Editor's note: Jiroemon Kimura died Wednesday morning.
Time is a tricky thing. It has a way of slipping by when you least notice it. I remember thinking things like 8-tracks were ancient only to find that a whole new generation is on the horizon who’ll think that way about compact discs.
And yet I can only imagine how Jiroemon Kimura feels. At age 116, being the oldest person alive, the oldest man ever and the last living person who was around in the 19th century, you could probably say he’s seen it all.
In fact, let’s take a quick look at a few things Mr Kimura has lived through to get a better appreciation of what it’s like being 116.
In 1897, just as Mr Kimura entered the world, it was bidding farewell to Johannes Brahms, classical (then modern) composer well known for his concertos, sonatas, and of course Brahms’ Lullaby.
When Mr Kimura reached the age of two, his first word could have been “automobile” as that was the year it was popularized courtesy of the New York Times after the French word used to describe these cutting edge transportation devices.
In Mr Kimura’s toddler years, Her Royal Highness Queen Victoria had died at the then-extremely-old age of 81. The first Nobel Prizes were also handed out as a result of Alfred Nobel hearing himself referred to as “the merchant of death” prior to his own death one year before Mr Kimura was born.
Between the ages of five and six, car companies such as Cadillac and Ford were rolling out their earliest models only to be topped by the Wright brothers' first powered flight in 1903.
At age seven, Mr Kimura was far too young to enlist when the Russo-Japanese War broke out. Meanwhile, a wild-haired patent clerk was turning heads with his theory of special relativity.
And when he turned 10, Mr Kimura sadly was too young to have partaken in one of Kirin’s first ever brewed beers having opened that year. He was also probably too young to appreciate the independence of New Zealand, and could have gotten into the newly formed Boy Scouts Association had the trend spread to Japan in time.
As Mr Kimura turned 12, the American Old West as we know it from movies (which in turn had still not been invented) had almost completely faded away with the death of the Sundance Kid. Right around this time, Japan was also finishing off changes in its culture.
After graduating from school, Mr Kimura began work at post offices. At the spry age of 15, he could hear firsthand about the death of Emperor Meiji, the emperor who oversaw the transition of Japan from feudalism into an opened society with a Diet (parliament) that would later allow the country to be driven by an elected government. This would be later punctuated by the death of the last shogun, Yoshinobu Tokugawa.
In 1920, when Mr Kimura turned 23, AM radio was born which may have helped his work as a communications worker in Korea during the following decade. During this time he could hear about the brand new Winter Olympics, a Charlie Chaplin film that was getting a lot of buzz ("The Gold Rush"), or about a plucky young upstart company in Aichi Prefecture called Toyota.
When Mr Kimura returned from Korea, he got married and started building his family of seven children, aided by the invention of penicillin in 1928. Mr Kimura’s children could also be entertained by a young animator’s debut films "Plane Crazy" and "Steamboat Willie."
However, the next year, Mr Kimura would perhaps hear about the stock market crash on Wall Street, not knowing the current boom in Japan was about to follow a similar fate. Nor would he know how it would spur Japan into a war against the USA, a country they were previously (uneasy) allies with in World War I.
And by the time the first atomic bombs were used in the field over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Mr Kimura was already a mature 48-year-old.
Following the three major wars of the 20th century, Mr Kimura continued working in the postal system where he could experience the invention of the television. After 45 years of service, Jiroemon Kimura finally retired – 51 years ago.
His retirement years were spent on a farm where he could read about the developments of microwave ovens, Xerox machines, digital watches, computers, fax machines, the Internet, mobile phones, smartphones, and invisibility cloaks all from his morning paper over a sensible breakfast.
While it seems like men are getting used to living strong into their old age by going to university, running for office, or climbing Mount Everest, we hope that Jiroemon Kimura continues his streak of good health, at least until we get some flying cars up in here.
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