Visiting a house designed by Mr. Masuda Ikeda and Ms. Yoko Sato

Mr. Masuo Ikeda was a worldwide, successful multi-artist who passed away in 1997.  His house where he spent with Ms. Yoko Sato is now open to the public as an art gallery.  I visited the house of gallery in Atami the other day.  Mr. Ikeda was a cheerful, brisk and smart person and Ms. Sato is a sexy and charming lady who plays the violin very dynamically and manly.  I became to know both of them through my late husband, Yasunori Sugahara.

I visited the gallery after a long interval and I felt a sign of their being and appreciated each work piece there.  The house was absolutely wonderful enough to feel the happy days that they must have led.  The house had appearance with a feeling of unity with stained-glasses in the entrance, bathroom and ceiling lights.  It was indeed the modern type of house in those days.

Mr. Masuo failed the entrance examination for the Tokyo University of the Arts three times.  He was a very unique artist.  That’s why he was so hungry and energetic to be engaged in producing works in various forms of art such as woodcut prints, potteries, water color paintings, writing nobles and motion pictures.  He also collaborated with Ms. Yoko to release essays and hosted some TV shows.  Ms. Yoko devoted herself to support Mr. Masuo all the time.  She never failed to keep smiles, never clashed with him and lived peacefully and merrily.  Ms. Yoko still lives in Atami but I think she misses her husband so much.  This artistic house is full of the happiest days of their marriage life, which NHK (Nippon Hoso Kyokai, Japan Broadcasting Corp.) focused on in a special documentary from the dramatic encounter throughout their life.  It was worth watching.  Usually, a couple of two artists have strong personalities enough to run into each other.  Or some may fight to protect their own space.  Mr. Masuo and Ms. Yoko were both liberal and tolerant persons and had no such worries but lived happily together ever after.  They were such a lovely couple unlike others.  Their intelligence, caring and attractiveness as a man and a woman must have bloomed more graciously by being together.

The gallery had some jewelries on display that Mr. Masuo designed for Ms. Yoko.  They were so artistic that seemed to suit Ms. Yoko well.

Continued from the previous post

Be sure to have friends you can trust.  Have many hobbies that you like.  Enjoy and fulfill the common activities with your friends.  Lastly, do not hesitate to spend your money.  It is so sad to say but Japanese people are not good at volunteer activities.  If you are being stingy and try to save too much money, that money would rotten and destroy your mind or your family’s.  That negative power coming out of the rotten money can change you into a different personality who cannot live in a creative fun life.  Rich people in the old times were so called “the local benefactor” who willingly took care of many young poor students at their own homes and sent them to higher education forecasting them to be the next leaders in their home communities.  They had high sense of culturalism and the dignity of keeping faith.  Contrary, rich people in recent times have no purposes but to double up what they have.  Those people live in the Asura realm and are not attractive at all.   Such people may become really rich once, but soon or later will fall straight down to hell.

In western countries, children are naturally accustomed to volunteer activities.  This is one positive aspect of Christianity-related society.  Local volunteers would cook bean soup or tacos and offer to poor people in many Catholic churches in San Diego along the border of Mexico on a certain day every week.  In some parts of the world, this is a usual scene happening in a normal daily life while in Japanese schools tend to center solely around entrance examinations and students stay in a very narrow-minded environment.  Children who come out of there may avoid eye contacts when they take a glance at some poor-looking people because they cannot establish a normal, decent communication with others.  Each of us is lonely because this is a competition-based society.  We get stressed out easily and bullying the weak spreads out instantly.

