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Last Updated: Monday, 29 September, 2003, 07:06 GMT 08:06 UK
World's oldest man dies aged 114
Yukichi Chuganji
Chuganji drank milk every day and was an optimist
A retired Japanese silkworm breeder believed to have been the world's oldest man has died at the age of 114.

Yukichi Chuganji's family said he died of natural causes at home on the island of Kyushu - also birthplace of the world's oldest woman, Kamato Hongo, who turned 116 last Tuesday.

Mr Chuganji graduated from technical school at the start of the 20th century.

He drank milk every day, but did not consume alcohol.

There are an estimated 15,000 people in Japan over the age of 100, most of them women.

Last words

Family members said Mr Chuganji died on Sunday evening in his bed in Ogoori City, about 900 kilometres (560 miles) southwest of Tokyo.

He said 'Thank you, it was good,' when Kyoko gave him home-made apple juice... and it turned out (to be) his last words
Yukichi Chuganji's nephew
"(He) passed away on Sunday evening... as he was sleeping," his nephew Tadao Haji was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

Mr Chuganji - who was recognised by Guinness World Records as the oldest man - lived with his daughter, Kyoko, and her family.

"He said 'Thank you, it was good,' when Kyoko gave him home-made apple juice around 1800 (1100 GMT), and it turned out (to be) his last words," Mr Haji said.

He added that his uncle then had become sick and died by the time a doctor arrived.

Greying nation

Mr Chuganji had been in good health, but had not ventured from his bed very often in recent years.

Kamato Hongo (centre)
Kamato Hongo sleeps for two days then stays awake for two days

Born on 23 March 1889, he attributed his own longevity to healthy eating and being an optimist.

"He hates vegetables but loves to eat meat and drink milk," his daughter once said.

She said his favourite meal had been boiled rice mixed with bits of chicken meat.

With Mr Chuganji's death, 108-year-old Kameni Nakamura is now believed to be Japan's oldest man.

However, it remains to be seen if he is also to inherit the mantle of the world's oldest man.

Japan has the world's longest life expectancy - 78 years for men and 80 for women.

But experts say there is a downside in Japan to this otherwise rosy picture of health.

The country is an ageing society with a shrinking workforce, which must support more and more retired people.

Economists are predicting a crisis in the state pension system within a few years, because the benefits being paid out far exceed payments being made into it.

The BBC's Jonathan Head reports from Tokyo
"He was born in the 19th Century and saw in the 21st"

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