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Friday, November 14, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Oldest woman dies at 114; Ohioan now holds record
By Kozo Mizoguchi
Mitoyo Kawate, who was born May 15, 1889, died of pneumonia, said Hiroshima city spokesman Masatoshi Yamada.
London-based Guinness World Records recognized Kawate as the oldest person on Oct. 31, after Kamato Hongo, also from Japan, died at age 116.
The oldest person is now Charlotte Benkner, of North Lima, Ohio, born Nov. 16, 1889, Guinness said.
Kawate, who had four children, was a farmer in Hiroshima until she was 100, Yamada said.
Makoto Tsunemoto, another Hiroshima city official, told The Associated Press that Kawate survived the atomic blast that hit the city on Aug. 6, 1945. She was on her farm about six miles from downtown during the blast, but entered the city two days later to search for relatives and became exposed to radiation. He said that officially qualified her as a survivor, entitling her to special health and pension benefits.
She had a weakness for custard cakes and liked to sing, a caretaker said. Kawate lived in a nursing home for the past 10 years and her condition had weakened over the past two years.
Life expectancy in Japan 85.23 years for women and 78.32 for men in 2002 is the longest in the world. The explanation, experts say, is partly the traditional Japanese diet, which is low in fatty foods.
Japan has lost three world-record holders for longevity in recent months. Yukichi Chuganji held the record for the oldest man when he died Sept. 29 at age 114.
According to Guinness, the world's oldest person with an authenticated birth record was Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at age 122.
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