At the age of 97 years and 4 months,
Shigeaki Hinohara is one of the world's longest-serving physicians
and educators. Hinohara's magic touch is legendary: Since 1941 he
has been healing patients at St. Luke's International Hospital in
Tokyo and teaching at St. Luke's College of Nursing. After World
War II, he envisioned a world-class hospital and college springing
from the ruins of Tokyo; thanks to his pioneering spirit and business
savvy, the doctor turned these institutions into the nation's top
medical facility and nursing school. Today he serves as chairman
of the board of trustees at both organizations. Always willing to
try new things, he has published around 150 books since his 75th
birthday, including one "Living Long, Living Good" that
has sold more than 1.2 million copies. As the founder of the New
Elderly Movement, Hinohara encourages others to live a long and
happy life, a quest in which no role model is better than the doctor
Energy comes from feeling good, not from eating well or sleeping
a lot. 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.
All people who live long — regardless of nationality, race
or gender — share one thing in common: None are overweight.
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.
Always plan ahead. My schedule book is already full until 2014,
with lectures and my usual hospital work. In 2016 I'll have some
fun, though: I plan to attend the Tokyo Olympics!
There is no need to ever retire, but if one must, it should be a
lot later than 65. The current retirement age was set at 65 half
a century ago, when the average life-expectancy in Japan was 68
years and only 125 Japanese were over 100 years old. Today, Japanese
women live to be around 86 and men 80, and we have 36,000 centenarians
in our country. In 20 years we will have about 50,000 people over
the age of 100.
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.
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?
I think music and animal therapy can help more than most doctors
To stay healthy, always take the stairs and carry your own stuff.
I take two stairs at a time, to get my muscles moving.
My inspiration is Robert Browning's poem "Abt Vogler."
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
Pain is mysterious, and having fun is the best way to forget it.
If a child has a toothache, and you start playing a game together,
he or she immediately forgets the pain. 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.
Don't be crazy about amassing material things. Remember: You don't
know when your number is up, and you can't take it with you to the
Hospitals must be designed and prepared for major disasters, and
they must accept every patient who appears at their doors. We designed
St. Luke's so we can operate anywhere: in the basement, in the corridors,
in the chapel. Most people thought I was crazy to prepare for a
catastrophe, but on March 20, 1995, I was unfortunately proven right
when members of the Aum Shinrikyu religious cult launched a terrorist
attack in the Tokyo subway. We accepted 740 victims and in two hours
figured out that it was sarin gas that had hit them. Sadly we lost
one person, but we saved 739 lives.
Science alone can't cure or help people. Science lumps us all together,
but illness is individual. Each person is unique, and diseases are
connected to their hearts. To know the illness and help people,
we need liberal and visual arts, not just medical ones.
Life is filled with incidents. On March 31, 1970, when I was 59
years old, I boarded the Yodogo, a flight from Tokyo to Fukuoka.
It was a beautiful sunny morning, and as Mount Fuji came into sight,
the plane was hijacked by the Japanese Communist League-Red Army
Faction. I spent the next four days handcuffed to my seat in 40-degree
heat. As a doctor, I looked at it all as an experiment and was amazed
at how the body slowed down in a crisis.
Find a role model and aim to achieve even more than they could ever
do. My father went to the United States in 1900 to study at Duke
University in North Carolina. He was a pioneer and one of my heroes.
Later I found a few more life guides, and when I am stuck, I ask
myself how they would deal with the problem.
It's wonderful to live long. Until one is 60 years old, it is easy
to work for one's family and to achieve one's goals. But in our
later years, we should strive to contribute to society. Since the
age of 65, I have worked as a volunteer. I still put in 18 hours
seven days a week and love every minute of it.
Judit Kawaguchi loves to listen. She
is a volunteer counselor and a TV reporter on NHK's "Out &
About."Learn more at: http://juditfan.blog58.fc2.com
The Japan Times: Thursday, Jan. 29,