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“Urawaza”: 6 Fascinating Japanese Life Hacks

“Urawaza”: 6 Fascinating Japanese Life Hacks

    I recently picked up a copy of “Urawaza: Secret Everyday Tips and Tricks from Japan” by Lisa Katayama, and I really enjoyed it. Described by Think Geek as “the Ninja version of Martha Stewart”, the book consists of dozens of off-centered lifestyle tips, covering everything from cooking tricks to winter sports.

    For example, you might “turbocharge” your winter sled by treating the bottom with nonstick cooking spray, or refresh stale coffee with a sprinkle of salt. Or, you might even use a household iron to help you perfect your bowling technique. If you have a common household problem, chances are that there is an urawaza trick that can help you out.

    The History of Urawaza

    As author Lisa Katayama explains in the introduction of the book, the culture of urawaza had its roots in post-WWII Japan. The country’s resources had been tapped by the war effort, and even basic provisions had become harder to come by.

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    There were plenty of families that were trying to do more with less after the war, and even in modern Japan there are many families living in tiny city apartments who are looking to make the most of their space and resources. In 1997, the Japanese TV program “The Ito Family Dinner Table” brought urawaza into the mainstream. The program became so popular that at one point, over 30 percent of Japanese households tuned in to watch the show every week.

    The Look of the Book

    Each tip in the book is framed on a single page, outlining the dilemma, the urawaza solution, and a brief blurb that explains why the tip works from the scientific standpoint. It’s short enough to read cover-to-cover in a single sitting, and accessible enough to skim through for only a few minutes at a time.

    Even the design of the book is geared to help the reader be more productive. The front of the book is emblazoned with big friendly letters that encourage the reader to “DO EVERYTHING BETTER!”, a move that reminds me warmly of the “DON’T PANIC” cover art of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

    The obi-style wrapper on top of the book jacket is billed as “an instant fast-forward” (read: built-in bookmark) to help readers mark their place and easily refer back to tips they are looking to try out.

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    So, What’s In This Book?

    The book contains over 100 tips across seven topic sections. Readers can peruse a variety of life hacks that include health tips, tricks to “amaze your friends”, beauty advice, “household hacks”, kitchen/food tips, laundry shortcuts, and tips for the great outdoors.

    Basically, whether you are young or old, male or female, there will be plenty of relevant hacks and tips for you to peruse. Whether you are looking for a way to prevent your car doors from freezing shut in the winter, or want to learn to master the perfect manicure, there’s a hack for that.

    My Top Picks

    Out of the dozens of great tips in this book, I have selected six that I thought were really interesting, unique, or just plain useful. Narrowing it down was tough, but the following tips are pretty excellent.

    1. A Foolproof Hiccup Cure: Instead of drinking water or swallowing sugar, the book suggests that you stick a cotton swab into your mouth and try to tickle your uvula. Doing so will initiate a gag reflex that will override the hiccup cycle. Kinda gross, but foolproof.

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    2. Stop a Crying Baby: If you swish a little water in your mouth next to the baby’s ear, this will calm the child. This is because the sound is similar to the noises that the baby was accustomed to hearing while still in the womb.

    3. Vinegar Tricks: A dab of apple cider vinegar can banish blemishes, and a mix of white vinegar and tap water can be applied to your hair to make it shiny.

    4. Coffee Stains Begone: Boil spinach in water, and use that water and a toothbrush to lift stubborn coffee stains from fabrics. The oxalic acid present in spinach is good for busting coffee stains, but proceed with caution: this trick won’t work on white fabric because of the green pigments from the spinach.

    5. Fix a Shrunken Sweater: If you’ve accidentally shrunk a favorite wool sweater, you can return it to its original size by soaking it in a solution of tap water and hair conditioner for about 30 minutes.

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    6. Use Your Washing Machine as a Shredder: Just place your documents into a pair of nylon pantyhose, and send them through the wash. The ink will fade or blur, and the paper will crumple and fall apart.

    Conclusion

    I really enjoyed reading this book. Although I haven’t had a chance to try out every single trick yet, I’ve found that some are better than others. For example, the “soap-in-the-microwave” trick was fun to watch, but didn’t deliver much in terms of results.

    But, I especially enjoyed the “create your own urawaza” section at the tail end of the book, as well as the section devoted to the art of tsubo (Japanese pressure points). The tips are solid overall, and the book is definitely worth picking up if you are a fan of life hacks.

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    Tucker Cummings

    Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on March 25, 2020

    How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

    How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

    When it comes to living long, genes aren’t everything. Research has revealed a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make that could help to extend your life, and some of them may surprise you.

    So, how to live longer? Here are 21 ways to help you live a long life

    1. Exercise

    It’s no secret that physical activity is good for you. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease–the top worldwide cause of death.

