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Sueko Katsu

Yumi Yamamoto
Validated By: Yumi Yamamoto On Date: Nov. 23rd 2023

Sueko Katsu (Japanese: 勝末コ) is a Japanese supercentenarian whose age has been validated by LongeviQuest. She is currently the oldest living person in Kagoshima Prefecture.

Biography

Sueko Katsu was born in Setouchi, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan, on 26 March 1912, the fifth of six siblings. Two of her older sisters lived to be 99 and 105 respectively. At some point, she moved to Osaka Prefecture, where she worked as a dormitory manager at a silk mill until her marriage. She returned to her hometown at the age of 25, and in 1937, she married Seikō Katsu [Japanese: 勝 青好], with whom she had five children.

During the air raids on the Amami Islands in World War II, Katsu, her young eldest son, and her step-parents managed to stay safe by taking shelter in air raid shelters and hiding in Amami’s dense cycads. Following the war, Katsu and her husband cultivated a diverse range of fruits, such as pineapples and mandarin oranges, along with numerous vegetables, including sugar cane, in a sizable field. In addition to their agricultural endeavors, they also opened a shop specializing in Amami Islands tofu and opened a textile factory making oshima tsumugi, a traditional textile craft of the Amami Islands (Historical records indicate that there were 1,000 factories and 15,000 craftsmen in Amami at that time.) They set up three looms at the factory near their home, where local housewives and several others engaged in weaving oshima tsumugi  textiles while singing a folk song called “Itokuri Bushi.” Katsu’s time spent weaving and singing fueled her love for music, inspiring a passion for karaoke and poetry. Eventually, she showcased her talents by giving performances on Amami’s traditional Japanese drum.

In her 80s and 90s, Katsu, along with her older sister Oiko [Japanese:オイコ], played traditional instruments at traditional festivals in Setouchi Town, including Jugoya and Hamaori. Katsu played the Japanese drum, while her sister played the shamisen, a Japanese stringed instrument. Her passion for drumming persisted into her advanced age, with Katsu rhythmically playing the Japanese drum until she was 107 years old. When her family members would return home to visit her, she would showcase her Japanese drumming skills, performing intricate pieces that involved crossing her hands and adding complex beats to the music. In addition to her musical pursuits, she had an interest for gateball. She played daily with her older sister Oiko and her son (Katsu’s nephew) and even won a prize at a prefectural tournament on one occasion.

To celebrate her 100th birthday, a party was held at a venue in Tokyo, where relatives from various parts of Japan gathered for the occasion. At the age of 100, Katsu boarded a plane from Amami to Tokyo to attend her own birthday celebration. At the age of 107, she fell and broke her leg. Around the time of the coronavirus pandemic, she made the decision to move to a nursing home. Until then, she had been living independently in her home, receiving support from relatives and preparing her meals using vegetables from her garden. She led a vibrant and fulfilling life, always busy with plans and surrounded by friends. She particularly enjoyed Amami Oshima’s local cuisine, such as pork miso and fish miso. Her nightly routine included consuming about 20ml of Amami’s “brown sugar sake” before bedtime, served in a small sake glass called Ochoko. She also always kept a fermented drink called “miki,” made from fermented rice, sweet potatoes, and sugar in her refrigerator. She was able to recall the entire contents of the Imperial Rescript on Education, a governmental education policy document signed in 1890, which she memorized during her fourth-grade elementary school year. Even at the age of 111, she could recite it from memory. On January 1, 2023, while writing her first piece of calligraphy for the year, she inscribed the words “120 years old”, conveying her wish to live even longer.

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Recognition

On September 15, 2023, she received a special visit from the Director of the Oshima Branch of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and was congratulated for being the oldest person in Kagoshima Prefecture.

Her age was verified by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare (MHLW), as well as Yumi Yamamoto, Jack Steer, Ryohei Asano, and Takiko Yamahata, and validated by LongeviQuest on 23 November 2023.

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Attribution

(All the information regarding Sueko Katsu’s biography was gathered through interviews conducted by LongeviQuest with her family.)

* “県内最高111歳 勝末コさん(瀬戸内町)祝福” – Amami Shimbun, 15 September 2023