village in japan

A Village in Japan



pill routinely fountain of youth
ache wrinkles Alzheimer’s
pain moisture sound (2)
argue common physicians
local pack (3) can’t help (2)
elastic lubricate senior citizen
terrain prevent phenomenon
skin rule (2) longevity
genes key (2) upside down
lungs paste (2) abundance
retain joint (3) dementia
sticky infiltrate innkeeper
spry virtually in terms of
variety attribute get around
dip smooth backbone (2)
awful root (2) pungent
acid stick (3) pharmaceutical
fatigue roughly respected
starch average potential
retina surgery shock absorber
ability restore symptom
heal tissue (2) regenerate
sterile astonish around the corner
radical comb (2) replacement
reduce undergo regenerate
purify arthritis cocked full
slice extract generation
bland syringe orthopedics
outlive marvel staple (2)
tablet proclaim blueprint (2)
elderly overall time honored
hope assume abundance







Forget the vitamins. The Fountain of Youth could be here, in this village, where people routinely live into their nineties, never sick a day in their lives.

Cancer, Alzheimer’s . . . even wrinkles are rare. And no one seems to worry about their health.

What’s their secret?

But can you get the same benefits in a pill?

Connie Chung with the secrets from the Village of Long Life.

So how would you like to be one-hundred years old, without any aches or pains? Without disease of any sign of dementia?

Sounds pretty good. And believe it or not, there is a place where that might be possible.

Connie Chung has found it and went to pay a visit.

This is Yuzurihara, Japan, a small mountainous village, two hours outside of Tokyo.

Hidden in these hills, may just be the secret to a long, healthy life.

Tagano Takahashi believes he knows the secret.

And who could argue with him — after all, he’s 93 years old.

At this village karaoke party, there are plenty more who believe in the secret.

Yuzurihara is a place where 90 year olds are practically commonplace, and where more than 10% of the population is 85 or older — that’s ten times our national norm.

What is not common is disease: cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s are virtually unheard of here.

Journalist: “Do you ever remember being sick?”
Tagano Takahashi: “No, I do not.
Journalist: “Mr. Takahashi, I can’t help but notice that you’re smoking. How long have you been smoking?”
Tagano Takahashi: “I’ve been smoking since I was 25.”
Journalist: “Mr. Takahashi, has anyone said to you, you really ought to quit smoking?”
Tagano Takahashi: “No one has told me that. Even the doctors have no reason to tell me to stop smoking because I’ve never had anything wrong with my lungs.”

And Mr. Takahashi is not alone: his neighbor goes through a pack-and-a-half a day.

Neighbor: “I’ve been smoking for 60-years. I’ve never even thought about quitting.”

A local doctor who still practices is 80, as is the local innkeeper . . . but neither look nor act like senior citizens. Nor do these ball players; the average age of this group is 82.

This village may look like just an average Japanese town, but some medical researchers believe it may actually hold the key to the Fountain of Youth.

They discovered that people here routinely live into their 90s and beyond. And rarely have any reason to go see a doctor.

And somehow have managed to prevent even their skin from aging.

What’s behind this secret phenomenon?

Is it something in the villagers’ genes? Or maybe it’s the low-stressed lifestyle here.

Japanese researchers think it’s more than that: they believe the longevity here is tied to . . . potatoes.


Unlike most parts of Japan where rice is the staple of the diet, potatoes rule here.

Generations ago, villagers discovered they were easier to plant in the hilly terrain.

And this doctor thinks they are the key to longevity here.

His name is Toyosuke Komori, and for 60-years, he has studied the people of Yuzurihara.

He himself adopted the local diet, which consists of very little meat, but a lot of home-grown sticky starches, and vegetables.

Dr. Toyosuke Komori: “I feel very strongly that if I had not come to Yuzurihara, I would not have lived this long and healthy a life. I probably would have died from some adult disease.”

It is Dr. Komori’s theory that what villagers eat give them an abundance of a substance called hyaluronic acid, more than most of us have in our bodies.

HA as it is called, is something we are all born with, but lose as we get older. In our bodies, HA enables cells to retain moisture. It keeps our joints lubricated.

And our skins smooth and elastic — the same qualities Dr. Komori finds in these spry, smooth-skinned villagers.

Dr. Toyosuke Komori: “I have never seen anyone suffer from skin cancer here. I have seen a woman in her nineties with spotless skin.

Mr. Takahashi attributes his smooth skin, even after working 50-years in the sun, to sticking to the local, traditional diet.

