By James Baumgartner
Located in the rural north side of the beautiful island of Okinawa is the village of Ogimi. Often sought after by foreigners and TV documentary crews to learn the secrets of long life, it is world famous for the amount of centenarians that live there.
I recently turned 37 a few weeks ago. This is an age in American culture where you start to be considered just a little bit old, so I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to meet with several of the elders of Ogimi to learn their secret to such long and healthy lives. I've lived in Okinawa for 2 years now and traveled most of the island, but I've never taken the time to stop into the small villages along the way to the northern tip. I'm glad I finally did.
When I arrived, I met Taira Sumiko (96), Nakaima Yukiko (86), and the youngster of the bunch, Taika Morio (79). They had arranged a traditional light lunch for us while we discussed what is thought to be the key to their longevity. I was eager to discover what food would be served as a part of the secret to longevity revolves around the food preparation unique to Ogimi. We started off with with a traditional Japanese soup while we waited for coffee and Sata Andagi (traditional okinawan donut). I was amazed at how much energy and full of life they all were. Amazingly friendly and eager to talk about their lives and share their vast knowledge. They explained to me that balance and diet were the main secrets to their long lives. They also believe Okinawa's warm climate and connection to nature is key. Nakaima then brought out some Shikuwasa fruit for me, a tart fruit that Ogimi is well known for. She told me it is what they believe keeps cancer away. She showed me the proper way to use toothpicks for squeezing out the juice without getting the seeds. Nakaima told me to mix it in with just about everything I drink. They then talked about the importance of family and living as stress free a life as possible. To remember that, the villagers have a song they sing about it. Taira proudly stood up and sang it for us as we clapped along. As we finished our lunch they wanted to show me one last thing. The traditional Okinawan dance. They took me just outside the cafe and put on a spirited performance singing and dancing. Even some of the locals stopped to watch the performance. I was blown away with how much energy and enthusiasm they all had. Their energy is contagious! I could feel a little bit of a pep in my step as we parted ways and I went on to explore the village.
I found a nearby information board with sightseeing recommendations around the village. It was almost sunset so I decided to take the advice I was just given and enjoy the pristine nature around me. I headed 10 minutes into the jungle to the Ishiyama Observation point. There I caught an incredible sunset overlooking the valley and on my next visit I hope to do some stargazing. On my last stop before heading home I found the "Waterfall of Longevity". There are more impressive waterfalls on Okinawa, but none of them can offer you the fountain of youth! Maybe just a myth, but I know that night it was almost impossible for me to sleep with all of the newfound energy accumulated! If you find yourself searching for the secrets to longevity you would be well served to take a day trip to the village of Ogimi.
Ogimi is a short drive up the relaxing northern coast just past Nago. It can be reached via bus or car, less than 90 minutes from Naha.