Japan has the greatest life expectancy of any country in the world, clocking some 82.6 years on average (and a whopping 86.1 for the womenfolk!) compared to a paltry 78.2 (plus a two-and-a-half-year lady dividend) for Americans. A number of theories have been floated to explain these numbers, including a diet heavy on fish, vegetables and rice; plenty of exercise; sake sipping; genetic luck, excellent health care and a lack of stress.
But a recent headcount of the nation’s 40,399 centenarians has turned up another intriguing explanation for how so many Japanese manage to hang on to life. [Cue: "Law & Order" thunk-thunk...] They’re dead!
So far, more than 200 centenarians are “missing,” according to BBC News, including the 125-years-young gal whose reported address “was turned into a park in 1981.” Apparently, the nation’s generous welfare system might be leading the children of these codgers to conceal their deaths, sometimes for years, in order to cash in on government payents. (And can you blame them, after all the nagging they’ve put up with?)
The inquiry follows the recent discovery of the mummified remains of Sogen Kato—at 111, Japan’s “oldest living man”—who had apparently met his maker three decades before. Officials had gone to visit him to update their list of centenarians in preparation for Respect for the Elderly Day. His grandchild explained, “Grandpa was a very scary man. So we couldn’t open the door.”