10 Longevity Tips from Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara, Japan’s 105-Year-Old Longevity Expert

Pho­to by Karsten Thor­maehlen, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Robert Brown­ing’s poem “Abt Vogler” imag­ines com­pos­er Georg Joseph Vogler as an old man reflect­ing on his dimin­ish­ing pow­ers and the like­li­hood that his life’s work would not sur­vive in the public’s mem­o­ry.

Let us over­look the fact that Vogler was 65 when he died, or that Brown­ing, who lived to 77, was 52 when he com­posed the poem.

What’s most strik­ing these days is its sig­nif­i­cance to longevi­ty expert, physi­cian, and chair­man emer­i­tus of St. Luke’s Inter­na­tion­al Uni­ver­si­ty, Dr. Shigea­ki Hino­hara, who passed away last month at the age of 105:

My father used to read it to me. It encour­ages us to make big art, not small scrib­bles. It says to try to draw a cir­cle so huge that there is no way we can fin­ish it while we are alive. All we see is an arch; the rest is beyond our vision but it is there in the dis­tance.

Like many cen­te­nar­i­ans, Dr. Hino­hara attrib­uted his longevi­ty to cer­tain prac­tices, back­ing it up with numer­ous books on the top­ic (includ­ing Liv­ing Long, Liv­ing Good).

He touched on some of these beliefs in a 2009 Japan Times inter­view with Judit Kawaguchi, from which the fol­low­ing point­ers are drawn.

Ten Tips For a Healthy Old Age from Dr. Shigea­ki Hino­hara

Eat to Live Don’t Live to Eat

As far as Clint East­wood, Sis­ter Wendy Beck­ett and Fred Rogers are con­cerned, Dr. Hino­hara was preach­ing to the choir. Your aver­age Ital­ian great grand­moth­er would be appalled.

For break­fast I drink cof­fee, a glass of milk and some orange juice with a table­spoon of olive oil in it. Olive oil is great for the arter­ies and keeps my skin healthy. Lunch is milk and a few cook­ies, or noth­ing when I am too busy to eat. I nev­er get hun­gry because I focus on my work. Din­ner is veg­gies, a bit of fish and rice, and, twice a week, 100 grams of lean meat.

Keep on Truckin’…

Nor was Dr. Hino­hara a sit-around-the-piaz­za-drink­ing-limon­cel­lo-with-his-cronies kind of guy. For him a vig­or­ous­ly plot­ted out cal­en­dar was syn­ony­mous with a vig­or­ous old age:

Always plan ahead. My sched­ule book is already full … with lec­tures and my usu­al hos­pi­tal work.

Moth­er Was Wrong…

…at least when it comes to bed­time and the impor­tance of con­sum­ing three square meals a day. Dis­co naps and bot­tled water all around!

We all remem­ber how as chil­dren, when we were hav­ing fun, we often for­got to eat or sleep. I believe that we can keep that atti­tude as adults, too. It’s best not to tire the body with too many rules such as lunchtime and bed­time.

To Hell with Obscu­ri­ty!

You may not be able to pull in the same crowds as a man whose career spans found­ing a world class hos­pi­tal in the rub­ble of post WWII Tokyo and treat­ing the vic­tims of the rad­i­cal Aum Shin­rikyo cult’s sarin gas sub­way attack, but you can still share your ideas with those younger than you. If noth­ing else, expe­ri­ence will be on your side:

 Share what you know. I give 150 lec­tures a year, some for 100 ele­men­tary-school chil­dren, oth­ers for 4,500 busi­ness peo­ple. I usu­al­ly speak for 60 to 90 min­utes, stand­ing, to stay strong.

Don’t Slack on Every­day Phys­i­cal Activ­i­ty

Dr. Hino­hara schlepped his own bags and turned his back on such mod­ern con­ve­niences as ele­va­tors and esca­la­tors:

I take two stairs at a time, to get my mus­cles mov­ing.

Hav­ing Fun Is Bet­ter Than Tylenol (Or Bitch­ing About It)

Rather than turn­ing off young friends and rel­a­tives with a con­stant litany of phys­i­cal com­plaints, Dr. Hino­hara sought to emu­late the child who for­gets his toothache through the diver­sion of play. And yes, this was his med­ical opin­ion:

Hos­pi­tals must cater to the basic need of patients: We all want to have fun. At St. Luke’s we have music and ani­mal ther­a­pies, and art class­es.

