Sunday, December 8, 2013
Kimura died of natural causes in the hospital in his hometown of Kyotango, western Japan, at 2:08 a.m. Wednesday, the local government said in a faxed statement. Hospitalized for pneumonia on May 11, over the past few days his response, blood- sugar level and urine production had declined, according to the 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, 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.
Kimura was also the world's oldest living person. That title now goes to Misao Okawa of Japan, who was born on March 5, 1898, according to a list of the world's oldest people compiled by the Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group.
Kimura was among 20 Japanese on the research group's list of 56 people verified to be age 110 or older, highlighting the challenges facing Japan as its population ages. A combination of the world's highest life expectancy, the world's second-largest public debt and a below-replacement birthrate is straining the nation's pension system, prompting the government to curb payouts, raise contributions and delay the age of eligibility.
Japan's average life expectancy at birth is 83 years, a figure projected to exceed 90 for women by 2050. The number of Japanese centenarians rose 7.6 percent from a year earlier, and there are 40 centenarians per 100,000 people in the country, which has the world's highest proportion of elderly, according to Japan's health ministry.
Kimura was born as Kinjiro Miyake in Kamiukawa, a fishing and farming village sandwiched between the mountains and the Sea of Japan. His parents were farmers who grew rice and vegetables. After finishing school at age 14, Kimura worked at local post offices for 45 years until his retirement in 1962 at the age of 65.
As his wife's family didn't have a male heir, he changed his name to Jiroemon Kimura. After retiring, he enjoyed reading newspapers and watching sumo wrestling on television.