In the story of Mr. Ohmae, he stated that each of us should have 20 different hobbies, but I think that’s too much.  It sounds like him as being an ADHD-type hard worker.  Go to hot spring inn with friends cheerfully instead of going alone.  Get some fresh fish at a local market and get down to the nearby camp site with a portable BBQ set.  The point is how much fun experiences you have accumulated since your childhood.
What you have experienced when you were kids can bring you back a bigger power in you senior ages.  Those who happen to lack such power will have to live in a fearful, anxious and mistrustful life by being exposed to the endless negative information coming from TV.  What I’m trying to say here is that we need to be aware that our mind impacts on our life, especially the latter half of our entire life.  90% of the tabloid shows distribute negative information.  People who are possessed with the idea that they will be broken into by a burglar will get broken into.  Life is fun and people around me are all nice.  My family is tied in a good relationship.  If you can believe so, that’s the reality you can attain.

This is where the law of attraction applies.  In the same sense that we are drawing in everything, it seems as we are living in the same realm but in fact it’s not the other world; rather we should consider that we’ve been living between heaven, Asura realm, competitive hell or other realms.  If we stay happy keeping smiles and feeling grateful, nothing bad should happen to us until we die.

It is natural that we reduce in strength, vigor and motor abilities as we age, but if we can override those negative aspects by humor and wisdom to get accustomed to a new life, that’s good enough.  This is my creed.

Playing tennis together as a family.  Climbing is the family hobby.  Skiing and playing music together and participating in Phil harmony.  Besides, never fail to recognize the loss in the wars and offer earnest prayers.  The Emperor and Empress have shown me the most ideal way of life.  I believe that we should be proud and blessed with such wonderful examples.

Getting 50-year-old kimono altered for daughters to wear at their wedding or keeping the 40-year-old baby buggy in good shape for a revival in children’s generations… things like those teach us that good life is not costly at all.

Blow off anxieties about post-retirement years and economic slump… written by Kenichi Ohmae

 Personal financial assets of people in their golden ages in Japan are said to exceed 1700 trillion yen, and most of which are of those who are over 60 years old.  However, the reality is that they cannot spend their own saving for a freewheeling life because they are worried too much about what could happen to them in the later years such as illness, injury or aging related issues like nursing cares and getting into nursing homes.  Even the NHK, Japanese national public broadcasting organization has picked out the increasing rates of solitary deaths and “Karyu-Roujin,” (a recently created slang term indicating the elderlies whose living is equivalent to the borderline of welfare), most typical Japanese citizens become antsier.

 About a decade ago, bank account of senior generation was believed to sum up to 1300 trillion yen but expected to decrease as “dankai generation” (the baby boomers) retires and starts to withdraw such savings.  But media has sensationalized and urged the public to prepare for the worst scenario by keeping their savings for rainy days.  What I see behind this sensationalism is that not many elderly in over 70s are likely to spend happy, merrily, brisk life.  Those who are able to do so may be limited to those who have lived and known lifestyles in overseas.  Others, unfortunately, seemed to have been taught only to save money but not how to spend.  That is why there are some married couples who instantly decide to go on a cruise trip paying 10 million yen, not knowing they would argue all the time and usually men would end up in staying in a large common room.  This is not funny but happening in reality.  The fact is that we need long term trainings to acquire tips how to spend money for ourselves, our family and to amuse people around us.  Just having a lot of money would not enable us to spend it wisely.  (This point is mentioned in Mr. Ohmae’s book.)

How about having fun at the Bridge Pot Luck Party, which is sort of music concert and birthday celebration at the same time.  Home parties are not very common in Japan.  It is so sad that Japanese do not hold inexpensive BBQ parties that ask participants just to show up and pay 1000 yen per person.  Exceptionally in Okinawa where BBQ parties are popular and actively taken place, people tend to spend happier life than those in mainland Japan.

 There are some old rich people who don’t trust people.  One of my friends has a pity, old but rich family member who pays big bills to his family for preparing and carrying every meal in the morning, afternoon and evening.  The old man would roam around the neighborhood when she has to look for him for hours.  I suggest that she find a luxury nursing home for him, but she prefers to take care of him at home for the sake of 30 thousand yen per day.

 This is so miserable but Japanese way of thinking.  The latter half of our life goes along as we image.  If we have a happy life with many friends, we can go on a trip with them, enjoy dancing, singing, drawing paints, showing photos each other at parties, and so on.  Those who can organize their life with fun events can stay being happy until the moment they die.  Such people are filled with love as they age and they would not have any troubles.

