More than 28,000 Japanese are 100 years or older, up from a mere 1,000 at the start of the 1980s as solid health habits increase the graying of the population.
Kamato Hongo, seen here in September 2001, was recognized as the world's oldest person when she died in 2003 at age 115.
The number of Japanesecentenariansincreased by 2,841 from last year, bringing the total to 28,395, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said Friday.
The oldest person is a woman, Yoneko Minagawa, 113, from the main southern island of Kyushu, said the survey.
Women accounted for an overwhelming 85 percent of the centenarian population at 24,245, nearly six times more than the number of men, the ministry said in a report.
The Japaneseknackfor longevity is often attributed to the traditional healthy food and lifestyle, despite the rigors of life in the crowded big cities.
But the government is also struggling to find ways to put a brake on Japan's declining birthrate, which is essential to support elderly care.
Japan had a mere 153 centenarians in 1963 when the government started counting. The number topped 1,000 in 1981 and surpassed 10,000 in 1998.
Japan's southern regions of Okinawa, Shikoku, and Kyushu are home to the highest concentrations of centenarians.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's cabinet will send commemorative silver cups congratulating Japanese people who celebrated their 100th birthdays this year.
Japanese woman Kamato Hongo was recognized as the world's oldest person when she died in 2003 at age 115.