Number of Japanese centenarians hits record-high 69,785

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - The number of people aged 100 or older in Japan is expected to reach a record-high 69,785 on Saturday, up 2,014 from the previous year, the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry announced Friday ahead of Respect-for-the-Aged Day, which falls on the third Monday of September.

  The figure has increased for 48 consecutive years.

 By gender, 61,454, or 88.1 percent of centenarians, are women, up 1,875 from the previous year. The number of men aged 100 or older increased by 139 to 8,331.

 Among prefectures, Shimane reported the most centenarians per 100,000 people at 101.02, marking the sixth-consecutive year it has led all prefectures. Tottori had the second-highest figure with 97.88, followed by Kochi with 96.50. Nine of the top 10 prefectures are in western Japan.

 Meanwhile, Saitama reported the lowest number of centenarians per 100,000 people for the 29th-consecutive year with 32.90. Aichi was second with 36.78, followed by Chiba with 39.34. 

 The data suggest that the proportion of people aged 100 or older is relatively small in populous urban areas.

 The oldest person in Japan is Kane Tanaka, a 115-year-old woman from Fukuoka. Masazo Nonaka of Ashoro, Hokkaido, is the country’s oldest man at 113.

  There were only 153 people aged 100 or older in 1963 when the government began honoring such individuals. Thanks to advances in medical technology and growing awareness of health, the number rose to more than 10,000 in 1998 and exceeded 50,000 in 2012.

  “We have not conducted a thorough study regarding regional differences and do not know the cause [of such differences],” a ministry official said. “A generation in which many people were born is now turning 100, and the increase is expected to continue for the time being. We want to extend people’s healthy life span.”