Number of Japanese living past 100 doubled in 6 years

The number of Japanese living beyond 100 has more than doubled during the past six years to a record high of more than 36,000 this year, with women dominating the centenarian club, the government said Friday.

Japan will have 36,276 people aged 100 or older at the end of September, surpassing last year's 32,295. Female centenarians made up 86 percent of the total, the Health and Welfare Ministry said in an annual report ahead of the Monday's national holiday honoring the elderly.

Each new centenarian will receive a letter from the prime minister and a silver cup.

Japan has one of the world's longest life expectancies – nearly 86 years for women and 79 years for men.

The number of centenarians has been on the rise for nearly 40 years, and accelerating its pace after surpassing 10,000 in 1998, the ministry said.

Japan's centenarian population is expected to reach nearly 1 million – the world's largest – by 2050, according to U.N. projections.

Though centenarians are more active than before, the rapidly graying population has added to concerns about Japan's overburdened public pension system.

Okinawa has the highest concentration, with 838 centenarians, or 61 for every 100,000 people. That is far above a nationwide average of just over 28 per 100,000.

The ratio for Tokyo is about 25 in 100,000, and that for the U.S. is about 10 per 100,000.