He also wrote a musical for children when he was 88 and a best-selling book when he was 101. He recently took up golf. Until a few months ago he was still treating patients and kept a date book with space for five more years of appointments.
In the early 1950s, Dr. Hinohara pioneered a system of complete annual physicals — called “human dry-dock” — that has been credited with helping to lengthen the average life span of Japanese people. Women born there today can expect to live to 87; men, to 80.
In the 1970s, he reclassified strokes and heart disorders — commonly perceived as inevitable adult diseases that required treatment — to lifestyle ailments that were often preventable.
Dr. Hinohara insisted that patients be treated as individuals — that a doctor needed to understand the patient as a whole as thoroughly as the illness. He argued that palliative care should be a priority for the terminally ill.
He imposed few inviolable health rules, though he did recommend some basic guidelines: Avoid obesity, take the stairs (he did, two steps at a time) and carry your own packages and luggage. Remember that doctors cannot cure everything. Don’t underestimate the beneficial effects of music and the company of animals; both can be therapeutic. Don’t ever retire, but if you must, do so a lot later than age 65. And prevail over pain simply by enjoying yourself.
“We all remember how as children, when we were having fun, we often forgot to eat or sleep,” he often said. “I believe we can keep that attitude as adults — it is best not to tire the body with too many rules such as lunchtime and bedtime.”
Dr. Hinohara maintained his weight at about 130 pounds. His diet was spartan: coffee, milk and orange juice with a tablespoon of olive oil for breakfast; milk and a few biscuits for lunch; vegetables with a small portion of fish and rice for dinner. (He would consume three and a half ounces of lean meat twice a week.)
Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara was born on Oct. 4, 1911, in Yamaguchi Prefecture, in western Japan. He decided to study medicine after his mother’s life was saved by the family’s doctor. His father was a Methodist pastor who had studied at Duke University.
“Have big visions and put such visions into reality with courage,” his father had advised him,…