7463 Hiroshima centenarians “missing”

Hiroshima city government has announced that, as of June this year, it is unable to locate 7463 people listed on koseki family registries, who, if still alive, would be over the age of 100.

All Japanese families have a koseki, or family registry, on which all births, deaths, marriages and divorces are required by law to be recorded.

The announcement comes two years after the national government found that more than 230,000 centenarians listed as alive where untraceable. Lagging behind other areas, Hiroshima’s koseki registries were digitalized last year and the number of “missing” centenarians was revealed when creating a database of aged residents. Almost a third of the phantom seniors would be over 120 years old. The oldest is a woman born in 1848, who would now be 164 if she were to be discovered living quietly somewhere – pehaps on an Okinawan island.

In the Autumn of 2010, the news was full of stories about families fraudulently collecting pensions for relatives who had passed away years earlier, as well macabre tales of mummified grandpas and deceased grandmas stuffed into backpacks. Most of the missing, however, just been lost track of.

Usually, people cannot be deleted from family registries without the submission of a certificate of death. However, following Justice Ministry instructions that the names of all people born over 120 years ago be removed, Chugoku Shinbun reports that 869 names had been removed from Hiroshima registries by October.

Here in Hiroshima, significant numbers of people emigrating abroad during the Meiji ear and, of course, the A-bombing are said to have contributed to the unclear situation. That said, Okayama’s number of missing seniors is even higher than Hiroshima’s, at 1976 people.

December, 2012

Paul Walsh

Paul arrived in Hiroshima "for a few months" back in 1996. He is the co-founder of GetHiroshima.com and loves running in the mountains.