Manga legend Shigeru Mizuki’s longevity seems to come
from lots of burgers and desserts
Shigeru Mizuki is one of Japan’s most loved comic artists, having created the mangaGe Ge Ge no Kitaro in 1959. Although the serial ended after a 10-year run, the light-hearted story about the traditional Japanese spirits called yokai still has a strong following today, thanks to multiple animated and live-action adaptations premiering as recently as 2008.
Mizuki isn’t resting on his laurels either, despite turning 92 next month. He started a new manga series just last December, and the energetic nonagenarian has recently released a book cataloguing the eating habits that have resulted in his long life. So what does his diet consist of? A surprisingly large amount of junk food.
Despite the recent surges in popularity of macrobiotic food and vegan lifestyles, Mizuki seems to put little, if any, thought into what he puts into his body. His new book, the title of which translates as, If You Go Ahead and Eat, You’ll Be Happy – The Daily Healthy Life of the Mizuki Brothers is filled with quips from the Tottori Prefecture native about the kinds of food he and his two siblings enjoy indulging in.
Readers who dive in looking for the latest superfood will come away disappointed, however. For example, Mizuki admits to a love of Gari Gari-Kun, a popular brand of popsicle. “I can’t keep track of how many I eat a day in the summer, but I always get a brain freeze,” he muses, attesting to the thirst-quenching properties of the brightly-hued treats.
Mizuki’s fondness for strong-flavored fare isn’t limited to snack food either. The elderly artist seems to have the palate of a teenager, and counts hamburgers and pizza among his favorite foods. He admits to being a sucker for the pizza delivery fliers that come with his paper, which frequently convince him to purchase a pie. And while Mizuki’s intellectual properties have made him wealthy enough to afford whatever gourmet meal he desires,he’s so taken with McDonald’s sandwiches (the Texas burger in particular) and greasy pork bowls that he occasionally tweets pictures of his latest orders to his followers.
Still, Mizuki’s sweet tooth shines through, even when he’s giving in to his carnivorous cravings. He describes the patties of particularly delicious hamburgers as being likebotamochi, a confectionary made of sweet rice and red bean paste.
▼ We suppose botamochi does look a little like a grilled hunk of ground beef, but still, you’ve got to be pretty into your desserts to start using them as similes for burgers.
Mizuki does claim to be trying to rein his appetite in, and says he’s currently on a diet. He follows this declaration by immediately asking that people not recommend any tasty foods they’ve come across to him, but then qualifies this by saying you could talk him into trying some good daifuku, a traditional Japanese dessert made of rice cake and sweet bean paste. “I don’t have that much willpower,” he explains, “so if you tell me about daifuku, I’ll probably end up eating three or four of them.”
Mizuki’s lifestyle comes as a bit of a shock, especially in this era when even young people are making more and more efforts to eat healthily. Doesn’t the 91-year-old worry about the possible detrimental effects of his diet?
Not at all. In fact, he dismisses such concerns by stating, “In the end, when it’s your time to go, you die. When it’s your time to live, you live. It all comes from the genes you got from your parents.”
Fatalistic as this sounds, Mizuki’s perspective does speak to his background in Japanese occult folklore, and the theory that the lives of humans are influenced by things beyond their perception or control.
▼ The cast of Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro
Or, in a more down-to-earth way of looking at things, these could just be the attitude of an elderly man who’s able to lead a comfortable life following years of hardship. Mizuki was drafted into the Imperial Army during World War II, during which he lost his left arm in combat. Following his return to Japan, he went through the years of economic and agricultural devastation brought about by the government’s bellicose stance and subsequent defeat.
As he approaches the century mark, Mizuki is finally in a position to enjoy a peaceful life of plenty. In his book, he mentions his daily afternoon cup of tea (with accompanying munchies, of course) that he takes with his family as one of the things that gives him the most happiness these days. It’s a sweet sentiment, so much so that we can’t begrudge the artist his desire to pair it with a sweet snack.
▼ Big Mac time seems to be a close second on his list of happy moments.
Related: If You Go Ahead and Eat, Y