Tokyo: The number of Japanese living beyond 100 has more than doubled over the past six years to a record high of more than 36,000 this year, with women in the majority.
By the end of this September, Japan will have 36,276 people aged 100 years or older, surpassing last years 32,295. Women account for 86 percent of the total, according to figures from the Health and Welfare Ministry.
Each new centenarian will receive a letter from the prime minister and a silver cup.
Japan has one of the worlds longest life expectancies – nearly 86 years for women and 79 years for men.
The number of centenarians has been on the rise for nearly 40 years, and accelerating its pace after surpassing 10,000 in 1998, the ministry said.
Japans centenarian population is expected to reach nearly 1 million – the worlds largest – by 2050, according to UN projections.
A 113-year-old woman from the southern island of Okinawa, where the elderly have the highest longevity, is the countrys oldest.
Although she requires assistance to carry out her daily activities, she enjoys going outside in a wheelchair with a nurse, the ministry said.
Japans oldest man, Tomoji Tanabe, 112, from the southern area of Miyazaki, says he follows a rigorous health regime. He rises early, reads newspapers every morning and drinks milk in the afternoon, and keeps a diary every evening.
Okinawa has the highest concentration of centenarians, with 838, or 61 for every 100,000 people. That is far above a nationwide average of just over 28 per 100,000.
The ratio for Tokyo is about 25 in 100,000, and that for the US is about 10 per 100,000. As of the end of last year, China, with a population of 1.3 billion, had 18,000 centenarians.