Big in Japan: World’s Oldest Man is Japanese (What a Surprise!)

Last week, the world’s oldest man, who needless to say happens to be Japanese, turned an astonishing 112 years old. Tomoji Tanabe, who was born in 1895, proudly told to the Kyodo News Agency: “I want to live indefinitely. I don’t want to die.”

To mark the occasion, Mr Tanabe received a check for 100,000 yen (US$900) and flowers from the mayor of his hometown, Miyakonojo.

When asked about the secret to his longevity, Mr. Tanabe told reporters that avoiding alcohol and not smoking keeps him young. He also stressed the importance of keeping to his daily routine, which involved writing in his diary and reading the newspaper.

Mr. Tanabe was declared the oldest man this past January by the Guinness Book of World Records after the death of Emiliano Mercado Del Toro, of Puerto Rico, at 115.

Due to improvements in healthcare and lifestyle, lifespans in developed countries around the world are on the rise. This, combined with better record keeping, means that the number of supercentenarians or people who have lived 110 years or more is also on the rise.

Japan is said to have the largest population of centenarians in the world, with some 30,000 citizens aged 100 and over. The country has also laid claim to some truly mind-blowing supercentenarian records.

Shigechiyo Izumi, who grew up in the Southwest Islands of Japan, lived from June 29, 1865? to February 21, 1986. Assuming his claimed birth was correct, he would have attained an age of 120 years, older than any other recognized male, and be the second-longest lived human ever, second only to Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment.

Although there is some dispute as to his actual birth date, Mr. Izumi was recorded as being six years old in Japan’s first-ever census, which took place in 1871. At his death, Mr. Izumi stood at 1.42 meters (four feet, eight inches) tall, weighed 42.6 kilograms (94 pounds) and lived through 71 Japanese Prime Ministers.

Mr. Izumi also holds the record for the longest working career for a person, which spanned 98 consecutive years. He began his career in 1872 goading draft animals at a sugar mill, and retired as a sugarcane farmer in 1970 at the age of 105.

As he frequently told reporters, Mr. Izumi attributed his long life to “God, Buddha and the Sun.” Of course, unlike the teetotaling Mr. Tanabe, Mr. Izumi loved his drink.

According to the Kyodo News Agency, Mr. Izumi drank copious amounts of shōchū (焼酎, a Japanese alcoholic beverage distilled from barley) on a daily basis.

For those of you who have never had the pleasure of drinking shōchū (indeed it is one of my favorite tipples), let me be the first to tell you that its tastes like rubbing alcohol and smells like turpentine.

But oh lordy – that stuff will make get you off your rocker in 10 seconds flat!

So, I guess the morale of today’s post is that it if you want to live to be a supercentenarian, it doesn’t matter whether or not you indulge in the occasional drink. Of course, it certainly helps if you happen to be Japanese!