TOKYO — Japan prides itself on the world's longest life expectancy but is struggling with a disturbing footnote to that statistic — revelations that hundreds of people listed as its oldest citizens are either long dead or haven't been heard from for decades.
The mystery of the missing centenarians has captured the attention of this rapidly graying nation with reports of scamming relatives and overworked social workers and sad tales of old people, isolated and forgotten, simply slipping out of touch with society.
The story unfolded in late July when police discovered that Sogen Kato, who would have been 111 and was thought to be Tokyo's oldest man, had actually been dead for 32 years, his decayed and partially mummified body still in his home.
Police are investigating his family for possible abandonment and pension fraud.
That discovery led officials around the country to check up on the centenarians in their own districts, and what they found has been shocking.
Of course, the big question is this: what will this do to their life expectancy statistics?