As I said to Dad on Skype last night: it is hard to be fat and lazy in this country, which is probably why Japan has the highest life expectancy in the world. According to this article on the CBC, babies born these last few years in Japan will live an average age of 86 years old. Researcher have commented on the culture`s well balanced diet and “attention to hygiene in all aspects of their daily life”.
From what I have observed in my short time in Japan thus far, I am not surprised at this news. When I lived in Italy it took no time at all to notice that people walked everywhere. Towns were designed for walking. In Japan, biking is the way to go. People bike everywhere. I was even left two bikes by my predecessor. Kids bike to school (or walk if they live close enough), people bike to the grocery store (I should take a picture of the bikes lined up outside, there are definitely more bikes in the parking lot than cars), and in every parking lot you go to (including the furniture store) there is a designated bike parking area (why on earth you would even bother biking to a furniture store is beyond me. I did once, just to see what was in there, and there was nothing in there I could have brought home with my bike).
Now I will discuss food. There are no sweets in this country. There is no chocolately, sugary, devily delicious goodness here. You know what they have instead of chocolate? Red bean paste. Paste… of red beans. Red beans mixed up, and squashed up into a paste; and they put it on bready looking substances which only leads moronic foreigners like me to gasp in the grocery store, buy this chocolate-y looking item, and rush home in anticipation of devouring chocolatey goodness… only to discover it is red bean paste. Thus, there are less overweight people here. Due to the lack of chocolate, I can only assume. Also, someone in the office yesterday came up to me with ice cream and said “here, have ice treat” and I said “why thank you, don’t mind if I do”. I assumed it was chocolate ice cream. It was not, it was red bean ice cream. Complete with whole red beans stuck inside. I ate it all though, I mean, it’s still ice cream. (Speaking of food, I had a dream last night about cream cheese. Cream cheese and crackers. I had such a craving I dreamt about it. There is also no cheese here. Sad times.) Oh, one last thing about food: School lunches. The school gives out these school lunches to students (and teachers if you so choose to participate and I figure I should, I mean I am in Japan, right? What`s the worst that can happen? I`ll get more healthy, that’s what). The point of these school lunches is to introduce kids to new foods, and I`m not talking try tuna on your pizza kind of new (flashback to Italy). It’s like, healthy new. The goal is to create a well balanced meal full of vitamins and nutrients. But it gets worse: people love it! They are all, “oh this is great, I hate this food but it’s good for you! Now I have to eat it or I don’t eat at all! Aren’t school lunches grand?” … and I`m like “no”.
Thirdly, general hygiene. People brush their teeth in the office here all the time. There are sinks all around the school for you to wash your hands or whatever. You have to put on separate shoes when you come in from outside. Indoor shoes only. Then when you go to the bathroom you take off your indoor shoes and put on your bathroom shoes and then when you are done you take off your bathroom shoes and put back on your indoor shoes. Germs have no chance here. If you cough, you get a mask. “Germs must die!” is like a country motto. Everyone here is … whatever those people who are afraid of germs are called.
Anyway, those are my musings on why Japanese people live so long. I can feel myself getting healthier every day I live here. My body just doesn`t even know how to handle all the veggies I eat. And without chocolate chip cookie dough I am pretty much going through drug withdrawal symptoms. But when those are over…. I will be indestructible.