I can never remember my mother being younger than 50. I’m sure she was born 50, and married my father at 60. Then they went to a store and bought me when they were both 63.
Even if you know your parents aren’t old, something tells you that they are. Heck, they have wrinkles! And grandparents are so old, they’re from the annals of ancient history. Grandparents talk about when they were young and show you photos of when they were children, but they never look anything like those photos, so how do you know they’re not just pulling one over on you?
When you’re young, everyone looks old to you, no matter if they are 50 or 80. But if you don’t like the idea of aging, don’t come to Japan. Because here, you’ll age even faster in a “no one wears shorts after 40” phenomenon. In Japan, they have these unwritten social rules about when you hit certain milestones in age. More than a few older ladies where I live (those over 50) have told me that they’d like to wear dangly pierced earrings, but they can’t — people would talk! Talk about what, I’m not sure.
In addition, 50-year-old women don’t want to show their bare arms in public and no woman after 30 will get into a swim suit. These women are aging far too soon if you ask me. Especially when everyone knows that life starts at 40.
But the anti-aging brigade starts early in Japan. Whereas in the U.S. you might start considering a nip and a tuck at 40, in Japan women in their 20s are already outfitted with novice anti-aging tools such as big floppy hats, white gloves and arm protectors (that act like sleeves to wear with short-sleeved shirts). In their 30s, they “level up” and start carrying a parasol, preferably a UV-protected one. In their 40s and 50s, they’ll likely spend most of their time inside to avoid the aging effects of the sun. After retirement, when they’re old despite all the anti-aging precautions, they start to pursue the great outdoors again but only by donning the more advanced anti-aging tool of choice — the Little Bo Peep bonnet — while tending to their flower or vegetable gardens.
There is no doubt that Japan is an aging society. But after living with everyone else’s grandparents for so long now, I’ve learned a few things. With confidence, I can share the following tips on anti-aging, which may be more effective than the tools listed above:
1. Don’t loiter near garbage heaps. Whether it be your neighborhood toban garbage duty or picking over the big gomi left out on the curb for Big Garbage Day, a fondness of garbage is a sure sign of the aged. Just being in the proximity of amassed garbage will age you by 20 years. If you find yourself attracted to garbage, saying things like “But that’s a perfectly good vacuum cleaner!” and taking it back home, then add another five years. Only old people see the value in these things. Young people buy new, crappy stuff that breaks down in a week.
2. Don’t feed stray cats. Feeding the stray animal population in the local park is another thing only old people do and will add 10 years to your age. Having a house full of stray cats will add another 10 years on top of that. If you feel you must keep cats, that’s fine, but don’t merely collect random cats. Clean them up, take them to the vet, get them healthy and get them fixed. Feral cats running amok will just make you look old and deranged. Plus, as a young and hip cat keeper, you’ll be making a progressive difference in the cat population rather than just adding to it. You’ll look even younger if you also keep your house clean and buy all your cats collars.
3. Don’t collect useless stuff. Have you ever noticed that hoarders age faster than non-hoarders? That’s because people start seeing your old stuff rather than you, who is hidden behind it. Recognizing hoarding as a habit that gets worse as you get older is your first step to staying young. You don’t want to become like that eccentric old guy down the street who has so much junk it’s spilling out onto the street, do you? That old guy is probably a lot younger than the junk makes him look. Keeping old, useless stuff is tantamount to hoarding. You can’t hoard new stuff. Think about it.
4. Give up radio taiso. While NHK’s radio taiso exercise seems like a healthy thing to do, it can’t be, for the following reasons. First, it starts at 6 a.m., which doesn’t allow you to get your beauty sleep (which, believe me, you’ll need as you get older). Second, with people living longer, healthier lives, shouldn’t they be doing something more challenging? The current radio taiso is more likely to slow you down in your old age.
5. Milk cows. Whenever someone over 100 years old is interviewed, one consistent detail they reveal is that they grew up on a farm milking cows. So there you go — milking cows is the key to health and longevity. After all, you’ve never heard of a computer programmer who lived to be 100, have you?
Lastly, don’t let society age you. No matter what people tell you about your age, you don’t have to fall for it. Youngness, like beauty, resides within. Live long, live healthy — with wrinkles.