By Mari Funasaka
People often ask me what my secret is for living an active, spirited life. They want to know the secret of my fountain of youth. I am 91 years and a half at present, but I cannot think of anything special I have been doing for my health and longevity. If I look back on my life, I might be able to come up with some of the sources of my energy.
Until I was 20 years old, Japan had been involved in the Manchurian Incident, the China Incident, the Pacific War and World War ll. During these periods, I suffered from tuberculosis. It was beyond my wildest imagination that I could live until this age.
There was no good medicine for tuberculosis at that time. Absolute rest and good nutrition were the only prescribed cure for this disease. As things were getting scarcer every day, I wondered how my mother managed to obtain nutritional foods for me. And every time I think about that time, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my mother’s strenuous efforts. By the time I became twenty years old, my health was back to normal.
I married Mr. Funasaka when I was 24, and for the first time in my life, I left my hometown Kyoto to live in Tokyo. Because there was a population limit within the metropolitan Tokyo just after the war, we had to settle down at the company’s dormitory in the suburbs of Tokyo, which the old Mitsui & Co. bought from the Nakajima Airfield. I was shocked to find that our room consisted of only the one room with the size of six mattresses and a tiny kitchen. But we could see Mt. Fuji from our room and our friendly neighbours were very helpful to the “just married couple”.
I lived with my husband for 53 years, and during that time, we moved to Montreal, Osaka, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Toronto. During that time, we had three sons. Till this day, my greatest source of gratitude is that all of our family members have remained healthy.
After my husband passed away 13 years ago, I have been going back to Japan regularly once or twice a year to meet my old friends, and make short trips with them by their invitation. Three years ago, I enjoyed a 12-day cruise around England, Scotland and Ireland with my friend.
Besides traveling, I enjoy reading. I also learned how to use the computer so that I can enjoy correspondence by e-mail with my friends. When I visit my friends or go shopping, I still drive myself.
To the question of the secret of my active life, I must confess that I have many ‘adult diseases’ like arthritis on my left knee, diabetes, high blood pressure and high blood sugar, but I take medicines for these problems and they do not hinder me from my everyday activities.
If I may divulge one part of my secret, it is that I walk the corridor of the condo I live in for more than 30 minutes everyday in both winter and summer. I also walk around in our neighbourhood with my friend for more than one hour. I have been doing this exercise for more than 6 or 7 years.
What’s another secret? I would say I try to keep to a routine in my daily life, like waking up at 6:00 a.m., going to bed around 12 midnight and having breakfast at 7 :00 a.m., lunch around noon and dinner at 7:00 p.m.
One more element that might have contributed to my longevity and active life may have something to do with my character. I think I have an easygoing character and I do not take anything too seriously and leave things to take their own course. In a nutshell, my laid back personality may be the most important contributor. Among the four elements of various feelings that humans have, which are joy, anger, grief and pleasure, I think I lack a feeling of anger. Even when I am angry, I soon feel ‘what is the bother’ and forget about my anger. Occasionally the slight-est thing seems to be so amusing and funny to me, sometimes I have a hard time trying to stop laughing. The old Japanese proverb says, ‘happiness comes to those who laugh’ and I became 91 years old while I have been laughing and enjoying life.
I feel so privileged that, wherever and whenever I live, I am surrounded by many friends, old and young alike, who have showed me so much friendship and compassion.