Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara is no ordinary doctor. Born in 1911, he is probably the world’s oldest and longest-practicing physician and educator. He was working at St Luke’s as early as 1945, when he treated victims of the World War Two Tokyo firebombing that left vast swathes of the city in ruins.
He has published more than 150 books, one of which is the bestseller Living Long, Living Good, which has sold more than 1.2 million copies. Who is better qualified than this good doctor to advise us on how to live a long and happy life?
In this article, I will share his sage advice. We could all learn a lot from him.
1. Energy comes from feeling good—not from eating well or sleeping a lot.
Children often have so much fun they might even forget to eat or sleep. We should emulate the children and have fewer rules about mealtimes and bedtime. Let’s have more fun.
2. Do not be overweight.
Dr. Hinohara found that those who live long lives are not overweight. The good doctor himself is careful about what he eats. For breakfast, he drinks coffee, milk, and orange juice with a tablespoon of olive oil. He believes that olive oil is great for the arteries and also maintains healthy skin. For lunch he only drinks milk with a few cookies, or sometimes nothing at all when he is too busy to eat. For dinner, he eats vegetables, fish, and rice. Twice a week, he gives himself the special treat of 100 grams of lean meat.
3. Always plan ahead.
Dr. Hinohara always has a full schedule, often planned at least a year in advance. His calendar is packed with lectures, hospital work, and many other appointments. He also likes to have fun and is looking forward to attend the Tokyo Olympics in 2020!
4. You don’t have to retire.
Even if one wishes to retire, it should be at an older age. Age 65 is too young.
5. Share what you know.
Dr. Hinohara gives 150 lectures a year, some of them to young school-aged children. Other lectures are given to various business communities—some 4,500 of them over the years. He delivers his lectures standing up, and the talks are sometimes as long as 90 minutes. He says standing makes him strong.
6. Don’t believe everything your doctor says or recommends.
Dr. Hinohara believes that doctors can’t cure everyone or everything. He suggests that patients ask their doctors whether they would want their own loved ones to go through the recommended procedures. If not, why cause unnecessary pain and suffering? He also thinks music and animal therapies can aid healing more than the medical community realizes.
7. In order to stay healthy, always take the stairs and carry your own belongings.
In order to keep his legs and heart healthy, Dr. Hinohara takes two steps at a time when climbing the stairs.
8. Be inspired.
Dr. Hinohara is inspired by Robert Browning’s poem “Abt Vogler.” This poem talks about drawing a circle so big there is no way you can finish it while you are alive. All you can see is the arch, and the rest is beyond your vision. But it is always there in the distance.
9. Pain is mysterious.
The best way to overcome pain is to forget it by having fun. If a child has a toothache, and if you start playing a game with him, he will immediately forget the pain. At Dr. Hinohara’s St. Luke’s hospital, they offer music therapy, animal therapy, and art classes. He believes that hospitals should also cater to patients’ more cerebral, or spiritual, needs.
10. Don’t be crazy about amassing material possessions.
No one knows when your time’s up, and you can’t take material possessions with you.
11. Science alone cannot cure or help people.
Science lumps all human beings together. Illness, however, is individual. Dr. Hinohara believes that each person is unique and that diseases are connected to their hearts. To be able to help people and to cure their illnesses, we need liberal and visual arts—not just medical treatments.
12. Life is most unpredictable and is filled with incidents.
Dr. Hinohara relates an incident that occurred when he was 59 years old. He was on a flight from Tokyo to Fukuoka on March 31, 1970, when the plane was hijacked by the Japanese Communist League-Red Army Faction. He spent the next four days handcuffed to his seat in 40-degree centigrade heat. He treated the whole ordeal as an experiment, and he was amazed to discover how the body could slow down to adapt to a crisis situation.
13. It’s wonderful to live long.
Dr. Hinohara assures us that it is wonderful to live a long life. In our later years, we should strive to serve society. Since the age of 65, the doctor has been working as a volunteer. He still puts in 18 hours a day, seven days a week, and he enjoys every minute of his active life.
My understanding of Dr. Hinohara’s philosophy can be summarized by three main points. If you want to live a long and happy life…
May you, too, have a long and happy life.
Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara died on Tuesday, 18 July 2017 at the age of 106.