I was in Okinawa the other day for our daughter’s wedding. One more milestone. Yeah! Speaking of Okinawa, did you know that Okinawa women live longer than the women of the other prefectures? Guess who’s #1 for the males? That’s right–Nagano. Not that it’s a race but, Go! Nagano. (Sorry, couldn’t resist 🙂 And while it may be just a little trivia, living a long, healthy life is no trivial matter.
With their low-salt, healthy, plenty of fruit diets and their laid-back, “don’t worry, be happy” lifestyle in a warm and sunny climate, it’s not hard to imagine that the people of Okinawa would live long lives. Compare that to relatively harsh and cold Nagano where we eat a lot of tsukemono (salted pickles), miso (soybean paste), and soy sauce and you wouldn’t expect a long life. It’s a paradox, I know. I like to think that it’s the clean air and water, lots and lots of vegetables, and apples. Yes, apples. While Okinawa grows mangoes and pineapples, Nagano grows apples. Tons of ’em. Nagano pref. is Japan’s 2nd largest producer of the biggest, sweetest, juiciest apples. Just plain deee-licious! We’ve all heard the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. Well, Nagano-ites are living proof of that.
You’re probably wondering what this picture has anything to do with what I’ve written above but it does. Like the people of Okinawa, it is not unusual to find Nagano people well into their 70’s working their rice fields, tending their gardens, and generally staying active. And when they’re not working, they’ll find something fun to do. Like golf. No, not Tiger Woods golf, but golf just the same–all 18 holes of it. It’s called maretto gorufu (mallet golf) played with a stick, the mallet, and a ball the size of an orange. The game is so popular that I would venture to say that almost every town in Nagano-ken has at least one course. This is a group from my neighborhood that I ran into while I was out walking the other day. Average age of these players? 75 years young! In my next entry I’ll write more about the game and about the Senninzuka Maretto Gorufu Sekai Taikai = The Senninzuka Mallet Golf World Tournament to be held in May. The tournament is open to anyone. Drop me a line if you’re interested.