"He died peacefully. His family members were with him," said Junko Nakao, a city official in Miyakonojo on Japan's southern island of Kyushu. Tanabe died of heart failure, she said.
Tanabe, who was born Sept. 18, 1895, had eight children — five sons and three daughters. The former city land surveyor also had 25 grandchildren, 53 great-grandchildren, and six great-great-grandchildren, according to a statement from the Miyakonojo city. He was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's oldest man when he was 111 years old.
Tanabe lived with his fifth son and daughter-in-law.
His favorite meals were fried shrimp and Japanese miso soup with clams, the statement said. Tanabe drank milk every morning and read the newspaper. He also avoided alcohol and did not smoke, the statement said.
The city's mayor, Makoto Nagamine, said Tanabe was "the symbol of the Miyakonojo known as a city of long life."
"I feel very saddened by his death," Nagamine said in a statement. "He cheered many citizens."
Japanese people have among the world's longest life expectancies — nearly 86 years for women and 79 years for men — which is often attributed to the country's healthy diet rich in fish and rice.
The number of Japanese living past 100 has more than doubled in the last six years, reaching a record high of 36,000 people in 2008. The country's centenarian ranks are dominated by women, who make up 86 percent of the total.
A British World War I veteran is now the oldest person in the world.