Some claim age is just a number, but the 83-year-old Tetsuko Kuroyanagi finds that hard to believe when she wakes up with a dreaded muffin top after she gives into the sweet temptation of late-night ice cream.
But the internationally famous Japanese TV personality isn't using age as an excuse not to pursue her dreams, one of which is to continue circling the globe in her fight for children's rights as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador until she turns 100.
Cotabato, Philippines, 2014 (©UNICEF/PARMO Tokyo 2014/Jeoff Maitem)
She also has lessons to teach in her own country about showing appreciation, connecting with others through real-life dialogue and tackling issues in society like youth suicide.
"Everyone tells me to do it until I'm 100 years old and I hope to, but it's actually really tough," Kuroyanagi said in a recent interview with Kyodo News.
"The traveling can take a toll on your body. The flying, the driving, the walking on unpaved dirt roads. You have to have good legs to walk those places. Maybe a person my age shouldn't have to do this, but then I think, someone has to do it."
Kuroyanagi, often named alongside Oprah Winfrey or Ellen DeGeneres, was tapped by UNICEF in 1984, her 33-year relationship with the international humanitarian organization making her one of the longest-serving celebrity goodwill ambassadors.
Having never meant to become an icon, Kuroyanagi began as an actress on Japan's public broadcaster NHK in 1953 before her career led to her work as a talk show host, radio personality, voice actor, author, peace activist and UNICEF goodwill ambassador.
Kuroyanagi, known for her glamorous makeup, lavish hairstyles and every-girl's-dream wardrobe, has become a regular in the record books, her talk show "Tetsuko no Heya" (Tetsuko's Room) being the longest-running single-host talk show in the world.
For the past four decades she has appeared on her Guinness-certified show every day of the week Monday to Friday, speaking to over 10,000 domestic and foreign guests including Queen Elizabeth II, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Lady Gaga and Tom Cruise.
Her childhood memoir "Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window" is a major bestseller with over 8 million copies sold in Japanese since its release in 1981, and has been translated into 35 languages.
With UNICEF, Kuroyanagi has visited more than 30 countries to date to carry out her mission of raising awareness of the crisis facing vulnerable children, her most recent trip made in May to Myanmar.
There she learned about families living with the threat of landmines and warring ethnic groups, but also saw children of different religions forming friendships and speaking out against war.
"You learn a lot from children. They may not understand (my language) but I can still try to comfort them," she said.
She explained that in South Sudan, the world's youngest nation where she visited in 2013, there is only one children's hospital, although the country's population at the time was about 11 million.
"That's unimaginable in Japan where it's not difficult to get an appointment with a doctor. Japanese people are blessed," she said.
Nuwakot, Nepal, 2016 (©UNICEF/PPD Tokyo/2016/Kiran)
Kuroyanagi, who in her autobiography talks about her World War II experience and how she and her family fled from Tokyo, says a lot of children in Japan today suffer from unnecessary stress and loneliness despite having food, shelter, education and healthcare.
"I've grown up in wartime when there wasn't enough to eat, parents were sent to fight, bombs were dropped from the sky and children were running and hiding," she said.
"Back in the days everyone was poor so no one was jealous of other people's belongings. Times have changed, and today people are spending more time in front of computers than communicating with real people. That's unnatural."
It's also heartbreaking to see so many youngsters take their own lives, a phenomenon that was unheard of in her childhood and one that must be avoided at all costs, she says.
"What saddens me the most is suicide. I've been to all sorts of refugee camps and heard all sorts of horror stories, of a child who witnessed her own father's murder, whose house was burnt down, whose arm was cut off, and so forth. But I've never heard of a child who took his own life. It's so regretful that children in Japan commit suicide despite the 'good' lives they live."
Every child has the right to be happy, and for that Kuroyanagi says she will go out of her way to attend UNICEF's study sessions, take red-eye flights, walk on earthquake-shattered roads, make donation appeals, you name it.
She finds it odd that she has visited more war-torn countries than vacation spots, saying she's been to Afghanistan and Somalia but never to places like Greece and Denmark. But traveling is traveling and she's done her share, she tells herself.
Kuroyanagi is often asked to reveal her health and beauty secrets, but she says she has none, other than sleeping between the "golden hours" of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.
"I hardly get sick. I can't drink and I don't stay up late. When a person is willing to do something, you find the power in you to do it," she said.
The never-married Kuroyanagi remains a mystery in many ways, but her Instagram account, where she does her own photo selecting and caption writing, gives fans an opportunity to get a glimpse into her daily life.
She created the account last September which quickly became a huge hit, acquiring over 690,000 followers in a matter of months.
"When I'm on TV I have no idea who's watching, but with Instagram I know who the people on the other side are because I get reactions to my posts. I found out captions have a character limit when I got carried away and wrote a long piece. My video got cut too, but I'm learning."
Although modern technology is not her thing, Kuroyanagi has always believed in catching the wave.
Her elementary school was destroyed by American B-29 bombers in 1945 but she returned to Tokyo where she spent all her life, with the exception of the brief period she evacuated to Aomori, and intends to stay.
Myitkyina, Myanmar, 2017 (©UNICEF Tokyo/2017/Sasaki)
Today, Kuroyanagi, nicknamed Totto-chan as a young girl, lives alone near Tokyo's nightlife district of Roppongi and says she doesn't mind the high-speed society, as long as it's changing for the better.
"There's no point going against time," she said.
Few people are immune to Kuroyanagi's charms and girl-next-door allure. She says in her 64 years in showbiz she has never picked a fight, which made her realize she hasn't completely lost the innocence of Totto-chan the schoolgirl, simply curious about the world.
"It recently occurred to me I'm doing the same thing I was doing in my Totto-chan days. I haven't changed. I'm just me being me and wanting to have fun."
She realizes the next eight years of her life -- until her talk show celebrates its 50-year anniversary -- won't be as easy as the last and hopes her daily 50 Hindu squats will help overcome that, but for now she is more concerned about how to control her sugar cravings.
"I have to admit I have a sweet tooth. I know it's a problem. I try to eat dessert in the daytime, but sometimes the temptation of the bedtime ice cream is too much to resist," she said with a girlish grin.