Obituary: Jiroemon Kimura / Oldest man in recorded history at age 116

April 19, 1897 -- June 11, 2013

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Japan's Jiroemon Kimura, recognized by Guinness World Records as the oldest man in recorded history, has died at the age of 116.

Mr. Kimura died early Tuesday of natural causes in the hospital in his hometown of Kyotango, western Japan, the local government said in a faxed statement. A date for his funeral is yet to be set.

Born on April 19, 1897, when Queen Victoria still reigned over the British Empire, Mr. Kimura dodged childhood killers such as tuberculosis and pneumonia that kept life expectancy in Japan to 44 years around the time of his birth. He became the oldest man in recorded history on Dec. 28, 2012, at the age of 115 years and 253 days. The oldest woman in recorded history, France's Jeanne Calment, died in 1997 at the age of 122.

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

The third of six children, Mr. Kimura was born as Kinjiro Miyake in Kamiukawa, a fishing and farming village sandwiched between the mountains and the Sea of Japan. His parents, Morizo and Fusa Miyake, were farmers who grew rice and vegetables.

According to Mr. Kimura's nephew Tamotsu Miyake, the 115-year-old's birthday is actually March 19. Records say he was born April 19 because an official misprinted the month when records from merging towns were consolidated in 1955, the nephew said.

After finishing school at the age of 14 as the second-best student in his class, Mr. 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 neighbor Yae Kimura.

As his wife's family didn't have a male heir, he changed his name to Jiroemon Kimura, making him the ninth person in the family to bear the name. After retiring, he enjoyed reading newspapers and watching sumo wrestling on television. He sometimes helped his son farm until he was about 90 years old, his grandson's widow, Eiko Kimura, said in an interview in December.

Mr. Kimura was a disciplined, serious man when he was younger, Mr. Miyake said. Even when he drank with his brothers, he would sit straight and keep quiet, Mr. Miyake said.

His wife, Yae, died in 1978 at the age of 74. Four of Mr. Kimura's five siblings lived to be more than 90 years old, and his youngest brother, Tetsuo, died at 100, Mr. Miyake said.

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