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Last Updated: Friday, 31 October, 2003, 10:36 GMT
'World's oldest person' dies
Kamato Hongo (centre)
Kamato Hongo would sleep for two days then stay awake for two days
A Japanese woman believed to be the world's oldest person has died aged 116.

Kamato Hongo died in hospital on Friday, one of her grandsons said.

Mrs Hongo, who lived on the island of Tokunoshima in southern Japan, had been bed-ridden for some time.

She had seven children and at least 27 grandchildren.

The world's oldest person is now believed to be 114-year-old Mitoyo Kawate, a Japanese woman living in Hiroshima.

Japanese longevity

Mrs Hongo was well-known throughout Japan for her habit of sleeping for two days and then staying awake for two days.

Her grandson Tsuyoshi Karauchi, who lived with her, told the BBC last month that sleeping was a favourite pastime for his grandmother.

"We even feed her in her sleep," he told the East Asia Today programme.

Mr Karauchi said his grandmother, like a lot of other elderly people, ate miso soup, rice and vegetables.

Asked about the secret of her longevity, he said: "She was brought up in a good environment, ate healthy local food. She survived the war but apart from that it's been a peaceful happy life."

She has never smoked, he said, "but she did start drinking about 20 years ago in her 90s".

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

Economists are predicting a crisis in the state pension system within a few years, because the benefits being paid out far exceed payments being made into it.

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