TOKYO — Tomoji Tanabe, the world's oldest man, marked his 112th birthday Tuesday by telling reporters he hoped to live for infinity.
Born Sept. 18, 1895, Tanabe was named the world's oldest male after the death of the Puerto Rican Emiliano Mercado Del Toro, who died aged 115 last January.
On Tuesday, the mayor of Miyakonojo City, where Tanabe lives, presented the elder with a bouquet and a letter of congratulations.
When the mayor asked how many more years Tanabe wanted to live, he replied, "for infinity," according to city official Yasuo Yamashita.
With his ascetic lifestyle, Tanabe has a good shot at living for at least a little longer.
A former city land surveyor who lives with his son and daughter-in-law, Tanabe is in good health and is known to guzzle milk. He also keeps a diary, avoids alcohol, and does not smoke.
Japan has one of the world's longest average life spans, a factor often attributed to a healthy diet rich in fish and rice.
The number of Japanese living beyond 100 has almost quadrupled in the past 10 years, with the once-exclusive centenarian club soon expected to surpass 28,000, the government announced in September.
The country's centenarian population is expected to reach nearly 1 million — the world's largest — by 2050, according to U.N. projections.
The rapid increase underscores both positive and negative sides of the country's aging population.
While experts say that there are more active centenarians than before, the rapidly graying population adds to concerns over Japan's overburdened public pension system.
The world's oldest person is 114-year-old Edna Parker of Shelbyville, Ind., who was born on April 20, 1893, according to Guinness records.