Travel & Culture

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Japanese culture and lifestyles through the eyes of NHK WORLD personalities

April 21, 2016

Healthy Tips from a Tokyo-Based Narrator

Josh Keller / Narrator

Josh Keller has been lending his talents to Japanese projects since 2007. The Chicago native can be heard narrating NHK WORLD programs such as Her Story, Trails to Tsukiji, Asia Insight, DESIGN TALKS plus and Direct Talk.


Although I am a professional narrator, I often imagine that in a past life I was probably a nutritionist or personal trainer. As a self-confessed "health nut" (kenko-otaku) I've always been intrigued to know what lies behind the world-renowned longevity of the Japanese, and my curiosity has led me to some traditional wisdom on how to stay in decent shape. The beauty of Japan’s diet and excercise secrets is that they feel very natural and intuitive. And while some may take a little getting used to in the beginning, if you regularly apply two tips that I myself have adopted, I believe you'll notice a big difference.

While Japan as a whole is noted for the life expectancy of its citizens, the Okinawan people in particular stand out for their exemplary health and longevity. These southern islands are home to a long-established dietary trend known as hara hachi bunme, which states that one should eat only until the stomach is 80% full, leaving 20% for digestion to work. Following this rule has enabled me to keep my weight in check, as well as preventing drowsiness and loss of concentration following a meal. As with many jobs, we narrators need to maintain both our energy levels and our concentration, and hara hachi bunme has helped me to stay awake and in the zone when behind the microphone. And the smaller portions typical of Japanese cuisine make this system even easier to stick to.


When it comes to maintaining wellness, exercise is just as important as healthy eating. But this does not necessarily require going to the gym. One popular activity in Japan is the goal of walking for up to 30 minutes, or 10 thousand steps each day, a target that can now be easily tracked with a range of fancy smartphone apps. Interestingly, the Japanese word for "pedometer" is written using Chinese characters that translate as "10 thousand steps". And this tip is not just good for your physical health––taking long walks can help to reduce stress and anxiety, especially if your route is rich in nature and greenery. Whenever I have extra time between jobs, I like to take a scenic stroll to my next destination. One part of central Tokyo that is particularly good for this is the area around the Imperial Palace. The beautiful path along the perimeter of the palace moat is also popular with joggers.

There are a number of studios close to the famous Meiji Shrine, near Harajuku. After passing through the impressive torii gate, the grounds offer a serene environment shrouded in dense woodland, where you can see numerous sacred buildings and, on a lucky day, even a traditional Shinto wedding ceremony. Both of these spots are ideal for checking in with the present and practicing mindfulness. And on days when I don’t have the chance to get outside, I like to make sure I reach the magic 10 thousand steps by taking the stairs instead of elevators and escalators.

You don’t need intensive exercise or diet gimmicks to maintain health and energy. Life in Japan has led me to simple, tried-and-tested techniques borrowed from local traditions, which help me to keep fit naturally. Try out these strategies for yourself and feel the difference!

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Josh Keller / Narrator

Josh is a professional and seasoned voice talent. A native of suburban Chicago and resident of Tokyo, he's known for his warm, resonant and natural sounding delivery. Josh lends his voice to various projects including TV commercials, corporate videos, documentaries, English education audio materials, e-learning, and characters. Trained by top-level voice coaches in the U.S.A, he brings words on a page to life.

QuestionHow long have you been in Japan?
I've been living in Japan for close to 12 years.
QuestionWhat was your original reason for coming to Japan?
I initially came to Japan to work as an English teacher and start my own "study abroad" consulting business. My career took a different turn after a successful audition for an NHK English learning radio program.
Question What's your favorite scenic spot in Japan?
My favorite is actually in a relatively little-known area called Shin'onsen in Hyogo Prefecture––just due east of Tottori. The view when driving between the coastal waters of the Sea of Japan and the neighboring mountainside is just fantastic.
Question What's the one thing that's essential to your life in Japan?
Whether I'm arranging to meet a friend at a train station, or calculating my commute to work, I find Japan's "on time" culture very much in tune with my own obsessive-compulsive levels of punctuality. Trains are almost never late and people generally respect your time.
Question What is your favorite Japanese word? Please briefly describe what it means in English.
My favorite word is sukkiri, a term that generally means "refreshing" or "soothing". It's a neat word that can be used in many health and nature-related contexts. Although not technically an onomatopoeia, for some reason the word itself sounds rather invigorating to me.