World’s oldest person dies aged 119 in Japan: Woman born in 1903 who kept sharp solving maths problems passes away months after pandemic stopped her taking part in Olympic torch relay
- Kane Tanaka was born January 2, 1903, in the southern Fukuoka region of Japan
- She was born in the same year the Wright brothers first flew their plane
- Ms Tanaka married her husband Hideo a century ago and had four children
- She was officially recognised as the world’s oldest person in 2019
A Japanese woman certified the world’s oldest person has died at the age of 119, local officials said Monday.
Kane Tanaka was born January 2, 1903, in the southwestern Fukuoka region of Japan, the same year the Wright brothers flew for the first time and Marie Curie became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize.
Ms Tanaka was in relatively good health until recently and lived at a nursing home, where she enjoyed board games, solving maths problems, soda and chocolate.
In her younger years, Ms Tanaka ran various businesses including a noodle shop and a rice cake store.
A century ago, she married Hideo Tanaka in 1922, giving birth to four children and adopting a fifth.
She had planned to use a wheelchair to take part in the torch relay for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, but the pandemic prevented her from doing so.
On her 119th birthday on January 2, Ms Tanaka’s family members said she hoped to live to 120.
Kane Tanaka was born January 2, 1903, in the southwestern Fukuoka region of Japan, the same year the Wright brothers flew for the first time and Marie Curie became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize (Tanaka pictured receiving Guinness World Records certificate in 2019)
The world’s certified oldest person Kane Tanaka has died at the age of 119 in Fukuoka, Japan
Kane Tanaka is pictured in 1922 – the same year she married her husband Hideo a century ago this year
Tanaka was recognised as the world’s oldest living person by the Guinness World Records when she was 116 in 2019
When the Guinness World Records recognised Ms Tanaka as the oldest person alive in 2019, she was asked what moment she was the most happy in life.
The woman, who by that time could barely speak, replied with a single word: ‘Now.’
Ms Tanaka’s daily routine was described at the time as including a 6:00 am wake-up, and afternoons spent studying mathematics and practising calligraphy.
‘One of Kane’s favourite pastimes is a game of Othello and she’s become an expert at the classic board game, often beating rest-home staff,’ Guinness said.
Local governor Seitaro Hattori hailed Ms Tanaka’s life after she passed away on April 19.
‘I was looking forward to seeing Kane-san on this year’s Respect for the Aged Day (a Japanese national holiday in September) and celebrating together with her favorite soda and chocolate,’ he said in a statement on Monday.
‘I am extremely saddened by the news.’
The Russo-Japanese War began only a year after Ms Tanaka was born, and in her childhood lived through the final year’s of Japan’s Meiji era, considered to be a transformative period of modernisation.
She was recognised as the world’s oldest living person by the Guinness World Records when she was 116 in 2019.
In 2020 she became the oldest person in Japan at 117 and 261 days old.
According to the Guinness World Records website Ms Tanaka got married to her cousin aged 19 in 1922 and the couple ran a noodle shop called Tanaka Mochiya which sold udon, rice cakes and zenzai.
Her husband and eldest son fought in the second Sino-Japanese War which began in 1937.
Aged 90, Ms Tanaka had cataract surgery. The record-holder also underwent colorectal cancer surgery when she was 103.
Kane Tanaka, born in 1903, smiles as a nursing home celebrates three days after her 117th birthday in Fukuoka, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo January 5, 2020
Kane Tanaka, the world’s oldest woman, died in Japan today. Ms Tanaka’s family is pictured. From left: Hideo Tanaka, Kane Tanaka, Nobuo Tanaka, Tsuruko Kunimasa and Toyoko Nakamura
Japan has the world’s most elderly population, according to World Bank data, with around 28 percent aged 65 or over.
But there are other people who may have been even older than Ms Tanaka.
Late last year China’s oldest person, who claimed to be the oldest person ever, died at a supposed age of 135.
Alimihan Seyiti, from Komuxerik in Shule County in the north-western Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, was born on June 25, 1886, during the imperial Qing dynasty – but this has not been internationally confirmed.
Last summer a woman in Turkey also claimed to have celebrated her 119th birthday, which would make her older than Ms Tanaka.
Turkish media reported that Seker Arslan had celebrated the astonishing milestone surrounded by her family in the northern city of Amasya.
According to her driving licence, she was born on June 27, 1902, making her 119.
The oldest-ever living person verified by Guinness was Frenchwoman Jeanne Louise Calment, who died aged 122 years and 164 days in 1997.
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