    2. Drink in Moderation

    I know you’re probably picturing a glass of red wine right now, but recent research suggests that indulging in one to three glasses of any type of alcohol every day may help to increase longevity.[1] Studies have found that heavy drinkers as well as abstainers seem to have a higher risk of early mortality than moderate drinkers.

    3. Reduce Stress in Your Life

    Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone can increase blood pressure and cause storage of abdominal fat, both of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

    4. Watch Less Television

    A 2008 study found that people who watch six hours of television per day will likely die an average of 4.8 years earlier than those who don’t.[2] It also found that, after the age of 25, every hour of television watched decreases life expectancy by 22 minutes.

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    Television promotes inactivity and disengagement from the world, both of which can shorten your lifespan.

    5. Eat Less Red Meat

    Red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[3] Swapping out your steaks for healthy proteins, like fish, may help to increase longevity.

    If you can’t stand the idea of a steak-free life, reducing your consumption to less than two to three servings a week can still incur health benefits.

    6. Don’t Smoke

    This isn’t exactly a revelation. As you probably well know, smoking significantly increases your risk of cancer.

    7. Socialize

    Studies suggest that having social relationships promotes longevity.[4] Although scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, they speculate that socializing leads to increased self esteem as well as peer pressure to maintain health.

    8. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

    Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease[5] and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.[6] Salmon and walnuts are two of the best sources of Omega-3s.

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    9. Be Optimistic

    Studies suggest that optimists are at a lower risk for heart disease and, generally, live longer than pessimists.[7] Researchers speculate that optimists have a healthier approach to life in general–exercising more, socializing, and actively seeking out medical advice. Thus, their risk of early mortality is lower.

    10. Own a Pet

    Having a furry-friend leads to decreased stress, increased immunity, and a lessened risk of heart disease.[8] Depending on the type of pet, they can also motivate you to be more active.

    11. Drink Coffee

    Studies have found a link between coffee consumption and longer life.[9] Although the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, coffee’s high levels of antioxidants may play a role. Remember, though, drowning your cup of joe in sugar and whipped cream could counter whatever health benefits it may hold.

    12. Eat Less

    Japan has the longest average lifespan in the world, and the longest lived of the Japanese–the natives of the Ryukyu Islands–stop eating when they’re 80% full. Limiting your calorie intake means lower overall stress on the body.

    13. Meditate

    Meditation leads to stress reduction and lowered blood pressure.[10] Research suggests that it could also increase the activity of an enzyme associated with longevity.[11]

    Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to find your zen can have significant health benefits, and may even extend your life.

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    How to meditate? Here’re 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

    14. Maintain a Healthy Weight

    Being overweight puts stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart disease.[12] It may also increase the risk of cancer.[13] Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and living a long and healthy life.

    15. Laugh Often

    Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. High levels of these hormones can weaken your immune system.

    16. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun

    Too much time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, sun exposure is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, so soaking up a few rays–perhaps for around 15 minutes a day–can be healthy. The key is moderation.

    17. Cook Your Own Food

    When you eat at restaurants, you surrender control over your diet. Even salads tend to have a large number of additives, from sugar to saturated fats. Eating at home will enable you to monitor your food intake and ensure a healthy diet.

    Take a look at these 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go and start to cook your own food.

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    18. Eat Mushrooms

    Mushrooms are a central ingredient in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s GOMBS disease fighting diet. They boost the immune system and may even reduce the risk of cancer.[14]

    19. Floss

    Flossing helps to stave off gum disease, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.[15]

    20. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants

    Antioxidants fight against the harmful effects of free-radicals, toxins which can cause cell damage and an increased risk of disease when they accumulate in the body. Berries, green tea and broccoli are three excellent sources of antioxidants.

    Find out more antiosidants-rich foods here: 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

    21. Have Sex

    Getting down and dirty two to three times a week can have significant health benefits. Sex burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and may even protect against heart disease.[16] It’s an easy and effective way to get exercise–so love long and prosper!

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    Featured photo credit: Sweethearts/Patrick via flickr.com

    Reference

    [1] Wiley Online Library: Late‐Life Alcohol Consumption and 20‐Year Mortality
    [2] BMJ Journals: Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
    [3] Arch Intern Med.: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
    [4] PLOS Medicine: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
    [5] JAMA: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
    [6] NCBI: Effects of Omega‐3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases: Summary
    [7] Mayo Clinic Proc: Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period.
    [8] Med Hypotheses.: Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease.
    [9] The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
    [10] American Journal of Hypertension: Blood Pressure Response to Transcendental Meditation: A Meta-analysis
    [11] Science Direct: Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators
    [12] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
    [13] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
    [14] African Journal of Biotechnology: Anti-cancer effect of polysaccharides isolated from higher basidiomycetes mushrooms
    [15] Science Direct: Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
    [16] AHA Journals: Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease

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