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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 May, 2003, 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK
Japan's 101-year-old bar maid
Hideko Arima, 101-year-old bar proprietress, waits for customers at her tiny bar Gilbey-A
Hideko Arima has been working for 55 years
A bar maid who turned 101 this month is attracting attention in Japan.

Hideko Arima, who still works at her tiny bar, Gilbey Ai, in Tokyo's Ginza district, told the French news agency AFP that she began work in 1948.

She opened a coffee shop in Gotanda, then a semi-rural district of Tokyo, before moving the shop to Ginza and turning it into a bar in 1951, AFP said.

Healthy Japan
Female life expectancy is 84.93 years
Male life expectancy is 78.07 years
17,394 people over the age of 100

When AFP interviewed her, passers-by reportedly asked to shake her hand as she arrived for work.

"Do you think I kept this business this long just because I like to talk to other people? Business is not that easy," she said in a recent interview.

"I used to read not only news in three newspapers but also the advertisements... so that I would be able to talk about any subject brought up by my guests," she said.

Mrs Arima is one of several elderly Japanese who are being feted for their achievements.

Last week, 70-year-old Yuichiro Miura became the oldest person to climb Mount Everest.

He made the challenge after saying: "I want to cheer up Japan's greying society, as you can do something even at age 70."

And Mr Miura's father Keizo, together with Yuichiro and grandson Yuta, celebrated Keizo's 99th birthday in February by skiing down western Europe's highest peak, Mont Blanc.

Japanese have the longest life expectancy in the world. Their diet of fish and green vegetables are thought to contribute to their longevity.

Whilst Japan's high proportion of elderly is testament to its society's healthy diet, the greying population places a heavy burden on Japan's pension system.

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