The Feisty Centenarian

Shitsui Hakoishi is a 104-year-old woman who carried the Olympic torch on March 28 for 200 meters in Japan, in the pouring rain. Her son and nephew, a septuagenarian and an octogenarian, accompanied her. And her nephew caught a chill in the rain and died soon afterwards. There were rumors that she died too due to exhaustion, but that’s not true. The feisty centenarian continues, living alone, walking half an hour every morning, and even lifting a little bit of weights daily.

She’s not the oldest. The oldest is Kagawa, the 109-year-old woman who carried the torch for a while on April 12. Right now, there are 80,000 centenarians living in Japan and in the next five to ten years, it is estimated that there will be an additional 40,000 people over 100 who’s going to live in Japan–and many of them live alone. I was astonished just to hear the number and this piece of news. Then the camera switched to the daily life of these adorable elderly people with an upbeat narrative, saying that they continue to work to make sticky rice cakes–obviously their retirement money is not enough. Many had to work to supplement their income.

Last year, when the pandemic first started, I thought a lot about illness, aging, and death. One just couldn’t help it. One documentary I watched tells a story of retirees in Japan, who would deliberately break the law and commit minor crimes so that they could be sent to minimum security prison. There they can live for free, socialize with others, and save their retirement money for the future. Since they are anticipating a very long retirement life, saving money becomes very important. And no matter how much one saves for retirement, it just never feels enough. That’s true, isn’t it? If one lives up to 110-year-old, that’s 40 years of retirement even if one retires at 70. Who can save money for 40 years of living? With the inflation, which is surely to come after the pandemic, the money saved before is going to be shrunk and devalued. Is longevity a blessing or a curse?

I have this tendency to indulge in gloomy thoughts. And life is not so dark and dispirited overall. Just look at Shitsui Hakoishi. When the journalist gave her the microphone to ask her to make a statement, I thought she’s going to advocate for old people’s rights, to denounce the discrimination of elderly, or to say something for women (90% of centenarians are women). But she did none of that. Instead she said she wanted to go back to her hair salon, which she had kept shut for three days just so that she had some time and energy to prepare for the Olympic torch and the TV appearance. She’s a hairdresser and at 104 she’s still cutting hair. Wow. That’s the spirit.

19 thoughts on “The Feisty Centenarian

  1. I’m seeing an upswing of centenarians here in the US. Something tells me in a generation or two, centenarians will be normal. I wonder if I will live long enough to see humans colonize the moon or Mars for that matter.

    I hope I can still exercise at that age.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Actually you are right on the point. It is estimated that people who were born around 2000 will have an average life expectancy of 90 to 100 in the industrialized world. So centenarians will be a common thing soon. I don’t know what will happen to the Social Security fund if so many people live such a long life while the fertility rate continues to decline.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. People who live more than 80 years and who have seen life have more gratitude towards life more than the younger generation,in general. I have seen centenarians who are beautiful inside and out. They have a high spirit and can inspire us in many ways. This was a beautiful read. I loved it.

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    1. Yes, life is a struggle and longevity is a longer struggle. Let’s wish all these beautiful centenarians have a wonderful life. Let’s wish they will not be bothered by financial worries or health concerns.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I really like stories like that and I always enjoy talking to older people like that. They may sometimes be slow of speech but they have some interesting things to say if you are patient.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s very true. Older people have a lot of things to say and can express a lot of wisdom. However one has to be patient and one has to sit through their initial grumpiness. LOL. They complains a little more than young people. So what? They have so much to tell that I sometimes can listen to their stories forever if they are in a good mood.

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  4. Very well articulated… Age will finally catch up with everyone … What is important is how one faces old age… the spirit should remain alive… You have touched a very pertinent issue of how much can one save to sustain beyond hundred… Not easy to work at that age…but yes one should attempt to do whatever is possible instead of just sitting idle…stay blessed ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ˜‡

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, age is catching up with everyone. Well said. A lot of people are living a lot longer and longevity is something a lot of us have to deal with. It’s both a blessing and a burden–the life’s paradox will never leave us alone. LOL.


  5. Wow, this is amazing! That’s a lot of elderly people there in Japan. It’s even more astonishing to know that they live alone at that age. Cutting hair needs steady hands and she’s doing it at 104!

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh, that’s the real paradox of life. We want to live longer, but we certainly don’t want to live for too long. Yes, you are right. They don’t want to stay at home alone. Better stay at the hair salon. LOL.

          Liked by 1 person

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