A 111-year-old Japanese engineer born at the end of the century before last was awarded official recognition Monday as the world's newest oldest man, and joked he was sorry for still being alive. Tomoji Tanabe, a teetotaller who has repeatedly said that avoiding alcohol was a secret of his longevity, was given a certificate from the Guinness Book of World Records by the mayor of his local municipality.
Tanabe, from Miyazaki prefecture on the southern island of Kyushu, was born on September 18, 1895 -- before Japan became a world player, Australia became independent or the Wright Brothers created the first plane. "It is nothing special," he said, adding tongue-in-cheek, "I have lived too long. I am sorry." With the recognition, Japan boasts having both the world's oldest man and the oldest woman -- Yone Minagawa, 114, who also lives in Kyushu.
To look after himself, Tanabe mainly eats vegetables and few greasy dishes, a Miyakonojo city official said. He became the oldest male after his predecessor, Emiliano Mercado del Toro of Puerto Rico, died at the age of 115 on January 24. Since then, the Guinness Book of World Records has investigated who should take the title as the oldest man on Earth and contacted Miyakonojo authorities earlier this month to verify Tanabe's birthdate. More than 28,000 Japanese are at least 100 years old, most of them women, according to the government.
The Japanese people's renowned longevity is often attributed to eating the country's traditional healthy food, despite the hectic lifestyle many lead in the big cities. But the longevity is also presenting a headache as the country has one of the lowest birthrates, spelling a future demographic crisis as a smaller pool of workers supports a mass of elderly.