World’s Oldest Man Who Said to Keep Smiling Dies at 112 in Japan

Chitetsu Watanabe

The world’s oldest man died on Sunday, less than two weeks after Guinness World Records awarded him the recognition.

Chitetsu Watanabe, 112, passed away at a nursing home in his native of Joetsu, Niigata Prefecture in northern Japan.

Guinness World Records confirmed Chitetsu Watanabe as the oldest man at 112 on Feb. 12. The calligraphy — which Watanabe had done himself — says “World’s No. 1.” Image via Guinness World Records

Born on March 5, 1907, Watanabe, the first of eight children, worked in the agriculture sector and served in World War II.

Having spent years of his career in a sugar company, Watanabe had a sweet tooth, which he satisfied with brown sugar and other treats that did not require much chewing, such as custard pudding.

Watanabe served toward the end of the Pacific War in 1944. Image via Guinness World Records

Watanabe and his wife, Mitsue, have five children, 12 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. Yoko, the wife of his first son Tetsuo, said that he loved growing all kinds of fruits, vegetables and even bonsai trees. 

“I’ve lived together with him for over 50 years, and I’ve never seen him raise his voice or get mad,” Yoko said, according to Guinness. “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.”


On Feb. 12, Watanabe received the Guinness World Record for being the oldest man at 112 years and 344 days old. At the ceremony, he “clenched his fist in triumph,” according to the Mainichi.

Unfortunately, Watanabe had been unable to eat after the event. He developed a fever and shallow breathing in the days before his death.

Watanabe is reportedly survived by five children, 12 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. Image via Guinness World Records

In January 2019, Watanabe shared his secret to a long life, which was “not to get angry and keep a smile on your face,” CNN noted. With his death, the world’s oldest man is now Issaku Tomoe, 110, while the oldest living person is Kane Tanaka, 117.

A wake organized by Watanabe’s grandson, Tetsuya, will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 27. A funeral is scheduled at 10.30 a.m. the following day at Ceremony Hall Heian in Joetsu.

Feature Images via Guinness World Records

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