroom cloud from the prefecture where we were, completely helpless. Since this terrible ordeal I have campaigned long and hard against war; I have lectured in schools to tell children about my experiences and to make them aware of the atrocity of war. Even now, this is a difficult subject to tackle and I cannot hold back tears when I speak of it.


I was a nurse, a midwife, and I taught the Nagoya harp. Today, I live alone but I go to the senior’s day centre four times a week. It’s a dynamic place where I see my friends; I dance, laugh, do puzzles, origami, aerobic exercises and karaoke.


When I’m at home, I do housework, study sanshin, a traditional Okinawan guitar, and I still practice the Nagoya harp. I would say that music occupies 70% of my life. When I play, I have no cares and I am completely in the present moment; music is an incredible comfort.


Karyou Akayama, 97 years old

Urasoe city, Okinawa prefecture, Japan

I had a good career as a calligrapher and I am still exhibited in important museums. Here we have a Chinese poem, composed in the 18th century, that I calligraphed. Roughly speaking, this poem explains that despite seeing ourselves age in the mirror with the years, we must be happy and rejoice. It is a philosophy to which I adhere completely. I am very happy to be old.
My advice to the young generations is to be, like myself, extremely disciplined. It takes a strong mind and much determination to age in good health.


One must do the same things in the same order every day. For example, every morning, I take my temperature, my heart rate, and my blood pressure. I have a pedometer and I make myself walk 5000 steps a day. 
I eat healthy food in small quantities. I like sweets, but I avoid them as I wish to maintain my weight. Generally, in the morning, I breakfast on brown rice, legumes, vegetables and miso soup. In the evening I eat largely the same thing, but I add a small amount of meat. Two meals a day is more than sufficient.



I have a notebook in which I make an inventory of everything I eat. My children mock me for my zeal, but that’s no matter to me. As it is important to maintain social ties I also follow this rule; I always eat in the company of my family. 
To maintain my mental acuity, I study traditional guitar and I play chess once a week.



Yama Shiro, 93 years old

Ogimi-son village, Okinawa prefecture, Japan


The important thing for long life is to eat well and in small quantities. One must eat algae, miso, tofu, and rice with vegetables as well as a small amount of fish or meat. One must also drink tea all day and long hours. 
Music and dance also contribute to quality of life and happiness. I love to go to concerts and participate in karaoke


Haruko Kuniyoshi, 100 years old

Nakijin-son village, Okinawa prefecture, Japan

I have never taken medication in my life as I have never needed it; I have never even caught a cold. I was a professional artisan and I still knit. There was a lot of talk about me and my work in the media. 
I exercise three times a week at the day camp for the elderly. I love going to see my friends and socializing. I hope to live for a long time yet as I want to see my great grandchildren grow up. For me, happiness is family. 
I recommend that you be sincere, honest and meticulous and I hope you live to more than 100


Hiroko Touyama, 98 years old

Nakijin-son village, Okinawa prefecture, Japan

I had two professions: cultivator of silkworms and teacher of calligraphy. One must meditate for a long time before choosing a career, and once it is chosen, one must persevere relentlessly. Today I still practice calligraphy for pleasure, I cultivate flowers, I write each day in a journal and I go often to the camp for the elderly. I have a good temperament, I am always in good humour, peaceful and co-operative. 
The war was infinitely traumatizing for me and, if I could address myself to the politicians, I would say this: Please avoid war at all costs. Find solutions, compromises, retreat before the enemy but never again war


Photos taken at the elderly daycare center in Ogimi-son.