The skin on his arms felt like a babies. And the skin on his legs barely had a wrinkle.

Some of what Mr. Takahashi eats is on the menu every day at a hotel in Yuzurihara.

The innkeeper, Mrs. Ishi, is 80 and looks pretty good herself. She offers us a variety of local vegetables and starches that are the backbone of the diet here.

Obviously all of us want to know what this food tastes like, right?

Here goes . . .

Uh, this is the sticky potato . . . it tastes like a normal potato — little bland though. This is a root vegetable that’s made into a jelly. Dipping it in soy sauce.

Ah, that’s awful.

This is miso; it’s a soybean paste. Um, very pungent. I don’t think you’d like this.

So the question is, if this is the ticket to longevity, would you eat it every day?

I don’t think so.

To get around that, one of Japan’s leading pharmaceutical companies is trying to say, “it doesn’t take a village to live longer.” They’re putting HA in pills, which in Japan sells for about $25 for a month’s supply.

The company tested the pills on a thousand people: roughly half reported smoother skin, less fatigue and better eyesight.

But we kept asking ourselves: just how real is this?

So we traveled to Great Britain, where HA experts, respected scientists and physicians from 23 countries gathered to discuss the marvels of HA.

Western medicine is just beginning to understand the full potential of HA.

For years, HA has been used in eye surgery, a shock absorber to protect the retina. In a gel form, HA has been proved effective in lubricating arthritic joints, and its ability to restore elasticity to tissues is a big reason cosmetic companies have put HA in moisturizers for years.

But these scientists believe that the dramatic discoveries of HA’s healing powers are just around the corner.

Discussions here focused on HA’s ability to regenerate the cells in our bodies.

Here in the United States, doctors have been giving hyaluronic acid to patients since 1997.

But the HA is not in a pill — it’s in a syringe. The FDA approved product is called Symvisc.

Dr. David Alchek, a leading orthopedic surgeon, says in some cases, the HA injections have delayed the need for patients to undergo radical knee replacement surgery.

Dr. David Alchek: “The results can be astonishing in terms of reducing the symptoms and improving their quality of life.”

At the New Jersey firm, Biometrics, HA is extracted from — are you ready for this? — chicken combs. Strangely, the Mohawk crown on the chicken’s head is chocked full of hyaluronic acid.

The combs are washed, sliced and purified in an extremely sterile environment.

But if you doubt it’s the diet that’s keeping these Japanese villagers young, consider this: since Western-style junk food infiltrated Yuzurihara a few years ago, heart disease here has doubled, creating what the Japanese call, the upside-down death pyramid, in which adults die before their parents.

Ninety-one year old Fuji Shirotori has outlived two of her six children.

Fujiro Tori: “All my children ate what I had been eating when they were young and lived here, but when they moved away, they chose to eat differently.”

The stone tablet at the entrance to Yuzurihara proclaims it to be the village of long life.

It would be impossible to conclude that the phenomenon here is just a matter of diet alone.

The elderly here follow a time-honored blueprint for good health: exercise, low stress — and a healthy diet, an overall lifestyle that cannot be bottled.

But if someday it can be proven that their longevity is a result of an abundance of HA in their system, well maybe . . . just maybe, there is hope for the rest of us.

Journalist: “I assume I should have come here as a teenager to start eating the diet, to enjoy the fountain of youth that you’re enjoying. Is that correct?

Dr. Toyosuke Komori: “No it’s not too late. Therefore, if you practice the secret you learn here, I’m sure you could live a very long time.”

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1. The residents of Yuzirihara on average live long, healthy lives. Cancer, heart disease and dementia are rare. True or false?

2. Is there a paradox with some of the villagers? Do they all have very healthy habits?

3. Everyone retires at the age of 65 and regularly visit the doctor. Is this right or wrong?

4. Do they have a diet consisting of rice, fish, sushi and sashimi?

5. The journalist enjoyed the village cuisine. Yes or no?

6. What do some scientists think the Fountain of Youth is? What is the secret of their longevity? What are the benefits of hyaluronic acid? Does the report seem to promote HA?

7. The villagers live long and healthy lives because of their genes. Is this correct or incorrect?

8. Is HA and diet alone the secret of longevity?


A. Do you know people who are very old or who have lived very long lives? What were their secrets?

B. Are there regions of your country where many people live to be 100?

C. Does the media (TV, newspapers, magazines) give advice to people about health and fitness?

D. Has the diet, lifestyle and health of people been changing over the years?

E. What will happen in the future?


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