National

Ahead of Respect for the Aged Day, number of centenarians in Japan tops 70,000

Kyodo, JIJI

The number of people aged 100 or older in Japan has exceeded 70,000 for the first time after marking an increase for the 49th consecutive year in the aging society whose birth rate remains low, government data showed Friday.

Women centenarians vastly outnumber the men, accounting for 88.1 percent of the total 71,238. The figure represents a roughly 23-fold increase from a centenarian population of 3,078 in 1989, according to the data released by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry ahead of Monday’s national holiday in Japan for Respect for the Aged Day.

The number of females who will have reached 100 years of age by Sunday totals 62,775, up 1,321 from last year. The number of such men is 8,463, an increase of 132.

Kane Tanaka, a 116-year-old resident of the city of Fukuoka, is the oldest Japanese. Born in January 1903, she is acknowledged as the world’s oldest living person by Guinness World Records.

On Wednesday, when Fukuoka Mayor Soichiro Takashima visited Tanaka at a nursing home and presented her flowers and a big cake, Tanaka said: “I don’t think I’m going to die soon. I’ve never thought about it.”

Chitetsu Watanabe, a 112-year-old resident of Joetsu, Niigata Prefecture, is the oldest Japanese man.

By prefecture, Tokyo has 6,059 centenarians, followed by Kanagawa at 3,933 and Osaka at 3,648.

Japan’s average life expectancy was 87.32 for women and 81.25 for men in 2018.

The number of people aged 100 or over in the country stood at only 153 in 1963, when the government began compiling the statistics. The total exceeded 1,000 in 1981, 10,000 in 1998 and 50,000 in 2012.

There will be 56.34 centenarians per 100,000 people nationwide as of Sunday, the ministry said. By prefecture, Kochi came top with 101.42 centenarians per 100,000 people, followed by Kagoshima with 100.87 and Shimane with 99.85. By contrast, Saitama was at the bottom of the list for 30 years in a row, at 33.74. Aichi was second from the bottom, at 37.15, and Chiba third, at 39.68.

The number of people who will turn 100 by the end of the current fiscal year through next March will be 37,005, according to the ministry.

The government had in the past gifted centenarians with silver cups in the prime minister’s name, but since 2016 began distributing silver-plated cups instead to reduce costs.

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