 One of my neighbor said, “I’m going to have myself checked up at a hospital,” and he did but then died of a terminal cancer within a week.  He had a good life.  His wife and he had a good relationship and went out for bowling together three times a week.  Their scores were always over 200 on the average.  They grow vegetables on the roof garden even in a metropolitan, Tokyo.  He was the president of a small local factory.

 Meanwhile, those who do not trust anyone even their own family and who believe all that matters is money, (as depicted in the latest publication of Mr. Fukushima) may end up in getting robbed 15 million yen because money is all they care.  People based on inhuman, money-minded can build up relationships that would break up in arguments at the end.  This stays even after the marriage which ties a couple only with money.  What a pity, hellish post-retirement life they have with a malicious relationship!  The elderly should consider two extremes heaven or hell, but not normal in between.

A Letter to My Friend, B who could not make it on that day-

On March 24, we held the second Buddhist memorial service in spring equinox times for my husband at Ikegami Honmon-ji Temple.  The air was a little chilly but as many as 100 people of Yasunori Sugahara’s Tomo-no-Kai (Fanatics’ Association) joined us from all over Japan.  The service took place in the temple hall and then we had a ceremonial dinner after that.  It was so nice to see people that I haven’t seen for a very long time.  We really had a good time there.

For the memorial service in the temple hall, five priests were present to read sutras.  It sounded so beautifully and for those who attended the service for the first time told me that they were very impressed by its solemn sounds that made them feel refreshed as if it were a piece of music.  The previous head priest, the late Priest Hayami designed the hall 20 years ago taking acoustic effects fully into account.  The woody ecru-colored of the hall emphasizes the Buddhist statutes as they line up simply, even though they are not colored but the same tone of color as the hall.

At the ceremonial dinner, members of Bonny Jacks kindly offered to sing a few songs.  We all sang along together toward the end.  The wholehearted singing memorial service by Bonny Jacks was really moving.  Most of all, I liked a cappella song that they arranged to combine Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.”  It was so new and fresh that I was touched deeply.  Songs are meant to be a powerful love, messages and at the same time, an amazing magic that can take our mind back to our childhood instantly.  Songs we liked in our high school ages can take us back then.  Love songs we heard in our youth can make us reminisce about the sweet memories.  Nothing else can amaze us more but this wonderful magic of songs.

We sang all together, viscerally in a loud voice, as if we were little kids.  Age hasn’t slowed Bonny down at all!  Those who had eyes glistened with tears when they first arrived, had cheeks turned scarlet by the time to go home from singing along with Bonny.  Everyone had a twinkle in their eyes as if we all renewed our energy enough to last for a year until the next memorial service.  Bonny entertained us with a talk between songs full of humors.

I’m sure that Yasunori Sugahara is still working hard every day for the earth to become a peaceful place in the other world where he is now.  The number of his fan there should be almost the same as those who are here… they have moved there as well.  My husband may be performing concerts upon their requests.

On the service day of March 24th my husband must have been singing “Bells in Nagasaki” along with Bonny.  As I got home and talked to him in the photo, I felt he said he was happy with a smile 10 times bigger than usual.

I really wish my friend, B can join us next year.  Take care until then.

On the service day of March 24th my husband must have been singing “Bells in Nagasaki” along with Bonny.  As I got home and talked to him in the photo, I felt he said he was happy with a smile 10 times bigger than usual.

I really wish my friend, B can join us next year.  Take care until then.

On the service day of March 24th my husband must have been singing “Bells in Nagasaki” along with Bonny.  As I got home and talked to him in the photo, I felt he said he was happy with a smile 10 times bigger than usual.

I really wish my friend, B can join us next year.  Take care until then.

