As of mid-September 2020, there are 80,450 centenarians in Japan. This is the largest number ever, a record that has been broken every year for 50 years straight, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare.
In 1963, the year the government enacted the Act on Social Welfare for the Elderly, the number of centenarians was 153. Eighteen years later in 1981, it reached 1,000, and seventeen years after that in 1998, the number was more than 10,000. Amazingly, in the past year alone, the number grew by 9,176.
Women continue to make up the largest percentage of centenarians by far. This year, their number is 70,975 (88.2% of the total), while men number 9,475.
Prefectures with the highest ratio of centenarians include: Shimane (eight years in a row) with 127.60 per 10,000, Kōchi with 119.77, and Tottori with 109.89 per 10,000. All three are in Western Japan, which tends to be more rural than the urbanized Kanto.
During this April 2020-March 2021 fiscal year, a total of 41,802 will join the “100 Club.” This represents an increase of 4797 from last year, suggesting better diet, health, and health care, or perhaps stronger genes. The prime minister will be sending them a congratulatory letter and engraved silver-plated dish for sake.
As you wait to turn 100 yourself, don’t forget in the meantime to honor your elders.