Two for the Ages

updated 05/18/1992 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/18/1992 AT 01:00 AM EDT

SOMETIMES, SUCCESS LIKES TO WAIT. Not everyone can he a Mozart or—dare we say?—a Macaulay Culkin. Kin Narita and her twin sister, Gin Kanie, for instance, are probably the only celebrities in the world who, in theory anyway, could have dated both Warren Harding and Warren Beatty. Kin and Gin (rhymes with green), who will turn 100 in August, have been the rage in Japan since last September, when the Mayor of Nagoya honored the widowed great-grandmothers on Respect for the Aged Day. An Osaka company promptly hired them for a TV commercial—which ended with their giggling in unison.

Today, the tiny identical twins—they're 4'2" and each weighs about 70 lbs.—pitch everything from cosmetics to mail-order mops. Reporters chronicle their every move. A magazine pays them to dispense personal advice, including their thoughts on men. The sisters have released a hit CD single called Kin-chan and Gin-chan, on which they recite one-liners over a children's song, and have appeared in a TV drama.

All of Japan, it seems, is caught up in Kin and Gin mania, except the kimono-clad cult figures themselves. They are not rolling in yen, although they did earn some $40,000 last year—enough to have to file income tax returns for the first time. For entertainment, both like to watch TV—Gin tunes in to parliamentary sessions, while Kin prefers wrestling. And although both can remember back to the 19th century, they do not romanticize the past. "Young people are pretty smart today," says Gin. "In the old days there were just more stupid people than now."

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