What is the secret to Japanese longevity?
For Ken Mogi, Japan is a country where people's life expectancies are long. One reason for this is how they live harmoniously; Japanese people don't have the pressure of competing with each other. They continuously improve their crafts without comparing themselves to others.
Living in harmony is essential for long and healthy life.
Ken: In Tokyo, where I live, we think we have certain elements of the Western culture, because Tokyo is one of the hubs of the global economy. So we do find these people who are aggressive and assertive, and they try to present his/her case into a new command zone.
But if you go to Kyoto, for example, the ancient capital, those people in power, these priests from the temple and all these houses of great cultural tradition, tea masters and flower arrangement, ikebana masters, they keep such a low profile. I mean, they don't have to assert themselves everyday.
If you go to a really great restaurant, the chefs of these restaurants would not boast about how great their cuisine, I mean, they just behave in a way just like you just described, in a really naturalistic, subdued, low profile way. That's the Kyoto way.
So I think with that, Kyoto would probably be more authentically Japanese compared to a more buoyant and more competent Tokyo. But even in Tokyo, I do feel that the culture is kind of different from the American way of pushing yourself up to the front.
Nick: Now it reminds me, I guess, it reminds me of my father-in-law. I think I've mentioned to you that he's a potter, and he makes shino yaki, and he's very good at what he does. But if you met him, you just would know, and he'd never talk up what he does.
So I certainly learned a lot of lessons about just being yourself and doing what you love, and just let your work express yourself rather than your words. There's no sense of self promotion, certainly with my father-in-law. I think he's done quite significant work. And he could certainly talk about it.
Ken: It has practical implications, or even existential implications, because as you know, Japan is a country where people's life expectancies are long. The Japanese are probably the most healthy, and the longest living nationals on this planet. I think, well, of course, there are many elements like genetics, and food, and lifestyle, but the lack of this pressure to compete with each other.
I think, this harmony that the Japanese lifestyle has, is probably the key to finding a long and healthy life.