Japanese man Jiroemon Kimura becomes the oldest ever known

Family of 115-year-old Jiroemon Kimura, who now has 13 great-great grandchildren, say he still has a positive and optimistic outlook on life

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 December, 2012, 5:26am

Jiroemon Kimura, a 115-year-old Japanese man born when Queen Victoria reigned over the British Empire, yesterday became the oldest man in recorded history, Guinness World Records said.

Kimura, of Kyotango, western Japan, was born April 19, 1897. That makes him 115 years and 253 days as of yesterday, breaking the longevity record for men held by Christian Mortensen of California, who died in 1998. The oldest person in recorded history, Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, died in 1997 at the age of 122.

"He has an amazingly strong will to live," Kimura's nephew Tamotsu Miyake, 80, said. "He is strongly confident that he lives right and well."

The old man lives with his grandson's widow, Eiko Kimura, in a two-storey wooden house he built in the 1960s. Eiko wakes him up every day at 7.30am and takes him by wheelchair to a dining room for breakfast consisting of porridge and miso soup with potatoes and vegetables. He has never suffered from serious disease, can communicate and spends most of his time in bed, Eiko said.

"Grandpa is positive and optimistic," she said. "He becomes cheerful when he has guests. He's well with a good appetite. Even when he falls ill, I can tell he will recover."

However, he was in a hospital yesterday morning for a minor ailment, Yasuhiro Kawato, head of the section for elderly welfare at Kyotango's city hall, said.

"His condition has improved, and we're not worried, but the doctors said it would be best if he stayed in the hospital into the new year," Kawato said.

Japan's average life expectancy at birth is 83 years, a figure projected to exceed 90 for women by 2050. There are 40 centenarians per 100,000 people in the country, which has the world's highest proportion of old people.

Kimura became the world's oldest living person on December 17, when 115-year-old Dina Manfredini of the US state of Iowa died. He is only the third man in history to reach 115 years of age, Guinness said yesterday.

The third of six children, Kimura was born Kinjiro Miyake in Kamiukawa, a fishing and farming village. His parents, Morizo and Fusa Miyake, were farmers who grew rice and vegetables.

It was the year that Marconi sent his first wireless messages over open water, and William McKinley was sworn in as US president. A year later, the New Territories were leased to Britain.

After finishing school at 14 as the second-best student in his class, Kimura worked at local post offices for 45 years until his retirement in 1962 at the age of 65.

He also worked at a government communication unit in Korea in the 1920s, when the peninsula was under Japanese rule, and returned to marry his neighbour Yae Kimura. As his wife's family didn't have a male heir, he changed his name to Jiroemon Kimura. Since retiring, he has enjoyed reading newspapers and watching sumo wrestling on television. He helped his son farm until he was about 90.

Kimura's wife, Yae, died 34 years ago at the age of 74. Four of Kimura's five siblings lived to be more than 90 years old, and his youngest brother, Tetsuo, died at 100.

Jiroemon Kimura's living descendants include five children, 14 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren and 13 great-great-grandchildren.