Mystery mounts as more centenarians missing in Japan

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Japanese officials began a search this week for a 113-year-old woman, listed as Tokyo's oldest living person, just days after the police found the mummified remains of what was believed to be the city's oldest man, local media reported on Wednesday.

Ahead of a holiday next month in honor of Japan's elderly, city officials were updating their records and found that Fusa Furuya, born in July 1897 and listed as Tokyo's oldest citizen, did not reside at the address where she was registered.

Ward officials announced earlier in the week that the centenarian has not lived at her registered address in Suginami Ward for decades and on officially becoming the city's oldest person last September officials admitted they had not met Furuya to confirm her address or condition.

Furuya's estranged 79-year-old daughter told officials she believed her mother was with her younger brother, with whom she claimed to have lost touch, but the address she gave for him turned out to be an empty plot of land.

A two-story apartment building that stood on the lot was demolished last year to make way for an expressway, sources said.

Police are currently interviewing the brother and the daughter, but Furuya's whereabouts still remain a mystery.

Concern is growing about the Japanese government's ability to effectively monitor the whereabouts and condition of the nation's rapidly aging population and this week's revelation that Tokyo's supposedly oldest women has not in fact been seen for decades comes on the back of last week's morbid discovery.

City officials, again in the process of updating their record of centenarians, discovered the mummified remains of a man listed as Tokyo's oldest male, who would have been 111-years old.

The man had been dead for more than 30 years and his decayed remains found at his home.

The deceased, Sogen Kato, is believed to have died about 32 years ago, when his family said he retreated to his bedroom, telling his family he wanted to be a living Buddha.

Police are investigating the family Kato for alleged abandonment and pension fraud.

According to the Kyodo News agency the police are also looking for a 106-year-old man who is missing in Nagoya, central Japan and the Asahi newspaper reported that three more centenarians remained unaccounted for in the Tokyo area.

Officially Japan has 40,399 people aged 100 or older, including 4,800 in Tokyo, according to an annual health ministry report last year marking the Sept. 21 holiday for the elderly.

However, according to Kyodo officials in fewer than half of the country's 47 prefectures routinely keep track of centenarians in person.

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Akira Nagatsuma said recently that more efforts are needed to keep track of the elderly and improvements must be made if the current system is problematic.

"It's shocking that even relatives don't know if their parents are alive or dead," Chiba University professor Yoshinori Hiroi, an expert on public welfare, told public broadcaster NHK.

"These cases were typical examples of thinning relationship among families and neighbors in Japan today."

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