The number of centenarians in Japan is expected to reach a record 20,561 by the end of September, topping the 20,000 mark for the first time, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Tuesday.

The centenarian population has increased by 134 times since the government began compiling the statistics in 1963, and women continue to make up the vast majority, numbering 17,402, or 84.6 percent of the total, the ministry said.

The figure, compiled Sept. 1, increased by 2,627 from a year ago and has doubled since 1998, when it first exceeded the 10,000 mark. The ministry annually releases the data prior to the Respect-for-the-Aged Day, which falls on Monday.

Okinawa has the highest proportion of centenarians among Japan’s 47 prefectures, topping the list for the 14th consecutive year, since 1990, when surveyors began to compile ratios by prefecture.

The data show a continuing trend in which western Japan has more centenarians than the east.

The average number of centenarians per 100,000 people was 16.13 for the nation as a whole, while for Okinawa Prefecture it was 42.49, followed by Kochi at 39.01 and then Shimane at 35.8. Saitama was at the bottom of the list for the 14th straight year with 7.37.

Kamato Hongo of the city of Kagoshima, who will turn 116 next Tuesday, is the oldest person in the country for the fifth straight year. She is followed by Yukichi Chuganji, 114, of Ogori, Fukuoka Prefecture, who has been the oldest man in Japan since 2000.

Hongo is the world’s oldest person and Chuganji the world’s oldest man, both recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records.

Hongo, who regularly sleeps for two days in a row and then stays awake for two whole days, is said to have a healthy appetite despite the lingering summer heat in Kagoshima, according to her family.

Hongo lives with her 79-year-old daughter, Shizue Kurauchi.

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