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Old 10-17-2015, 01:30 PM
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Mary Pat Campbell
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: NY
Studying for duolingo and coursera
Favorite beer: Murphy's Irish Stout
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TOKYO—Tomotaro Aikawa, born the month World War I started, hit the big 1-0-0 last year. Soon after, a letter of commendation arrived from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with a small shallow bowl made of silver, intended for a ceremonial sip of sake.

Giving the silver sakazuki to centenarians has been a tradition in Japan for over a half-century. Inscribed in the bowl is “kotobuki,” a character connoting blessing and long life.

But in a sign of the nation’s tarnished finances, 100-year-olds next year may find their reward alloyed.

Japan’s health ministry, which administers the commendation program, has decided to halve its 2016 budget for it. To adjust, the government may begin making the bowls out of a mix of copper, nickel and zinc—with a silver finish—says a health-ministry official.
About 30,000 Japanese turn 100 every year. By 2050, the government projects, there will be about 680,000 citizens at or above a century. And agencies like the health ministry need to trim their budgets, what with Japan’s national debt ballooning.

At a June meeting to scrutinize the ministry’s budget, an advisory panel including professors and an accountant took up the centenarian-commendation program. Two of the five panelists recommended the gift program be scrapped altogether; three said it should be revised significantly.

“Becoming a centenarian was a news event in the old days,” Motohiro Sato of Hitotsubashi University told the assembled, according to a YouTube video of the session. “Just because the government has been celebrating the occasion doesn’t mean it should continue doing so.”

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