Japan empress, 76, empathizes with graying nation

Wed Oct 20, 2010 5:46am EDT
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TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Japan's Empress Michiko turned 76 on Wednesday and, in sentiments likely to strike a chord with many in her rapidly graying nation, confessed to occasional forgetfulness and increasing physical slowness.

Despite being diagnosed with an asthma variant earlier this year, the Empress said her health was generally good but that she could feel herself taking longer to do things.

"I also often experience symptoms that seem to be caused by aging, such as not being able to find what I am looking for. I find these incidents amusing at times, but I also feel a bit helpless," she said in a statement.

"To strike the right balance between being aware of, and accepting the fact that one declines with age both in body and mind on the one hand, and not being overly sensitive to aging, is not easy."

The Japanese government expects over a quarter of its 127 million citizens to be aged over 65 by 2015. It is home to an estimated 41,000 centenarians, and its women have held the record for the world's longest life expectancy for 25 years.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Alex Richardson)

<p>Japan's Emperor Akihito (L) and Empress Michiko look at phoenix statues at a garden of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo October 1, 2010 in this handout photo released by the Imperial Household Agency of Japan. REUTERS/Imperial Household Agency of Japan/Handout</p>