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Mitoyo Kawate, 114; Listed as Oldest Person in the World

November 14, 2003|From Associated Press

TOKYO — A 114-year-old Japanese woman who assumed the status of the world's oldest person less than two weeks ago died Thursday, a Hiroshima official said.

Mitoyo Kawate, who was born May 15, 1889, died of pneumonia, said Hiroshima city spokesman Masatoshi Yamada.

London-based Guinness World Records recognized Kawate as the oldest person Oct. 31, after Kamato Hongo, also of Japan, died at 116.

The oldest person is now Charlotte Benkner of North Lima, Ohio, who will turn 114 on Sunday, the records organization said.

Kawate, who had four children, was a farmer in Hiroshima until she was 100 years old, Yamada said.

Makoto Tsunemoto, another Hiroshima city official, told Associated Press that Kawate was on her farm, about six miles from downtown, at the time of the Aug. 6, 1945, blast, but entered the city two days later to search for relatives and became exposed to radiation.

He said that officially qualified her as a survivor, entitling her to special health and pension benefits.

Kawate had a weakness for custard cakes and liked to sing, a caretaker said earlier this month. She had lived in a nursing home for 10 years and had weakened over the last two years.

She is survived by a son and a daughter, but details about grandchildren or other relatives were not immediately available.

Life expectancy in Japan -- 85.23 years for women and 78.32 for men in 2002 -- is the longest in the world, according to the Japanese government. The explanation, experts say, is partly the traditional Japanese diet, which is low in fatty foods.

Japan has lost three world-record holders for longevity in recent months. The world's former oldest man, 114-year-old Yukichi Chuganji, died Sept. 29.

The Gerontology Research Group, www.grg.org, which is based at UCLA, said Thursday that there are 41 on its list of super-centenarians. The group tracks the world's oldest people and provides data on them to Guinness World Records. Super-centenarians are people who are 110 or older.

According to Guinness, the world's oldest person with an authenticated birth record was Frenchwoman Jeanne Louise Calment, who died in 1997 at 122.

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