Chitetsu Watanabe died on Sunday after suffering a fever, difficulty breathing and being unable to eat, Japan’s nationally circulated newspaper Mainichi reported, citing family sources.
The funeral home handling his services confirmed the sad news on Tuesday, the Associated Press (AP) reports.
The Japanese man, of Niigata, officially became the world’s oldest man earlier this month, receiving a certificate from Guinness World Records at a nursing home in his city on Feb. 12. The previous record-holder was Japanese man Masazo Nonaka, who died last month.
The oldest living woman is also Japanese — Kane Tanaka, who is now 117 years old.
Watanabe is survived by his five children, 12 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild, Mainichi said.
His secret to a long life? Don’t get angry and keep smiling.
The AP reports that Watanabe’s family didn’t immediately answer calls to their home for comment.
Watanabe was born on March 5, 1907 in Niigata in northern Japan, and was the first of eight children born to parents Haruzo and Miya, Guinness World Records reported.
He graduated from agriculture school and went on to work at Nippon Meiji Sugar before moving to Taiwan to help at a sugar cane plantation. He stayed in Taiwan for 18 years and married Mitsue, with whom he had five children.
Watanabe returned to his hometown after serving in the military during the Pacific War in 1944, which marked one of the hardest times for the family.
“Both Chitetsu and Tetsuo told me that getting to places and sourcing food was a struggle,” Yoko, the wife of Watanabe’s first son Tetsuo, told the record-keeping organization. “Having to live under that circumstance with four young children must have been tough.”
He worked at an agriculture office until he retired, and in 1974 he and Tetsuo built a new family home, where Watanabe grew fruits and vegetables until turning 104.
A lover of bonsai, Watanabe grew the small trees and even exhibited them at local museums and art fairs until 2007.
“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,” Yoko told Guinness.
“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.”
Watanabe kept busy at a retirement home doing origami, calligraphy and math exercises, Guinness said, before his death.
He was a mere four years away from becoming the oldest man to have ever lived.
—With files from Associated PressFollow @meaghanwray
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