Okinawa Allowances

February 29, 2024 By arne hendriks Off

During a recent visit to the Japanese island of Okinawa in search of the secret of smaller we were lucky enough to end up at Marina’s Cafe. Not because the food was good (which it was), but because we met its owner Mariko, who explained the secret of small furtunes.

Our curiosity in everything Okinawan started because its older population is among the shortest people known to us, as well as some of the longest living. Okinawa is home to to a great number of supercentenarians (people of 110 years and older). The strong link between being short and living long healthy lives is one of the arguments The Incredible Shrinking Man uses to inspire a positive narrative in regards to small stature. At the center of the Okinawan way of life is the advice “Hara hachi bu“, meaning “Eat until you are 80% full”. So rather then filling up it is adviced to leave a bit of space, about 20%. While eating leaving 20% space amounts to the difference between eating until you’re full and eating until you are no longer hungry. However Mariko explained that the advice doesn’t only apply to eating. It also relates to how you organise work and leisure, how you relate to time and space. Whatever you do, leave some room. It is believed that people on Okinawa are not only smaller and healthier because of this 80/20 approach but are also happier that most other people. According to Mariko the 80% energises the 20%. The 20% allows you to remain open, curious, free and flexible. In fact after having been a teacher up until retirement, it was this 20% space that allowed her and her husband to follow their dream of opening up a lunch cafe.