Japan's government has announced that it's cutting back on gifts for 100-year-old citizens, as the country's growing elderly population has made the practice too expensive to continue. Traditionally, the Japanese prime minister presents centenarians with a silver sake dish or sakazuki worth ¥8,000 ($64) as part of the country's Respect for the Aged Day celebrations. When the program began in 1963, 153 individuals were given cups, but last year that number had risen to 29,357. According to a report from The Japan Times, costs for the initiative hit ¥260 million ($2 million) in 2014, and the country has subsequently decided to find a cheaper alternative — such as using a less-expensive material for the dishes, or simply sending a letter of congratulations instead.
Japan's population is aging faster than any other on the planet
Japan's population is famously long-lived, with the country's life expectancy the best in the world. Japanese men live, on average, to the age of 80, while Japanese women reach the age of 87. (In the US, life expectancy for men and women is 76 and 81 respectively.) But Japan also has a population aging faster than any other on the planet and a falling birth rate, with the number of babies born in the country hitting a record low in 2014: just over a million new births, around half of country's birth rate in the 1970s. The country is trying all sorts of methods of dealing with this slow-burning crisis (including giant robot bears to look after the elderly), but unless there are drastic changes, expensive sake dishes are going to be the least of the government's problems.