Tomoji Tanabe dies at 113; world's oldest man

Times Staff And Wire Reports

Tomoji Tanabe, who was the world's oldest man and repeatedly said the secret to his long life was "not smoking and not drinking," died Friday at his home in southern Japan. He was 113.

Tanabe died in his sleep of heart failure, said Junko Nakao, a city official in Miyakonojo on Japan's southern island of Kyushu.

The world's oldest man is now 113-year-old Henry Allingham, a London native born June 6, 1896, Guinness World Records said Friday. Allingham is one of Britain's last two surviving World War I veterans, according to media reports.

The world's oldest living person remains Los Angeles resident Gertrude Baines, 115, a former maid who was born April 6, 1894, in Georgia.

Tanabe was born Sept. 18, 1895, in Miyakonojo.

The first half of his working life was spent at Miyakonojo City Hall, where he was a city land surveyor. He then farmed for 30-plus years. His wife, Suki, died almost two decades ago, at 92.

A lifelong teetotaler, Tanabe was known to guzzle milk and also credited his diet with extending his life. His favorite meals were said to be fried shrimp and Japanese miso soup with clams. He also reportedly ate fish, bananas and pickled vegetables as often as he liked.

To keep his wits sharp, he wrote in a diary at least every other day and avidly read the newspaper.

He had eight children -- five sons and three daughters -- and lived with his fifth son and daughter-in-law. He also had 25 grandchildren, 53 great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren, according to a statement from Miyakonojo city officials.

Japan has one of the world's longest average life spans -- nearly 86 years for women and 79 years for men -- which is often attributed to the country's healthy diet, rich in fish and rice.

The number of Japanese living past 100 has more than doubled in the last six years, reaching a record high of 36,000 people in 2008; about 86% of those are women.

Japan's centenarian population is expected to reach nearly 1 million by 2050, according to U.N. projections.

After a Puerto Rican man died at 115, Tanabe was certified by Guinness World Records in 2007 as the world's oldest man when he was 111.

At the time, Tanabe said, "It is nothing special," then added tongue-in-cheek: "I have lived too long. I am sorry."

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