Shigeko Kagawa was born in Japan on 28 May 1911. After graduating from Osaka Women’s Medical College (now Kansai Medical University), she became a doctor in her twenties and worked at a hospital in Osaka during the Pacific War. Even as an elderly woman, she was able to remember the sight of the city burnt down by air raids during the war and how people lost their lives in an instant.
After the war, she took over her family’s clinic, and contributed to the local medical care as an obstetrician and gynecologist. She used to have a telephone by her bedside every night and would rush to her patients’ homes when called, early in the morning or late at night. She retired at the age of 86. Even after retiring, sometimes a former patient would approach her on the street, thanking her for saving the lives of their loved ones.
Kagawa served as a torch runner for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. She was the world’s oldest runner to ever appear, and she completed the 300m in her wheelchair pushed by her granddaughter-in-law. When asked about the secret of her longevity, she replied: “When I was a doctor, there were no cars like now, so I used to wear clogs and walk a lot when I went to see a doctor. Maybe that’s why I’m strong and healthy.” At the age of 111, she lived at her home in Yamatokōriyama, Nara Prefecture, attending daycare twice a week.
In September 2022, Kagawa was reported as the oldest living person in Nara Prefecture. Her predecessor, Misayo Yamashita, went to limbo. On 27 September, she received a visit from the prefecture’s deputy governor who presented her with a gift to celebrate her longevity.