Asia-Pacific Health Lifestyle

LongeviQuest representatives Yumi Yamamoto and Jack Steer were honored to attend the party, which was held in a hall extravagantly decorated for the occasion by nursing home staff, and included a sizeable birthday cake, a soothing piano ensemble, and a vibrant array of green balloons—Mrs. Itooka’s favorite color. Also in attendance were Ashiya City Mayor Ryosuke Takashima, a 27-year old Harvard graduate, Atsushi Kishimo, CEO of the nursing home group, nursing home staff, and over a dozen fellow residents, all of whom watched in enjoyment as Mrs. Itooka was presented with flowers and a plaque honoring her status as Japan’s oldest living person, before receiving congratulatory messages from well-wishers around the world. Mayor Takashima and Yumi Yamamoto each delivered a heartfelt address congratulating Mrs. Itooka on her remarkable achievement, to which she replied ‘thank you’ before enjoying a slice of her birthday cake.

Mrs. Itokoka displays a remarkable dynamism and energy for a woman of 116. She drinks her favorite Calpis (a Japanese milk-based soft drink) every morning, is able to clearly communicate her will through speech despite being slightly hard of hearing, and routinely expresses her gratitude to staff by always saying ‘thank you.’ She reportedly spends most of her time in bed when not eating.

Tomiko Itooka was born in Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture, Japan on 23 May 1908 as the second (eldest daughter) of three siblings. After graduating elementary school, she moved up to a girls’ school (currently Osaka Jogakuin Junior and Senior High School) where she was a member of the volleyball club. After her graduation, she got married around the age of 20 and gave birth to her eldest daughter at the age of 21. In total, she had two daughters and two sons. During the Second World War, she took over her husband’s responsibilities at the textile factory he ran in South Korea by managing their Japanese office while raising their children alone. After her husband died in 1979, she lived alone in her husband’s hometown of Nara Prefecture for about 10 years. During that period, she frequently enjoyed climbing Mt. Nijo, which straddles Nara and Osaka prefectures. She also climbed Mt. Ontake (elevation 3000m), which straddles Nagano and Gifu prefectures, twice. The guide was surprised when she climbed the mountain because she wore ordinary sneakers instead of hiking shoes.

When she was in her 80s, she also participated in the Osaka 33 Kannon Pilgrimage (33 temple pilgrimages) twice. When she was 100 years old, she climbed the long stone steps of Ashiya Shrine without a cane and worshiped. She visited Yakushiji Temple in Nara Prefecture many times, and she liked to write sutras. At the age of 110, she moved into a nursing home for the elderly in Ashiya City, Hyogo Prefecture.

On 12 December 2023, following the death of 116-year-old Fusa Tatsumi, Mrs. Itooka became the oldest living person in Japan. She became second-oldest person in the world behind María Branyas Morera (Spain) after the passing of Edie Ceccarelli (USA).

Mrs. Itooka was quiet during most of her birthday party, as she often is in front of large groups of people. However, once the party ended, she appeared relaxed and responded to her caregivers and Yumi Yamamoto with a clear, strong voice.

LongeviQuest congratulates Itooka-san and wishes her many more birthdays in the future.

LongeviQuest (LQ) is the global authority on maximum human longevity