117-Year-Old Japanese Woman Passes Away

Living through one millennium is rare and exciting. But living through two? Nearly unheard of. Misao Okawa, prior to today the oldest living person in the world, was one of the few people in the world who has lived through two. The 117-year-old Japanese woman was born on March 5, 1898, and earned the title of the oldest person in 2013 by the Guinness World Records, died today.

Okawa died on Wednesday morning in Osaka, Japan, leaving behind three children, four grandchildren, and six great grand children. She died in her nursing home of heart failure. She had lost her appetite a little over a week ago, which was when workers knew she might be on the descent. They watched her go peacefully.

Okawa was the daughter of a cloth merchant and kimono maker and married her husband, Yukio in 1919 when she was 21. They had three children together and when he died in 1931, she never remarried. She was a teenager when World War I began, was a full adult during World War II.

The reason Okawa claims she had such great longevity was a healthy diet – mackerel sushi was a staple favorite of hers, and she never sacrificed her sleep. Prior to last week she would eat three large meals a day and get at least eight hours of sleep each night.

Japan has more centenarians in the world than any other country by a significant margin – The Telegraph reports it is 58,000, 87% of which are women.  The average lifespan for a woman is also 85.9 years. Okawa actually took the place of Jiroemon Kimura, another Japanese woman, when she died in 2013 at the age of 116. Japan’s new oldest living person is a 115-year-old woman from Tokyo. However, an American woman from Arkansas, a 116-year-old, Gertrude Weaver, will now earn the title of the oldest living person.

People have sited this Japanese trend of longevity to the nation’s thorough healthcare programs and a concentration on active lifestyles and healthy eating. Somewhat ironically, people middle-aged during food shortage years of World War II have had a better long-term life than many people who were never deprived of food.

Despite the sadness of her passing she recently did get to enjoy her 117th birthday with many family members including her 92-year-old son and 94-year-old daughter, who seemed to have inherited the long-life gene. Allegedly, she ate a lot of cake at the celebration.