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World's Oldest Person Became Widow 84 Years Ago

Almost 117-year-old Misao Okawa loves sushi and shut-eye
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 4, 2015 1:26 PM CST

(Newser) – Surrounded by flowers and family and wearing a pink kimono, the oldest person in the world celebrated her birthday a day early today in Osaka, Japan. Born on March 5, 1898, Misao Okawa turns 117 tomorrow, and even she's not entirely sure why. "I wonder about that, too," she told the AP, adding that to her, her life span has "seemed rather short." Huffington Post and USA Today say Okawa is one of just five people alive today who were born in the 1800s, which means she's experienced three separate centuries, 20 US presidents, and a slew of technological wonders, from cars and planes to the advent of social media, Guinness World Records notes. Okawa, who married husband Yukio in 1919, has three children, four grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren, per the AP; sadly, Yukio died when she was in her early 30s—meaning she's been a widow for almost 84 years.

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The head of the Osaka nursing home where the spunky centenarian lives says she loves sushi ("particularly mackerel on vinegar-steamed rice") and makes sure she gets at least eight hours of sleep each night, the Telegraph reports. "Eat and sleep and you will live a long time. You have to learn to relax," she says in a message to the paper. Okawa took over the honors of the world's oldest after Jiroemon Kimura, also of Japan, died at age 116 in 2013, Guinness notes; the average life span for a Japanese woman is nearly 86 years, the records group adds. The Wall Street Journal noted in 2012 that there were more than 50,000 centenarians in Japan, and the Telegraph points out that experts have cited that country's healthcare program, respect for its elders, and a nutritious diet of fish, rice, and vegetables as being partly responsible for citizens' longevity. (Read more oldest person stories.)

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