Sun, Jun 05, 2016 - Page 4 News List

Japanese man aged 96 world’s oldest university graduate

AFP, TOKYO

A 96-year-old Japanese man said he is excited at the prospect of breaking more records after being recognized as the world’s oldest university graduate with his degree in ceramic arts.

Spritely senior Shigemi Hirata received his Guinness World Records certificate on Friday after earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kyoto University of Art and Design earlier this year, local media reported yesterday.

Born on a farm in Hiroshima in 1919 — the year the Allies and Germany signed the Treaty of Versailles — Hirata is something of a celebrity on campus.

“Students whose name I do not even know call out to greet me,” he told Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun. “That gives me a lot of energy.”

Hirata, who took 11 years to complete his ceramic arts course after taking up pottery as a pensioner, said he is not done setting records.

“My goal is to live until I am 100,” he said. “If I am fit enough, it might be rather fun to go to graduate school.”

Hirata, who served in the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II and has four great-grandchildren, added: “I am so happy. At my age, it is fun to be able to learn new things.”

Japan’s perky pensioners regularly set eye-popping records, as the silver-haired generation enjoy longer and healthier lives.

Last year, 100-year-old Mieko Nagaoka became the world’s first centenarian to complete a 1,500m freestyle swim, 20 years after she took up the sport.

Many elderly Japanese remain physically active long after other people have given up the ghost.

Twinkle-toed sprinter Hidekichi Miyazaki, dubbed “Golden Bolt” after Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt, also set a world record last year, clocking 42.22 seconds for the 100m in the over-105 category a day after reaching the milestone age.

There were nearly 59,000 centenarians in Japan last year, according to government figures — which means 46 out of every 100,000 people is aged 100 or older.

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