MOAI – Mo•ai (/mo,eye/) Japan – connected for life
We first learned about the concept of ‘Moai’ when reading the book Ikigai. Moai is a concept from ”blue zone” Okinawa in Japan – a region of the world where people live much longer, happier and healthier than average. Moai is the name for a lifelong group of friends that look out for one another.
MOAI, THE POWER OF DOING things together
Elders in Okinawa, Japan, one of the original blue zones longevity hotspots, live extraordinarily better and longer lives than almost anyone else in the world.
‘Moai’ is a concept, from this region where people live much longer, happier and healthier than average. Moai is the name for a lifelong group of friends that share their joys and troubles, a source of support essential to their health and wellbeing.
Moai, one of their longevity traditions, are social support groups that start in childhood and extend into the 100s. The term originated hundreds of years ago as a means of a village’s financial support system. Originally, moais were formed to pool the resources of an entire village for projects or public works. If an individual needed capital to buy land or take care of an emergency, the only way was to pool money locally. Today the idea has expanded to become more of a social support network, a cultural tradition for built-in companionship.
In small neighborhoods across Okinawa, friends “meet for a common purpose” (sometimes daily and sometimes a couple days a week) to gossip, experience life, and to share advice and even financial assistance when needed. They call these groups their moai.
Traditionally, groups of about five young children were paired together and it’s then that they made a commitment to each other for life. As their second family, they would meet regularly with their moai for both work and play and to pool resources. Some moais have lasted over 90 years!
Members of the Moai make a monthly contribution to the group which is used for dinners, games, meetings or whatever hobby’s they have in common. Part of the funds are used to support members of the Moai that have financial difficulties. Having such a social safety net helps to prevent loneliness and maintain emotional and financial stability. The feeling of belonging and support gives the individuals a sense of security and helps increase life quality and expectancy.We believe in the power of Moai.
Studies reveal that close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives. Those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes. With everything from losing weight, quitting smoking, exercising, studying, the support of others allows us to stay engaged and achieve more powerful results. Group accountability helps us to show up, and enables us to turn lofty ambitions into consistent routines.
We do not have this kind of social life in Europe, but perhaps we can learn from it and look around us at who we might be able to help socially. Because more and more people are lonely and simply need a helping hand in the form of a cosy gathering.