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Japan Has So Many People Turning 100, It Can't Afford To Give Them All Gifts

Next month, Japan will observe its annual Respect For The Aged Day -- but the government will be paying its respects in a more frugal fashion, some reports say. 

Since 1963, Japan has been gifting its new centenarians with a silver sakazuki, a saucer-like dish, to honor them. But when the tradition started, Japan had only 153 centenarians in total. Fast forward to today when there are more than 58,000. 

While it might be something to celebrate from a national health perspective, it's costing the government a pretty penny. The commemorative gifts set Japan back by about $260 million Yen last year, or around $2 million in US dollars. 

Each dish is said to cost around $65 and the government is said to be thinking of more cost effective ways to celebrate the milestone -- either by using a cheaper material for the dishes or simply by providing the celebrating 100-year-olds with a congratulatory letter. 

Seniors make up a significant portions of Japan's population. According to the latest estimates from Statistics Japan, over a quarter of the population is over the age of 65 and nearly 13 percent are over 75. Japan has the highest life expectancy for women in the world, at 87, and falls in the top 10 for men, at 80. While it might be disappointing to those turning 100, in the long run, the change in gifts might be a good idea for the government. A UN projection estimates that by 2050, Japan will have around 1 million centenarians. 

This is hardly surprising in a nation that is home to one of the world's few blue zones, or areas where an unusual proportion of people live past 100. The plant-based diets and active lifestyles of people in Okinawa, Japan are said to be the key to their long lives.  

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