A natural miso and soy factory that is always full of beans

Soy boy: Kazuhiko Morita stirs a giant vat of moromi at Yamaki Jozo, a plant in Saitama that produces soy sauce, tofu, miso and more using natural methods. | KENJI MIURA

A natural miso and soy factory that is always full of beans
by Nancy Singleton Hachisu posted on The Japan Times on April 29, 2014

Although rice is certainly the king of Japanese food, soybeans are the queen. Small makers of miso, soy sauce and tofu dot the landscape of Japan, but blink once and you will notice that the local shops are closing up as supermarket culture takes over daily life.

Up in the hills above our northern Saitama town lies Yamaki Jozo, an organic miso/soy sauce/tofu/natto/pickle company surrounded by prolific vegetable fields and thoughtfully designed Japanese gardens. It is the ultimate wabi-sabi experience. But it is not just for the elegance of this so-called “soy sauce plant” that I take all visitors there (foreign and Japanese alike). What Yamaki offers is myriad, and only depends on time and the emptiness of your stomach.

When we have advance notice, I book seats at its weekend tofu restaurant, Shisuian. The kaiseki multi-course lunch is a steal at ¥3,024, and the bentō (boxed lunches) only ¥1,543. Otherwise we just hop in the car willy-nilly and cruise up the winding road to the Kamikawa-machi hills, about 15 minutes from our farmhouse. After sampling the various tofus (silk, cotton, yuzu, sesame, yuba), misos (inaka, brown rice, barley, soy bean) and pickles (too many to list!), we climb the stairs from the retail shop and peer through the glass at the monstrous cedar barrels of soy sauce left to ferment over the course of two years. If we are lucky, product-planning manager Kazuhiko Morita will be around to dole out a taste of the deeply primal soy-sauce mash (moromi). According to Morita, it’s not for sale, since “it would be like selling our soul.”

Upstairs is where Yamaki holds workshops and demonstrations in making miso and tofu and pressing soy sauce, as well as tastings. (I occasionally take my little English-immersion preschool students there for a tour, conveniently conducted in English.)

Yamaki Jozo is all about transparency, and the current plant was built with the visitors who would cross through its halls, all wanting to see exactly how the soy sauce, miso and tofu are produced, firmly in mind. But more than that, Yamaki built the plant thinking of the restful feeling we would get as we wind our way along the path leading toward the whitewashed buildings, or when we turn a corner and come across ikebana moments upstairs. Here is Japan at its best: delicious wares, responsibly grown organic ingredients and a pristine setting.

I sometimes sneak away for a ¥957 curry lunch or udon set prepared by the excellent cooks who tend the Yamaki shop (and I’m not usually a fan of curry or udon). There are three veteran ladies who are in charge of the shop, and I often ask for their sage advice in pickling or using kōji (mold spores). They are the smiling (and knowledgeable) faces of the shop.
And I never leave empty handed. Yamaki products are my favorite presents to take when I go overseas; the packaging has that elegant aesthetic sense one often associates with Japan (but is sometimes hard to find), and what is inside is absolutely top quality.

Although Yamaki is several generations old, it was the current president, Tomio Kitani, who, inspired by veteran natural farmer Kazuo Suka, committed to using 100 percent organic soybeans about 40 years ago. Historically the miso and soy sauce fermenting was done in Honjo, a neighboring city; and the tofu-making operation was located in Kamiizumi-mura, the neighboring mountain village that was recently merged with our town, Kamikawa-machi. Tofu (and soy sauce) rely on the best water available, so being near the mountains from which the clear spring water is trucked was essential. Yamaki built the current plant on the site of the tofu operation in 2002 and moved all of the soybean-related activities up to the Kamiizumi-mura hills.

Kitani views organic farming as normal — the natural way to grow food. Consequently, he feels an innate responsibility to make traditional Japanese products the way they have been made for generations and to shun modern shortcuts. And that sense of history is exactly why Kitani is aligned with the venerable House of Shijo in support of the ancient food traditions of Japan. Tsukasake Shijo, the 41st-generation Shijo head of this very old Kyoto family, comes out to Yamaki Jozo twice a year for the ceremonial rice planting and harvesting, and invites Kitani each year for an audience with the Emperor to present him with soy sauce.

