The Year was 2010

The oldest (verifiable) person in the world just died. Tajima Nabi was born in 1900, in a small town on an island in Japan. She lived 117 years and 260 days. She is succeeded by another Japanese woman, 116-year-old Miyako Chiyo. The oldest living man, 112-year-old Masazo Nonaka, is also Japanese

Masazo Nonoka

On any given day, the oldest person is the world is almost always going to be a woman, and there is a good chance she is Japanese. The Asian culture honors its elders and in Japan, Respect for the Aged is a national holiday. Therefore, in 2010, it made perfect sense for the city of Tokyo to honor one of its own on that day.

Miyako Chiyo

The oldest man in Tokyo was found to be Sogen Kato, 111. Officials made plans to honor Kato, but the family was strangely uncooperative. They said he could not be visited because he was a “living Buddha.”

Sogen Kato

After some time, police finally broke into the house and found Kato’s mummified remains in bed, wearing pajamas. A granddaughter said he had shut himself up in his room 32 years earlier and had never come out. Newspapers in the room were that old.

Sogen Kato’s room where his body stayed for 30 years.

All those years, Kato’s relatives had been collecting his pension – by then totaling almost a ten million yen (about $125,000). Kato’s daughter and granddaughter were charged with fraud. His daughter received a two-year suspended sentence because she paid back all the money.

After Kato’s body was discovered, officials decided to check up on Tokyo’s oldest living woman, Furuya Fusa, 113. There was no one living at the address they had for her. Relatives said they had not seen her “in a few years.”

Officials began to wonder how many of these super-old were actually alive. Checking birth records, officials found 234,354 people in Japan claiming to be 100 years old or older. Some would actually be 120 or older. (The oldest proven person is France’s Jeanne Calment, who died at 120.) One still claiming to be alive would have been 186!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Rose Kleidon says:

    The Japanese respect for the elderly is a good thing; it’s sad to hear of that attitude being taken advantage of, but not surprising, I suppose.

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