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News photo
Yone Minagawa –
, of Fukuchi, Fukuoka Prefecture, is the oldest person in Japan at 113, and Tomoji
Tanabe from Miyakonojo, Miyazaki Prefecture, who turns 111 on Monday, is the oldest man.

Women continue to make up the vast majority of centenarians, accounting for 85.4 percent, the second-highest figure on record.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry earlier decided not to release the annual longevity-based rankings of 100 centenarians from this year since many of them do not want their names to appear on the list.

The ministry instead made public a list of 65 people aged 109 or older who have agreed to the publication of their names.

The annual figure of centenarians has set records for 36 consecutive years, since 1971, according to the ministry.

Centenarians numbered 153 in 1963, when the government started counting them. The number had topped 1,000 by 1981 and eclipsed 10,000 in 1998.

The number has nearly tripled since.

Of the centenarians for the year, men will account for 4,150, up 371 from last year, and women 24,245, up 2,470. In addition, 123 Japanese centenarians live outside Japan.

Yone Minagawa, a woman from the town of Fukuchi, Fukuoka Prefecture, is the oldest person in Japan at 113. The oldest man is Tomoji Tanabe, from Miyakonojo, Miyazaki Prefecture, who will turn 111 on Monday.

There will be more than 20 centenarians per 100,000 people — 22.23 precisely — or one in every 4,500 people, the ministry said.

By prefecture, Okinawa has the largest proportion of centenarians with 54.37 per 100,000 people, maintaining the top position for the 34th straight year. Saitama has the lowest proportion with 10.80 per 100,000, in the lowest slot for the 17th year in a row.

In fiscal 2006, a record 15,370 people, including those who live outside Japan, are expected to join the ranks of Japanese centenarians, up 2,666 from the previous year, according to the ministry.

Of those, an estimated 2,503 will be men, and 12,867 women.

This year’s oldest person, Minagawa, lives in Keijuen, a special nursing home in Fukuchi. After her husband died, she raised her five children by selling flowers and vegetables at a coal mine.

Minagawa, who moved into the No. 1 position in April 2005, sometimes makes others laugh by lighthearted jokes. She loves festive occasions and attends birthday parties and other recreational events at the nursing home. She eats heartily every day.

“Thank you,” is her favorite expression.

Tanabe, who holds the top spot for men, lives with his fifth son and daughter-in-law in Miyakonojo.

He is hard of hearing, and wakes up at 6 a.m. every morning without an alarm. He also keeps a diary, writing down interesting news from newspaper and taking note of his health.

“The secret of good heath is not to smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol,” he said.

Tanabe is looking forward to meeting Miyakonojo Mayor Makoto Nagamine, who will visit him on Monday when he turns 111, according to his family.

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