Think Twice Before You Go Under the Knife

Not will­ing to put all your trust into music ther­a­py work­ing out for you? Con­sid­er your age and how a side dish of surgery or radi­a­tion might impact your all over enjoy­ment of life before agree­ing to rad­i­cal pro­ce­dures. Espe­cial­ly if you are one of those afore­men­tioned sit-around-the-piaz­za-drink­ing-limon­cel­lo-with-your-cronies type of guys.

When a doc­tor rec­om­mends you take a test or have some surgery, ask whether the doc­tor would sug­gest that his or her spouse or chil­dren go through such a pro­ce­dure. Con­trary to pop­u­lar belief, doc­tors can’t cure every­one. So why cause unnec­es­sary pain with surgery? 

Divest of Mate­r­i­al Bur­dens

Best sell­ing author and pro­fes­sion­al orga­niz­er, Marie Kon­do, would approve of her countryman’s views on “stuff”:

Remem­ber: You don’t know when your num­ber is up, and you can’t take it with you to the next place.

Pick a Role Mod­el You Can Be Wor­thy Of

It need not be some­one famous. Dr. Hino­hara revered his dad, who intro­duced him to his favorite poem and trav­eled halfway across the world to enroll at Duke Uni­ver­si­ty as a young man.

Lat­er I found a few more life guides, and when I am stuck, I ask myself how they would deal with the prob­lem.

Find a Poem That Speaks to You and Let It Guide You

The good doc­tor didn’t rec­om­mend this course of action in so many words, but you could do worse than to fol­low his exam­ple. Pick a long one. Reread it fre­quent­ly. For added neu­ro­log­i­cal oomph, mem­o­rize a few lines every day. Bedaz­zle peo­ple half your age with an off-book recita­tion at your next fam­i­ly gath­er­ing. (It’ll dis­tract you from all that turkey and stuff­ing.)

“Abt Vogler”

