At the edge of the horizon

At the edge of the horizon
At the edge of Japan

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Okinawan Diets

Okinawa is famous for its citizens' longevity and lifestyle.  Unfortunately, this is no longer really the reality here in Okinawa because the Okinawan diet changed after WWII.  Prior to the war, things were not really a piece of cake on these islands either.  There were massive food shortages and high unemployment that sent large populations of Okinawan people to find work elsewhere.  These Okinawans formed the diaspora of Uchinananchu living throughout the world currently.  Okinawans were once considered the thinnest people of all the Japanese prefectures due to these circumstances and the fact that everyone basically worked hard either on farms or fishing in the sea.   Now unfortunately Okinawans are considered the most obese because they have been most affected by American culture due to the US influence on this island.  Everyone drives cars here.  A lack of efficient public transportation is pervasive and well documented.  Car culture has really sunk in as well.  When I tell my Okinawan co-workers or friends I walked from one part of the city to the next, most people flip out as if walking that distance is a big deal.   A 2km walk is really not that far...

There is a book called The Okinawan Diet Plan, which capitalizes off the Western world's ideas of Okinawa being some sort of mystical place where the people never die because they eat super healthy foods.  I've had a discussion about this with a fellow ALT who is interested in geography and food production/consumption in this prefecture.   Most people outside of Okinawa do not realize that Okinawans eat western style foods often.  They also don't realize that, unlike most mainland Japanese women who are stay-at-home moms, the women here work full time jobs on top of being full time mothers.  This leads them to not have the time to eat slow food or cook fresh meals for their husbands or families.  I'm not saying it doesn't happen, I'm just saying that many people rely on prepared or packaged foods.

So, I find it interesting when I see things like this game:

Especially in relation to this new study that ranks Okinawa now as 3rd in the nation for longevity (with Nagano now in 1st place).  The Okinawans are upset about this of course.  Many of them have expressed dismay at the current findings.  But this trend has been on its way for at least a generation now.  Reversing this trend may be difficult.

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