Centenarians hit record 54,000 in Japan

The population of centenarians is thought to stand at 54,397 as of Sunday, up 3,021 over the previous year, setting a record high for 43 years in a row, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Friday.

The announcement came three days before Respect-for-the-Aged Day, which falls on the third Monday of September.

Men account for 12.5 per cent of centenarians with 6,791, an increase of 257 over the previous year while women occupied a record 87.5 per cent with 47,606, up 2,764, the ministry said.

This year's figure is 2.64 times greater than a decade ago and 11.32 times greater than two decades ago.

Those who are expected to join the centenarian club before the fiscal year ends next March 31 total 28,169, up 2,346 over the previous fiscal year.

Nationally, there are 42.66 centenarians per 100,000 people. By prefecture, Shimane had the biggest number at 82.46, moving up from last year's No. 2 spot. Kochi, which was on top last year, slipped to second with 78.59. Saitama Prefecture had the smallest number at 24.08 while Tokyo places 39th with 35.34 and Osaka is 43rd with 33.05.

The oldest woman is Misao Okawa, 115, of Osaka, who was designated in August by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest person in the world. Sakari Momoi, 110, of Saitama, is the country's oldest man.