The vast majority of Japanese people consume soy sauce produced from defatted soy grits rather than whole soybeans and do not even know the difference. Kitani puts the current food culture into perspective with these apt words: “It has taken only 70 years to destroy a 1,000-year-old food tradition.”

Put like that, people might want to think twice before reaching for mass-produced soy sauce over artisanal, family-made soy sauce — especially now that washoku (Japanese cuisine) has been designated as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by Unesco. Perhaps we should actually live up to the honor.

Original Article: The Japan Times


The Beauty Benefits of Pineapple

Last Updated: Mar 12, 2014 | By LaMont Jones, Jr.

With its distinctive prickly skin, sprouty green leaves and sweet yellow flesh, the pineapple is a symbol of hospitality as well as a tasty treat. Like many fruits and vegetables, it can be just as nourishing on the body as in the body. Eating mineral-rich pineapple pulp, drinking the juice, and applying both to the body have multiple beauty benefits.

Clearer Complexion
The high vitamin C and bromelain content of pineapple juice make it an effective acne treatment. Bromelain is an enzyme that softens skin and has been used for hundreds of years in South and Central America to fight inflammation and swelling. Drinking pineapple juice helps the body synthesize collagen, which helps skin stay firm and flexible, while vitamin C and amino acids aid in cell and tissue repair. For a double dose of skin nourishment, cut a pineapple in half and refrigerate one half. Scoop the fruit out of the other half, juice it, drink the juice and gently rub the inside of the pineapple skin on your face, avoiding the eye area. After a few minutes, rinse your face thoroughly with tepid water. Repeat two or three days later with the other pineapple half.

Body and Feet Benefits
The same nutrients that make pineapple good for the face also make it beneficial to the rest of your skin. For a gently exfoliating body polish, peel a fresh pineapple and cut the flesh into four wedges. As you shower, rub the wedges all over your body, followed by a cleansing soap and a thorough rinse. A pineapple foot treatment can help slough away flaky and calloused skin, leaving feet smoother and brighter. Start with one-half cup of chopped pineapple, then chop and mix in one-half peeled lemon, one-half unpeeled apple, one-quarter peeled grapefruit, one teaspoon of salt and two teaspoons of anise extract. Rub the mixture all over your feet, giving extra attention to heels, as the skin there tends to harden easily. Wrap your feet in plastic or tie plastic bags over them. After 20 or 30 minutes, remove and rinse. The salt and fruit enzymes help exfoliate and soften skin while the anise — a licorice extract — soothes, fights swelling and contains natural healing agents.

Healthy Nails
Brittle and dry nails may signal a vitamin A deficiency, while cracked and split nails may suggest your body’s deficiency in B vitamins. Pineapple fruit and juice are good sources of both, another reason to consume them and apply them topically. Hands dry out easily because they are used so much, making nail cuticles more prone to dehydration. Dry cuticles cause unsightly nail beds that are also more susceptible to cracking and infection-causing bacteria and fungi. A natural softening treatment for your cuticles is a blend of two tablespoons of pineapple juice and an egg yolk, which counters the drying effect of the enzyme bromelain in pineapple. Apply the mixture to your cuticles and allow it to sit for about five minutes. Use a cotton swab to push your softened cuticles back to their nail beds, then rinse your fingers off with warm water and follow with hand cream. This treatment is just as beneficial to toenails as fingernails.

Tips and Cautions
Generally, fruits and vegetables that nourish skin also indirectly promote nail and hair health, and pineapple is no exception. When using pineapple in a mask or other face product, avoid eye contact because irritation can occur. Pregnant women with gestational diabetes should restrict their intake of pineapple and its juice. Drinking juice from an unripened pineapple can cause diarrhea. Rather than commercial pineapple juice, choose freshly extracted juice because it retains more of the fruit’s nutrients, and heat used in commercial processing can destroy the bromelain. For more of pineapple’s valuable fiber content, eat the fruit rather than just drinking the juice.

