Yomitan Village, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan – On September 19, 2023, our team had the honor of visiting the younger sister of the world’s oldest pair of siblings in history, the 15th oldest living person in the world, and the second-oldest known living person in Okinawa Prefecture, Mrs. Kikue Taira. In most families, one person reaching the age of 113 would be a unique achievement, but Mrs. Taira’s sister, Kame Ganeko, lived to the age of 114.

Mrs. Taira (106 at the time) with her sister Mrs. Ganeko (111 at the time) in June 2016

Mrs. Taira was presented with two plaques and a bouquet of flowers at Yomitan No Sato, a special nursing home for the elderly. One of the plaques was addressed to her, and one to her older sister, Mrs. Ganeko, who at the time of her death on October 18th 2019, was the second-oldest ever person from Okinawa Prefecture and the seventh-oldest person in the world. The plaques certified the sisters’ status as the world’s oldest ever pair of siblings, with a combined age of over 227 years.

Mrs. Taira holding the plaque honoring her and her sister

LongeviQuest Japan President Yumi Yamamoto had the privilege of carrying out the visit, where she was warmly welcomed by two of Mrs. Taira’s grandchildren, who expressed deep gratitude for the acknowledgement of their grandmother’s incredible achievement. Mrs. Taira is hard of hearing, but when spoken to loudly up close can still understand what is being said. When Yamamoto congratulated her on her achievement, she clearly stated her date of birth, demonstrating an awareness of the celebration being held in her honor.

Mrs. Taira with her granddaughter Naomi Yabiku and LongeviQuest’s Yumi Yamamoto

Mrs. Taira was born on 26th April 1910 (Meiji 43) in Yomitanson, Okinawa Prefecture, the third of four sisters, preceded by her older sister and fellow supercentenarian, Kame Ganeko. Mrs. Taira moved to Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture as a teenager to work as a textile spinner before moving back to Okinawa in her early 20’s where she married Mr. Ryoshin, with whom she had 6 children. She lived on her own for 24 years between the ages of 73 and 97 before entering care after injuring her femur in a fall at home.

Yumi Yamamoto speaking with Kikue Taira

Mrs. Taira was said to be very close to her older sister, whom she supported by visiting the nursing home she lived in well into old age. Her granddaughters described her as a “kind, vibrant person who always had a smile on her face” – a warmth which could be felt when they shared stories of the great joy she took in cooking traditional Okinawan food for her family. A woman of varied interests, Mrs. Taira was an avid knitter in her younger years and enjoyed cultivating flowers in her garden, an activity which she continued until entering care at the age of 97, demonstrating her strong sense of self-reliance and physical capability. From an early age, she had a passion for food, which the nursing staff informed us continues to this day. Her grandchildren believe her hearty appetite has likely contributed to her longevity.

Mrs. Taira posing with her granddaughter Naomi Yabiku and LongeviQuest representatives Yumi Yamamoto and Jack Steer

We deeply appreciate and thank to the Kikue Taira’s family and nursing home staff who received LongeviQuest team very warmly and our photographer Mr. Nomoto Shunki for the beautiful photos.

LongeviQuest is saddened to report the passing of Ushi Makishi. She was born in Okinawa, Japan on 15 February 1909 and passed away in Chatan Town, Okinawa, Japan on 4 July 2023 at 114 years, 139 days. At the time of her death, Makishi was the oldest living person in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. She was also Japan’s 3rd oldest living known person (behind Fusa Tatsumi and Tomiko Itooka) and the world’s 6th oldest living validated person before her passing (behind María Branyas MoreraFusa TatsumiEdie CeccarelliTomiko Itooka, and Inah Canabarro Lucas).

(Source: https://www.kouyoukai-oki.jp/)

Makishi got married at 18 and the couple had six children. She worked at a spinning factory from the age of 13 until the end of the war, and after the war, she worked at a U.S. military base in Okinawa.

Ushi Makishi performing kachāshī (Source: https://www.kouyoukai-oki.jp/)

She enjoyed the local Okinawan dish called ‘jūshī’, which is rice cooked with pork, and also enjoyed steamed sweet potatoes. Makishi also loved the Okinawan hand dance called kachāshī. Even at the age of 114, she enjoyed doing it with her friends at the Nursing Home.

LongeviQuest is extending our deepest condolences to the bereaved family and friends of Mrs. Ushi Makishi.


The Japanese concept of ikigai has recently become popular among Western audiences. The idea has largely been translated through the Western lens as a method for finding the perfect career. However, the concept in Japanese culture applies more broadly as an approach to life and wellness. The website “Positive Psychology” describes the concept in Japanese culture as “…embracing the joy of little things, being in the here and now, reflecting on past happy memories, and having a frame of mind that one can build a happy and active life.” Michiko Kumano, a Japanese psychologist, compared the concept in Japanese society to actions of devoting oneself to pursuits one enjoys and associated it with feelings of accomplishment and fulfillment, similar to the concept of eudaimonia in Greek tradition. 

Research has established a positive association between individuals with ikigai and longevity and better quality of life. One study from The Lancet Regional Health Western Pacific found that having ikigai was associated with a 31% lower risk of functional disability and a 36% lower risk of developing dementia over a 3-year period. The presence of ikigai  “was associated with decreased depressive symptoms and hopelessness as well as higher happiness, life satisfaction, instrumental activity of daily living, and certain social outcomes.” Greater levels of social interaction are  associated with higher levels of ikigai, while levels of physical functioning were not. Ikigai was also associated with a decreased risk of mortality among Japanese people in one study. 

Cultures structured around integrating people of all ages into daily life and creating opportunities for ikigai into older age contribute to increased longevity and better quality of life. The island of Okinawa, Japan, has exceptional longevity in the population, even for Japan, the country with the most centenarians per capita in the world. Some of their longevity can be attributed to a heart-healthy diet and a physically active lifestyle. But their deeply embedded sense of ikigai is also integral to longevity on the island. In the Okinawan village of Ogimi, groups of older women weave traditional basho-fu textiles, which allows them to make an income while participating in the local economy and maintaining social contact. According to Dr. Bradley Willcox, a geriatrician and author of The Okinawa Way, the Okinawan centenarians he studied maintained an ikigai, whether that be faith, family, or one 102-year-old man’s devotion to his two prize bulls. Dr. Willcox also reports that there is no word for retirement in the Okinawan language and that people continue to stay engaged in their life’s work long into old age.

What brings someone ikigai in later life is unique and specific to the individual. Learning about the life of those who have lived the longest can help us understand how to find our own ikigai. We profile validated supercentenarians, many of whom have led lives filled with high levels of ikigai

  • Tomiko Itooka, from Osaka, Japan, 114 years old, has maintained a devotion to Buddhism and physical activity, climbing Mount Ontake twice and participating in the 1000+ km Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage while in her 80s. 
  • Bessie Hendricks, from Iowa, lived until age 115 and, despite selling her family farm in 1979, stayed active in helping her family with processing chickens and stayed involved in her church, which she had belonged to for 92 years. 
  • Violet Brown, from Jamaica, lived to 117 years old and credited her longevity to “God, respecting her parents, working hard and eating coconut sauce.” Near the end of her life, she still enjoyed “going to church, reading books and listening to music.” 

While the longevity of the individuals profiled on LongeviQuest might not be within reach for everyone, their approach to overall wellness and happiness can be a template for everyone to lead a happier, more fulfilling life.