Too many centenarians so Tokyo downgrades gift
IT WAS an increase of almost 430 times from 153 in 1963 to 65,692 early this month.
No, this is not some economic climb, but the rise in the number of Japanese centenarians over the decades.
The surge over 60,000 is a new milestone, eclipsed only by the more than 70,000 centenarians in the United States.
But in terms of proportion, Japan tops the world, with 52 centenarians per 100,000 people, reported Japanese daily Mainichi Shimbun.
And the number will still rise in the years to come, thanks mainly to the country's advancing medical treatment and economic progress, the Joint-Kaigo nursing care website reported.
Some demographers forecast that Japan could have one million centenarians by 2050.
The latest figure - which is a rise of 4,124 from a year earlier - was announced last week, just ahead of Japan's Respect For The Aged Day today.
But the good news in longevity has also brought a headache to the Japanese government.
Every September, starting from 1963, it has been presenting a cup etched with the name of the sitting Prime Minister to each new centenarian in the current fiscal year spanning April and March and to those who look likely to make it past the mark in the same time frame.
But calculation shows this year's recipients would number more than 31,000, driving the government to cut down on the size and silver content of the cup to save cost.
The cup will be plated in silver instead of minted almost entirely from the metal, the NHK reported.
The move will help save 120 million yen (S$1.6 million), added the broadcaster.
"We understand that many seniors looking forward to the silver cup are upset with the cutback but the review was necessary," said the ministry.
"It is no longer of sterling silver but at least we can continue handing out the gift in celebration of longevity," it added.
The majority of Japan's centenarians are women, accounting for 87.6 per cent of the 65,692, an increase of nearly 3,800 from a year ago, according to the ministry.
Records revealed that Nabi Tajima, born in August 1900 in Kagoshima prefecture, is Japan's oldest person.
The oldest man is a resident in Tokyo who was born in May 1904.
Life expectancy in Japan was about 87 for women and 81 for men last year.