Original Article: LIVESTRONG.COM


Silk mill took Japan to global level

By Ayako Mie, posted on The Japan Times on May 5, 2014 

The historic Tomioka Silk Mill in Gunma Prefecture and its related facilities are expected to become UNESCO World Heritage sites next month.

The redbrick factory from the Meiji Era will be the 18th World Heritage property in Japan if UNESCO officially accepts its endorsement by the International Council on Monuments and Sites, or ICOMOS, at the World Heritage Committee meeting from June 15 to 25 in Doha, Qatar.

Here is some information about the silk mill’s history.

What are the sites being endorsed by ICOMOS?

The Tomioka Silk Mill will be the first industry-related heritage site in the nation. ICOMOS said the mill complex played a significant role in innovating the Japanese silk industry at the end of the 19th century.

The recommendation includes the mill, the former residence of silkworm egg farmer Tajima Yahei, the Takayama-sha Sericulture School and Arafune Cold Storage, which was a repository for silkworm eggs. It is the only factory built by the Meiji government to be preserved in nearly its original form, according to the Tomioka Municipal Government.

The government decided to officially recommend the four sites to UNESCO in 2012.
Churches and castles often make the World Heritage list, but UNESCO started putting more emphasis on industrial sites in the 1990s, including the Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila in Mexico in 2006, and the Bahrain pearling trail in 2012.

When was the mill built?

The mill was built in 1872. It is Japan’s oldest modern silk reeling factory and is a symbol of Japan’s industrialization in the 19th century.

Silk became one of the nation’s most important exports after the Tokugawa shogunate dropped its policy of isolationism in 1854. Demand for Japanese silk surged after European silkworm stocks were ravaged by disease and Chinese silk exports were crimped by political instability in China.

According to the Japanese Association for Conservation of Architectural Monuments, demand was so high that silk accounted for over 80 percent of Japan’s exports in 1863. But that astounding figure ended up compromising its quality as demand surpassed supply, damaging the reputation of Japanese manufacturers.

After the Meiji Restoration in 1867, the government embarked on a modernization drive to catch up with the West. As part of its business strategy, the government built the Tomioka Silk Mill to serve as a model facility for quality improvement. This involved introducing state-of-the-art machinery from France.

How was the town of Tomioka chosen?

The Meiji government commissioned Paul Brunat, a silk inspector at the Yokohama office of Lyon-based wholesaler Hecht, Lilienthal and Co., to find a site for the model silk mill in 1870. Brunat picked Tomioka because the town already had a booming silk industry and immediate access to such nearby coal mining towns as Takasaki and Yoshii, which would provide most of it energy needs.

What are the buildings like?

The buildings were designed by Auguste Bastien, a Frenchman who was involved in building the Yokosuka Ironworks.
The factory occupies about 5.5 hectares and consists of about 120 buildings, including cocoon warehouses, a boiler room, buildings for cocoon-drying, silk-reeling, and re-reeling, plus dormitories and an official residence for the French employees.The buildings were built in a mix of Japanese and Western styles — framed with wood, walled with red bricks and roofed with traditional Japanese tiles.

Its filature — where the spinning was done — occupied about 1,680 sq. meters and was 12.1 meters high, making it one of the largest in the world at that time. It was equipped with 300 reeling basins, overshadowing the Maebashi Silk Filature, which had 12, and the Tsukiji Silk Filature, which had 60, according to “Technology Change and Female Labour in Japan,” published by the Japan External Trade Organization.

How was the plant run?

The plant had more than 400 female workers who were guided by French engineers brought in by Brunat. But the government at first had a hard time recruiting local women because of a rumor that foreign engineers would suck out their blood. The head of the factory, Atsutada Odaka, had his daughter, Yu, put to work at the mill in order to squelch the rumor.

