Jiroemon Kimura, the world’s oldest person, and the oldest man to have ever lived, has died at the age of 116.
Kimura – who was born on 19 April 1897, when Queen Victoria was on the British throne – died of natural causes early on Wednesday, Japanese media said.
The Kyoto prefecture resident became the oldest man in recorded history in late December 2012 at the age of 115 years and 253 days, following the death of Dina Manfredini, an Italian-American who lived in Iowa. The longest-living person in history was Jeanne Calment, a French woman who died in 1997 at the age of 122.
Kimura died in hospital in his hometown of Kyotango, local government officials said. He had been receiving treatment for pneumonia since late last month.
In a sign of Japan‘s extraordinary longevity, his successor as the world’s oldest person is compatriot Misao Okawa, a 115-year-old Osaka woman who already holds the title of the world’s oldest woman.
Until his death Kimura was one of only a dozen people alive who were born in the 1890s. He lived through the reign of four Japanese emperors and the administrations of 61 prime ministers.
Kimura conceded that he spent a lot of time in bed at the home he shared with his grandson’s widow, Eiko Kimura, who served him his favourite breakfast of rice porridge and miso soup.
He put his longevity down to waking early, eating small amounts, reading the newspaper and watching parliamentary debates on television.
Genetics may have also played a part: four of his siblings lived beyond the age of 90 and his youngest brother died aged 100. Kimura had seven grandchildren, 14 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren and 13 great-great grandchildren.
After leaving school at 14 Kimura spent 45 years working for the post office. He was retired more than half a century but helped on his son’s farm until he was 90.
Okawa, who was born in 1898 during the Spanish-American war, has said that she is not fussy about what she eats, although she’s fond of pickled mackerel. Her new status has yet to be confirmed by Guinness World Records.
Japan’s average life expectancy when Kimura was born was around 44 years; it now stands at 83. The country is home to more than 51,000 centenarians and around 20 supercentenarians, or people aged 110 or older.