Okinawa is home to the most amount of centenarians in the world. Photographer Jose Jeuland travelled to the Japanese archipelago to discover the secret to long life.

Photographer and triathlete Jose Jeuland has always been intrigued by the people who lived on island of Okinawa. Okinawans are known for living long, healthy lives and there are five times more centenarians on Okinawa than in the rest of Japan. "As humans, we are always looking to live longer and healthier lives so I wanted to find out the secrets of their longevity, and what it feels like to have lived for so long," says Jeuland.

So the photographer flew to Okinawa to take portrait shots of people who had - or were about to - celebrate their 100th birthday. Jeuland says the elderly people that he met were fascinating. "They were very lively, and we had lots of great conversation and a good time - they shone," says Jeuland. They told him that the reason they had so much energy, was because they ate healthy food, exercised everyday, and kept away from big cities as they saw them as a major source of stress. And most importantly, each of them had their own garden, which they would tend and maintain. Having something to nurture, says the centenarians gives them a lust for life.

Araka Hideko, 87 This is a very glamorous lady that we met in Nakagusuku. I couldn't leave without photographing her. She looked so elegant and was always smiling.

Vezu Chosho, 99 He is an amiable and gentle man who is a sharp dresser and very loving towards his wife. While we were preparing for the shoot, he put on his jacket and checked himself in the mirror a few times. He even asked the people around him if he looked good for the shoot. He was the first person to take our photoshoot so seriously and while we appreciated his efforts, we were also amused that he cared so much.

Ikehara Tomi, 100 This lady got so emotional when she met us she teared up. She said that she was shy and didn’t want her face to be photographed so we took a picture of her hands instead. They told as much of a story about her life as some of the faces that we had photographed. However, after seeing her friends having their pictures taken, she shed her inhibitions and surprised us by asking if she could have her portrait taken.

Miyagi Ushi, 100 This lady resides in Kitanakagusuku Wakamatsu. When it was time for us to take our leave, she wanted us to stay for a while longer. When we bid our last goodbye, she was determined to turn her wheelchair around so she could watch us leave.

Ikehara Tomi's Hands I chose to photograph the hands also because they also have a story to tell. The marks on the hands tell as much as lines on a face.

Kiyo Matsumoto, 95 This picture was taken in a community hall in the small village in Ogimi. Once a week, the old folks gather together to eat, talk and sing karaoke. Kiyo might not have been as physically active as some of the other visitors, but her eyes were full of vigor and spoke otherwise.

Tamanaka Yoshiko, 97 This lady resides in Naha City. Her daughter contacted me on Facebook after reading my article in the Okinawa Times. She couldn’t wait to show me her gymnastic capabilities and was very energetic. It was both hard and amusing for me to take a good shot of her because she wouldn’t stay still.

Takashiki Masako, 99 This lady resides in an old people's home in Higashi Village. She is living proof that one is never too old to try - she obtained her driving licence at the age of 74. She was driving constantly up until the age of 90 where she decided to put a brake on her driving career.

Suggested Itineraries

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When to go:

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Destinations Featured in the Article
Japan, Mount Fuji, Autumn Season, Lake Kawaguchiko


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