Would that the struc­ture brave, the man­i­fold music I build,
Bid­ding my organ obey, call­ing its keys to their work,
Claim­ing each slave of the sound, at a touch, as when Solomon willed
Armies of angels that soar, legions of demons that lurk,
Man, brute, rep­tile, fly,—alien of end and of aim,
Adverse, each from the oth­er heav­en-high, hell-deep removed,—
Should rush into sight at once as he named the inef­fa­ble Name,
And pile him a palace straight, to plea­sure the princess he loved!
Would it might tar­ry like his, the beau­ti­ful build­ing of mine,
This which my keys in a crowd pressed and impor­tuned to raise!
Ah, one and all, how they helped, would dis­part now and now com­bine,
Zeal­ous to has­ten the work, height­en their mas­ter his praise!
And one would bury his brow with a blind plunge down to hell,
Bur­row awhile and build, broad on the roots of things,
Then up again swim into sight, hav­ing based me my palace well,
Found­ed it, fear­less of flame, flat on the nether springs.
And anoth­er would mount and march, like the excel­lent min­ion he was,
Ay, anoth­er and yet anoth­er, one crowd but with many a crest,
Rais­ing my ram­pired walls of gold as trans­par­ent as glass,
Eager to do and die, yield each his place to the rest:
For high­er still and high­er (as a run­ner tips with fire,
When a great illu­mi­na­tion sur­pris­es a fes­tal night—
Out­lin­ing round and round Rome’s dome from space to spire)
Up, the pin­na­cled glo­ry reached, and the pride of my soul was in sight.
In sight? Not half! for it seemed, it was cer­tain, to match man’s birth,
Nature in turn con­ceived, obey­ing an impulse as I;
And the emu­lous heav­en yearned down, made effort to reach the earth,
As the earth had done her best, in my pas­sion, to scale the sky:
Nov­el splen­dours burst forth, grew famil­iar and dwelt with mine,
Not a point nor peak but found and fixed its wan­der­ing star;
Mete­or-moons, balls of blaze: and they did not pale nor pine,
For earth had attained to heav­en, there was no more near nor far.
Nay more; for there want­ed not who walked in the glare and glow,
Pres­ences plain in the place; or, fresh from the Pro­to­plast,
Fur­nished for ages to come, when a kind­lier wind should blow,
Lured now to begin and live, in a house to their lik­ing at last;
Or else the won­der­ful Dead who have passed through the body and gone,
But were back once more to breathe in an old world worth their new:
What nev­er had been, was now; what was, as it shall be anon;
And what is,—shall I say, matched both? for I was made per­fect too.
All through my keys that gave their sounds to a wish of my soul,
All through my soul that praised as its wish flowed vis­i­bly forth,
All through music and me! For think, had I paint­ed the whole,
Why, there it had stood, to see, nor the process so won­der-worth:
Had I writ­ten the same, made verse—still, effect pro­ceeds from cause,
Ye know why the forms are fair, ye hear how the tale is told;
It is all tri­umphant art, but art in obe­di­ence to laws,
Painter and poet are proud in the artist-list enrolled:—
But here is the fin­ger of God, a flash of the will that can,
Exis­tent behind all laws, that made them and, lo, they are!
And I know not if, save in this, such gift be allowed to man,
That out of three sounds he frame, not a fourth sound, but a star.
Con­sid­er it well: each tone of our scale in itself is nought;
It is every­where in the world—loud, soft, and all is said:
Give it to me to use! I mix it with two in my thought:
And, there! Ye have heard and seen: con­sid­er and bow the head!
Well, it is gone at last, the palace of music I reared;
Gone! and the good tears start, the prais­es that come too slow;
For one is assured at first, one scarce can say that he feared,
That he even gave it a thought, the gone thing was to go.
Nev­er to be again! But many more of the kind
As good, nay, bet­ter, per­chance: is this your com­fort to me?
To me, who must be saved because I cling with my mind
To the same, same self, same love, same God: ay, what was, shall be.
There­fore to whom turn I but to thee, the inef­fa­ble Name?
Builder and mak­er, thou, of hous­es not made with hands!
What, have fear of change from thee who art ever the same?
Doubt that thy pow­er can fill the heart that thy pow­er expands?
There shall nev­er be one lost good! What was, shall live as before;
The evil is null, is nought, is silence imply­ing sound;
What was good shall be good, with, for evil, so much good more;
On the earth the bro­ken arcs; in the heav­en, a per­fect round.
All we have willed or hoped or dreamed of good shall exist;
Not its sem­blance, but itself; no beau­ty, nor good, nor pow­er
Whose voice has gone forth, but each sur­vives for the melodist
When eter­ni­ty affirms the con­cep­tion of an hour.
The high that proved too high, the hero­ic for earth too hard,
The pas­sion that left the ground to lose itself in the sky,
Are music sent up to God by the lover and the bard;
Enough that he heard it once: we shall hear it by and by.
And what is our fail­ure here but a tri­umph’s evi­dence
For the ful­ness of the days? Have we with­ered or ago­nized?
Why else was the pause pro­longed but that singing might issue thence?
Why rushed the dis­cords in, but that har­mo­ny should be prized?
Sor­row is hard to bear, and doubt is slow to clear,
Each suf­fer­er says his say, his scheme of the weal and woe:
But God has a few of us whom he whis­pers in the ear;
The rest may rea­son and wel­come; ’tis we musi­cians know.
Well, it is earth with me; silence resumes her reign:
I will be patient and proud, and sober­ly acqui­esce.
Give me the keys. I feel for the com­mon chord again,
Slid­ing by semi­tones till I sink to the minor,—yes,
And I blunt it into a ninth, and I stand on alien ground,
Sur­vey­ing awhile the heights I rolled from into the deep;
Which, hark, I have dared and done, for my rest­ing-place is found,
The C Major of this life: so, now I will try to sleep.

- Robert Brown­ing

Relat­ed Con­tent:

New Study: Immers­ing Your­self in Art, Music & Nature Might Reduce Inflam­ma­tion & Increase Life Expectan­cy

Walt Whitman’s Unearthed Health Man­u­al, “Man­ly Health & Train­ing,” Urges Read­ers to Stand (Don’t Sit!) and Eat Plen­ty of Meat (1858)

Ale­jan­dro Jodorowsky’s 82 Com­mand­ments For Liv­ing

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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