107-year-old Japanese twins certified as world’s oldest

Published September 21, 2021
This combination of two undated photos released by Guinness World Records show sisters Umeno Sumiyama, left, and Koume Kodama at separate nursing homes in Shodoshima island, left, and Oita prefecture, Japan. — AP
This combination of two undated photos released by Guinness World Records show sisters Umeno Sumiyama, left, and Koume Kodama at separate nursing homes in Shodoshima island, left, and Oita prefecture, Japan. — AP

TOKYO: Two Japanese sisters have been certified by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest living identical twins, aged 107 years and 330 days, the organisation said on Monday.

The announcement coincided with Respect for the Aged Day, a national holiday in Japan.

Sisters Umeno Sumiyama and Koume Kodama were born on Shodoshima island in western Japan on Nov 5, 1913, as the third and fourth of 11 siblings.

The sisters as of Sept 1 broke the previous record of 107 years and 175 days set by famous Japanese twin sisters Kin Narita and Gin Kanie, Guinness World Records Ltd. said in a statement.

About 29pc of the population of 125 million in Japan, the world’s fastest aging nation, are 65 years or older, according to the health and welfare ministry. About 86,510 of them are centenarians — half of whom turned 100 this year.

Sumiyama and Kodama were separated after finishing elementary school, when Kodama was sent to work as a maid in Oita on Japan’s southern main island of Kyushu. She later married there, while Sumiyama remained on the island they grew up on and had her own family.

The sisters later recalled their difficult younger days. Growing up, they said they were targets of bullying because of prejudice against children of multiple births in Japan.

Busy with their own lives for decades, the sisters rarely met until they turned 70, when they started making pilgrimages together to some of the 88 Shikoku temples and enjoyed being reconnected.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2021

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