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Japan loses track of 230,000 centenarians

After a summer of scouring family registries and calling door-to-door, the Japanese government has found that more than 230,000 of its centenarians listed as alive cannot be found.

The search followed a series of macabre stories about the country's neglected elderly.

Officials found the mummified body of Tokyo's oldest man — thought to be aged 111 — in a bedroom, where it had apparently lain for for 32 years.

One man listed as 127 years old, who would probably have been the oldest on the planet, died more than 40 years ago.

The stories were repeated around the country.

The impact of the growing scandal is disturbing for Japan, a country that supposedly reveres its elderly.

Interviewed by incredulous reporters, the children and grandchildren of the missing pensioners have often sheepishly admitted to having no idea where they are. Some walked out the door years ago and never returned.

Commentators have taken to the airwaves to take potshots at these apparently cold-hearted relatives, while often neglecting the bigger social picture — the breakdown of family ties under the strains of modern urban life.

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