Photo: Guinness World Records.
Photo: Guinness World Records.
A pair of Japanese sisters were recently confirmed to be the oldest living identical twins in the world by the Guinness World Records. Umeno Sumiyama and Koume Kodama were born on 5 November 1913 – nearly 108 years ago.
On Monday, 20 September, Guinness World Records announced Umeno and Koume’s achievement on Respect for the Aged Day, which is a national holiday in Japan.
Umeno and Koume were confirmed as the oldest identical twins living (female) and the oldest identical twins ever (female) at 107 years and 300 days old as of 1 September 2021.
The sisters currently live apart – in different nursing homes – and the staff presented the certificates to them where they live because of COVID-19 restrictions. The sisters were born into a very large family of 13 on Shondo Island in Kagawa prefecture.
“According to their family members, the twins are both sociable and positive and hardly worry about things. Apparently, Umeno is more strong-willed, while Koume is more gentle,” said Masakazu Senda of the Guinness World Records.
Umeno and Koume recall being bullied as children because being a twin was looked down upon in Japan at the time. They were separated at an early age – after finishing primary school – when Koume left Shondo Island to help her uncle. They remained separated for most of their adult lives.
Umeno married someone from their home Island, while Koume married someone in Oita on Kyushu Island.
“Because the twins were over 300 km apart, they were unable to catch up regularly, and mainly saw each other at weddings and funerals. However, once they were around the age of 70, they travelled together for Buddhist pilgrimages on several occasions,” said Senda.
As they grew older, the twins reportedly joked about breaking the old age record set by Kin Narita and Gin Kanie – more affectionately known as “Kin-san, Gin-san” – who previously held the record of oldest identical twins living and became a household name in Japan.
Despite the jokes, the twins’ families never expected them to reach the milestone. Guinness World Records said they were unable to visit the sister because of the pandemic but the nursing home staff said Umeno was in tears as soon as she saw the certificate. Koume’s memory, however, is not what it used to be and could not comprehend the significance of the occasion.
The family of the twins said they are pleased their longevity has been recognised as Umeno and Koume spoke about the record often over the years.
Japan has the world’s fastest ageing population, according to the Associated Press (AP). People aged 65 and older make up 29 percent of the population of 125 million and approximately 86 510 of these are centenarians, according to the country’s health and welfare ministry.
The Guinness World Records said Japan is also home to the oldest person living, Tanaka Kane, who is currently 118 years old and the oldest man to ever live, Jiroemon Kimura, who was born on 19 April 1897 and died aged 116 years and 54 days on 12 June 2013.