Trained by French experts, the raw silk produced there won a prize at the 1873 Vienna World Exposition, and the Tomioka mill became known worldwide. Some of the women passed what they had learned to privately owned silk factories across Japan after leaving Tomioka.

What were the working conditions like?

Despite the sweatshop descriptions that crop up in the 1925 novel “Joko Aishi” (roughly, “the sad history of female workers in spinning factories”), the workers at Tomioka seem to have been treated relatively well by the management.
According to the Japanese Association for the Conservation of Architectural Monuments, they worked about eight hours a day and had Sunday off. The factory had two French doctors and eight hospital rooms, and also covered the workers’ medical expenses, food and lodging.

Was it making a profit?

Not really. The factory was constantly in the red partly because the salaries of the non-Japanese, including Brunat, were high. It is also said that the turnover rate was high, which often left the factory with a shortage of skilled labor.

In 1876, the factory started generating a surplus partly because all the high-salaried foreigners left at the end of 1875.

When did it become private?

To upgrade the quality of the raw silk and manage the factory more efficiently, the government sold the mill to the Mitsui conglomerate in 1893. Ownership was then transferred to Hara Co. in 1902 and then to Katakura Industries Co., the largest silk reeling company in Japan.

The Tomioka Silk Mill contributed to the economy during and after World War II but was closed in 1987 as the use of kimono plummeted and cheaper silk started flowing in from China following the normalization of diplomatic relations with Japan in 1972.

In 2005, the government designated Tomioka Silk Mill as a historical site and transferred it to the city of Tomioka.

Original Article: The Japan Times


Regular aerobic exercise boosts memory area of brain in older women

Released on EurekAlert! On April 8, 2014

Regular aerobic exercise boosts memory area of brain in older women
Twice weekly routine may help to slow down advance of dementia, say researchers

Regular aerobic exercise seems to boost the size of the area of the brain (hippocampus) involved in verbal memory and learning among women whose intellectual capacity has been affected by age, indicates a small study published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The hippocampus has become a focus of interest in dementia research because it is the area of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning, but it is very sensitive to the effects of ageing and neurological damage.

The researchers tested the impact of different types of exercise on the hippocampal volume of 86 women who said they had mild memory problems, known as mild cognitive impairment – and a common risk factor for dementia.

All the women were aged between 70 and 80 years old and were living independently at home.

Roughly equal numbers of them were assigned to either twice weekly hour long sessions of aerobic training (brisk walking); or resistance training, such as lunges, squats, and weights; or balance and muscle toning exercises, for a period of six months.

The size of their hippocampus was assessed at the start and the end of the six month period by means of an MRI scan, and their verbal memory and learning capacity was assessed before and afterward using a validated test (RAVLT).

Only 29 of the women had before and after MRI scans, but the results showed that the total volume of the hippocampus in the group who had completed the full six months of aerobic training was significantly larger than that of those who had lasted the course doing balance and muscle toning exercises.

No such difference in hippocampal volume was seen in those doing resistance training compared with the balance and muscle toning group.

However, despite an earlier finding in the same sample of women that aerobic exercise improved verbal memory, there was some evidence to suggest that an increase in hippocampal volume was associated with poorer verbal memory.

This suggests that the relationship between brain volume and cognitive performance is complex, and requires further research, say the authors.

But at the very least, aerobic exercise seems to be able to slow the shrinkage of the hippocampus and maintain the volume in a group of women who are at risk of developing dementia, they say.

And they recommend regular aerobic exercise to stave off mild cognitive decline, which is especially important, given the mounting evidence showing that regular exercise is good for cognitive function and overall brain health, and the rising toll of dementia.

Worldwide, one new case of dementia is diagnosed every four seconds, with the number of those afflicted set to rise to more than 115 million by 2050, they point out.

Original Article released:

Link Cited on: LINK de DIET

Carp streamers

Picture of the Day Apr. 11, 2014 on JAPANTODAY
(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Colorful carp streamers flutter in the air at the bottom of Tokyo Tower, ahead of the Children’s Day national holiday on May 5.