The World's Oldest Person, Misao Okawa, Celebrates Her Birthday 116th This Week

There are over seven billion people living on the planet, but only one who can boast of being 116 years old. Yesterday Misao Okawa, a Japanese woman believed to be the oldest person alive, celebrated her birthday and became the tenth person ever known to have hit the age of 116. She's also one of only five people alive today known to have been born in the nineteenth century.

Just thinking about it makes you kind of dizzy. I mean, she was born in 1898. Queen Victoria still ruled England. Oklahoma wasn't even a state. Frederich Neitzsche was still alive. Tea bags hadn't been invented yet. In other words, 1898 was a long time ago. I mean, she would have been in her forties during World War II. When the U.S. detonated two atomic bombs in Japan, she was already middle aged. Just imagine.

So what's the secret to living so long? Okawa says that it's to eat, sleep, and stay relaxed. It also probably doesn't hurt that Japanese women have the longest life expectancy of any global demographic. Their average life span is about 86 years, well ahead of just 81 years for women in the United States. Researchers theorize that it has something to do with the traditional Japanese diet (which is low in fat) and the country's excellent health care system. Today, over 50,000 Japanese citizens are over 100 years old (the country's population is 127 million people).

Okawa is a mother of three, and two of her children are still alive, in their 90s. She also has four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. When asked by a Japanese paper if she was happy to have lived so long, she replied, "Kind of." But she's still taking good care of herself, according to the staff at the nursing home where she lives. She makes sure to eat well — her favorite food is mackerel sushi — and to get at least eight hours of sleep each night.

Despite all the time she's lived, Okawa still says that the happiest day of her life was the day she married her husband in 1919 — and the saddest day of her life was twelve years later in 1931 when he died. She's literally lived over 100 years of her life without him, but she still loves him that much. Cue a collective "Awww!"

Happy Birthday, Misao Okawa!