Japan's Chitetsu Watanabe confirmed as the world’s oldest man living at 112 years old

By Masakazu Senda
Published
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Chitetsu Watanabe from Niigata, Japan, has been officially confirmed as the oldest person living (male) at 112 Years 344 days as of 12 February 2020.

To celebrate this announcement, an official certificate was presented to him at a nursing home in Niigata, where he currently resides.

He was born on 5th March 1907 in Niigata as the first of eight children of his father Haruzo and mother Miya. 

After graduating from agricultural school, Chitetsu became a staff member of Dai-Nippon Meiji Sugar and moved to Taiwan to help conclude sugar cane plantation contracts there.

Chitetsu (centre) at a sugar cane farm

During his 18 years in Taiwan, Chitetsu married Mitsue and four out of five of their children were born there. He also served in the military towards the end of the Pacific War in 1944.

After the war, Chitetsu returned to his hometown Niigata. According to Yoko Watanabe, wife of Tetsuo, the first son of Chitetsu, it was one of the most difficult times for the family. 

"Both Chitetsu and Tetsuo told me that getting to places and sourcing food was a struggle. Having to live under that circumstance with four young children must have been tough", Yoko said. 

Family photo before leaving for war

Once back in his hometown in Niigata, Chitetsu worked at an agricultural office - a branch of the Niigata Prefectural office - until retirement.

Retirement didn't stop Chitetsu from staying active. In 1974, he and his son Tetsuo had built a new family home. They also had about a hectare worth of farm next to the new home.

Chitetsu, who also moved in with Tetsuo, grew fruits and vegetables of all kinds at the farm  - from potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries, plums. He kept this going until he was 104!

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He also worked on his bonsai until he was set to live in a nursing home. According to Yoko, he had over 100 bonsai trees lined up! He also presented his work at local exhibitions until 2007. 

Owing to his many years working for a sugar company, he loves sweet things. Brown sugar is his particular favourite, but since he has lost his teeth, he enjoys sweets that don't need a lot of chewing, like custard pudding or the cream inside chou à la crème.

At Joetsu City Senior Exhibition (2005) with the mayor of Joetsu City and the chair of the Elderly Association

Chitetsu said in an interview for a  local paper in January 2019 that the secret to his longevity is to "not to get angry and keep a smile on your face". Yoko explained further:

"I've lived together with him for over 50 years, and I've never seen him raise his voice or get mad. He's also caring. When I was working on my patchwork hobby, he was the one who praised my work the most. I think having lived with a big family under one roof, mingling with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren helped keep a smile on his face as well."

Now living in a rest home, Chitetsu is not as active as before. However, until last summer, his daily activity included exercises (as part of rehabilitation), origami, calligraphy and math exercises.

Chitetsu is four years shy of the record for the oldest man ever, which had been held by Jiroemon Kimura (Japan), who was born on 19 April 1897 and passed away aged 116 years 54 days on 12 June 2013.

Kane Tanaka, who is currently the oldest woman living, recently celebrated her 117th birthday in January.