Gerontology Wiki
Gengan Tonaki
Gengan Tonaki
Tonaki at the age of 108
Birth: 30 October 1884
Ibaru, Sashiki, Okinawa, Japan
Death: 24 January 1997
Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan
Age: 112 years, 86 days
Country: JapanJPN

Gengan Tonaki [Japanese: 渡名喜元完] (30 October 1884 – 24 January 1997) was a Japanese supercentenarian whose age is validated by the Gerontology Research Group (GRG). He is currently the oldest validated man ever from Okinawa Prefecture. He was Japan's oldest living man from the death of Gihei Oka on 28 September 1991 until his own death on 24 January 1997.


Early Life

Gengan Tonaki was born in Ibaru, Sashiki, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan to a farming family; he claimed to be descended from the Sho royal family. He was the second-oldest and only boy out of seven siblings; one of his sisters, who was eight years his junior, was still alive at the time of his death. Tonaki attended primary school for four years, and recalled, "I was a rambunctious boy and liked to fight with other boys."

In 1905, to escape the Russo-Japanese War, Tonaki moved to Hawaii and worked on a plantation. He returned to Okinawa in 1915 with three treasures: a pocket watch, bicycle, and torch. Tonaki married a woman called Kame, who was 8 years younger than him, and moved to Hawaii again, where they gave birth to six children, one of whom died young to liver disease. They then moved back to Okinawa while their grandchildren stayed in Hawaii.

During World War II, Tonaki's family was in the middle of a battle in their home town; all except Tonaki and one of his children died. After the war, Tonaki remarried; however, because he and his second wife did not get along, the marriage only lasted three years. She later died at the age of 61, the same age as Tonaki's first wife.

Later Life

Tonaki then worked in a sugar cane field and lived alone. He was optimistic and always welcomed guests, enjoying conversation. He never smoked, but enjoyed alcohol, usually drinking several cans of beer daily until the age of 85, when he developed a hemorrhage, followed by cataract surgery at the age of 88; this led him to feel that full-time farming and living alone was hard. He did, however, farm sporadically until the age of 97, when he sold his land and house and moved to Gushikawa to live with the family of his second son and only living child, with his nephew living about 300 metres away.

Despite the cataract on his right eye, Tonaki's left eye was good enough to read large print from the newspaper.

He enjoyed watching sumo wrestling on TV and listening to the news, Okinawan folk music, and exercise programs on the radio. Tonaki also enjoyed playing the sanshin, an Okinawan instrument. His motto of eating was to always leave a little room in the stomach. There was nothing he particularly disliked eating, but he enjoyed vegetables and meat, which were difficult to obtain when he was younger. He could shave on his own.

Tonaki was flirtatious with the nurses who studied his longevity, saying, "Marriage is wonderful. Why don't we get married?" His secret to longevity was "to value the things around you, eat three meals, but eat only until 80% full". He also said, "Mr. Shigechiyo Izumi lived to be 120 and Emperor Nintoku lived to be 110. I want to die without pain at 110." He also enjoyed talking about red-light districts, old stage plays, playful banter, and mo-ashibi, a Japanese nightly party. As Tonaki aged, he asked a yuta, an Okinawan shaman, to pray for him. He said, "I'd like to live long, but it is God who decides people's life expectancy, so I cannot be sure."

At the age of 107, Tonaki was visited by Kinsan Ginsan, who would later become the oldest verified twins ever; he performed the Okinawan kachashi for them. He celebrated his 110th birthday with his three grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren, all of whom lived in either Okinawa or Hawaii.

Tonaki died of aspiration in Okinawa City, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan on 24 January 1997, at the age of 112 years, 86 days. The day before his death, he had caught a cold. At the time of his death, Tonaki was the third-oldest living man, behind American men Christian Mortensen and Johnson Parks.



Japan's Oldest Living Man Titleholders (VE)

Shozaburo Oda • Tokusaburo Hatsukade • Unknown • Ikumatsu Matsuura • Masakichi Kai • Goro Usuyama • Shizuo Jinjiang • Kokuzo Iwate • Eisaku Takada • Hisaharu Arai • Chojiro Goto • Yozotaro Yoshikawa • Masutaro Sato • Takataro Hiragushi • Mataichi Ono • Shotaro Tanaka • Rinzo Shimizu • Koji Onishi • Inasaku Abe • Mokotaru Osada • Eiju Tsuru • Kiichi Fujiwara • Nisaburo Matsuyama • Shimetaro Hara • Gihei Oka • Gengan Tonaki • Denzo Ishizaki • Sadayoshi Tanabe • Yukichi Chuganji • Kameni Nakamura • Minsho Ozawa • Totaro Murakami • Kohachi Shigetaka • Nijiro Tokuda • Tomoji Tanabe • Jiroemon Kimura • Jokichi Ikarashi • Sakari Momoi • Yasutaro Koide • Masamitsu Yoshida • Masazo NonakaChitetsu WatanabeIssaku TomoeShojiro ShiraiMotoi FukunishiMikizo Ueda