Japan’s Oldest People

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    NTV’s “Bankisha” news program sent inquiries local offices across Japan so viewers could enjoy a laugh about Japan’s oldest “living” people (on paper):

    As you some of you are already know, there have been a few scandals recently involving the failure of local governments to verify the status of residents over the age of 100. In a few cases, families had been scamming the government into paying pensions to people who had died many years ago. The scandals led to a nationwide scramble to check local files on elderly residents and find out who is still alive.

    In a many localities, records were found for people over the age of 120! The old hand-written documents listed birth years in the 19th century, and somewhere along the line, somebody had failed to record that the people in question had passed away. In Yokohama, there were over 1,500 records of people in their 120’s. Clerical errors by bureaucrats are to blame for some of the failures to record deaths, but the overwhelming chaos of huge disasters such as the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake and the firebombings of World War II also played a role. The several hundred thousand Japanese who emigrated to other countries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries are another problem for record-keepers: they obviously did not feel the need to submit paperwork announcing their deaths to Japanese government authorities.

    Here’s a ranking of super elderly Japanese people who were found to be still alive on paper:

    1. 200-years-old: 1 resident of Nagasaki Prefecture (born in 1810)
    2. 189-years-old: 1 resident of Ehime Prefecture (born in 1821)
    3. 186-years-old: 1 resident of Yamaguchi Prefecture (born in 1824)
    4. 184-years-old: 2 residents of various localities (born in 1826)
    5. 182-years-old: 1 resident of Shiga Prefecture (born in 1828)
    6. 178-years-old: 1 resident of Tokyo (born in 1832)
    7. 177-years-old: 1 resident of Fukushima Prefecture (born in 1833)
    8. 174-years-old: 2 residents of of various localities (born in 1836)
    9. 173-years-old: 1 resident of Yamagata Prefecture (born in 1837)
    10. 170-years-old: 5 residents of various localities (born in 1840)

    Just about all of these super elderly people are listed as alive on Koseki (family registry) documents. Pensions are paid based on residence registry records, which are checked on a more frequent basis, so there is little chance that the government is still paying out pensions to people born in the 1830’s.

    At the end of the report, viewers are reminded that life expectancy statistics are calculated using a different system, so they don’t need to worry about Japan dropping in the global rankings.

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