With Japan’s welfare system buckling under the demands of an ageing society, the world’s oldest man apologised yesterday for his longevity.
As Tomoji Tanabe, 111, received his certificate from Guinness World Records, the former engineer, who never touches alcohol, said that his feat of survival was nothing special. “I have been around too long,” he joked, “I am sorry.”
Tanabe added his customary explanation of how he has managed to reach such a ripe old age: “Not drinking alcohol is the best formula for keeping myself healthy,” he said.
Other residents of his village attributed Tanabe’s long life to a diet that consists chiefly of vegetables and very little fried food.
His explanation fuels a continuing mystery about the ideal formula for longevity – as each new holder of the title is crowned, each attributes his or her success to diets, lifestyles and habits that differ widely. Some have said that fresh air is the key, others have been heavy smokers. Some have taken vigorous exercise, others have sworn by periods of inactivity.
The Mayor of Miyakonojo, the village where Tanabe lives with his family, presented the certificate to its famous resident after nearly five months of birthdate verification by the Guinness World Records team.
Tanabe unofficially inherited the title when its previous incumbent, Emiliano Mercado del Toro, of Puerto Rico, died in January, aged 115.
The crowning of Tanabe, who was born in the southern island of Kyushi in 1895, brings the coveted “double trophy” back to Japan. Yone Minagawa, who lives in the same prefecture, is 114 and holds the title of world’s oldest woman.