A Century of Grace: The Inspiring Life of Fusa Tatsumi, Japan’s Oldest Supercentenarian

Fusa Tatsumi (April 25, 1907 – December 12, 2023) was a celebrated Japanese supercentenarian. Holding the title of the oldest living person in Japan from April 19, 2022, until her death, Tatsumi’s remarkable longevity captured the hearts and interest of many in Japan and around the world.

Born in the late Meiji era, Tatsumi witnessed over a century of profound changes in Japanese history, including major historical events such as World War II, the economic miracle post-World War II, and the transition into the Reiwa era. She was born in Yao Town, which is now part of Yao City in Osaka Prefecture, as the second daughter in a family of six siblings. Living through the Taisho and Showa eras, Tatsumi experienced the rapid modernization and cultural shifts of Japan firsthand.

In her early 30s, Tatsumi married a farmer who cultivated peaches and grapes, and together they raised three children. Their life, rooted in the agricultural traditions of Japan, was reflective of the era’s simpler, community-oriented lifestyle.

Before her marriage, Tatsumi immersed herself in traditional Japanese arts, learning Ikebana and the tea ceremony. These practices, deeply embedded in Japanese culture, emphasize harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility—values that Tatsumi carried throughout her life. Even in her later years, her passion for Ikebana remained strong, and she continued to arrange flowers at her home’s entrance until the impressive age of 106. Her dedication to this art form and her garden, where she nurtured chrysanthemums, showcased her lifelong connection to nature and traditional Japanese aesthetics.

Tatsumi’s love for sweets like Mitarashi (sweet dumplings) and Zenzai (sweet red bean soup) was well-known among her family and friends. These traditional Japanese desserts, often associated with festivals and celebratory occasions, symbolized her enjoyment of life’s simple pleasures.

In 2013, at the age of 106, Tatsumi moved to the Hakuto nursing home in Kashiwara City. Despite her advanced age, she remained active and engaged, participating in exercises even while seated in a wheelchair. Her ability to independently eat and apply makeup at the age of 110, and to engage in conversations with staff members, highlighted her extraordinary health and vitality in old age.

On her 113th birthday, her spirited response of “Thank you” to birthday wishes demonstrated her enduring zest for life. However, by the age of 115, she became bedridden and less able to engage in conversation, though she still occasionally interacted with staff, particularly around meal times.

Her status as the oldest living person in Osaka Prefecture was officially recognized in September 2020. Following the death of Kane Tanaka in April 2022, Tatsumi became Japan’s oldest living person at 114 years and 359 days old, a significant milestone that brought her national recognition and admiration.

Tatsumi’s life spanned 116 years and 231 days, a testament to her resilience and the advances in healthcare and living conditions in Japan. Her longevity is a remarkable example of the increasing number of supercentenarians worldwide, particularly in Japan, which is known for its high life expectancy. Her passing on December 12, 2023, marked the end of an era and left a legacy of inspiration and awe.

Following Tatsumi’s death, Tomiko Itooka became the oldest living person in Japan. Tatsumi’s life story, enriched by her engagement with traditional Japanese culture and her adaptability to the changing times, remains a captivating narrative in Japan’s history of longevity.

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