Kane Tanaka: World’s oldest person dies in Japan aged 119

Tanaka became certified by the Guinness World Records as the oldest living person in 2019

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Monday 25 April 2022 12:06 BST
116-year-old Japanese woman named world's oldest person in 2019
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Kane Tanaka, a Japanese woman certified as the oldest person in the world, has died at the age of 119.

Local officials said Tanaka died of old age in hospital in Fukuoka city, western Japan, on Tuesday last week.

Born on 2 January 1903, Tanaka was confirmed by the Guinness World Records as the oldest living person in 2019.

She was living at a nursing home and was in relatively good health until recently, enjoying playing board games, solving maths problems, drinking soda and eating chocolate.

There had been plans for Tanaka to take part in the torch relay for the Tokyo Olympics in a wheelchair, but she was deterred by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Japan Times reported.

Guinness World Records responded to the news of Tanaka’s death on Monday, noting that she “became the oldest living person in January 2019 at the age of 116 years and 28 days”.

“She is also the second oldest person ever recorded, behind only Jeanne Calment who lived to the age of 122,” the post said.

According to social media posts made by Tanaka’s family on 13 April, she had been “hospitalised and discharged repeatedly”.

Her family said that she had a sweet tooth that persisted into her final years, and that she continued to enjoy chocolate and soda.

Tanaka was quoted in posts by her family as saying: “I was able to come this far with the support of many people. I hope you will continue to have fun, [and be] cheerful and energetic.”

This year marks a century since she married her husband Hideo Tanaka in 1922, and the couple had five children. In her early years she ran a noodle shop and a rice cake store among other businesses to sustain her family.

Her routine in the nursing home included waking up at 6.00am and spending afternoons 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 World Records was quoted by AFP as saying.

Seitaro Hattori, the governor of Fukuoka, hailed Tanaka in a statement marking her death.

“I am extremely saddened by the news,” he said. “I was looking forward to seeing Kane-san on this year’s Respect for the Aged Day and celebrating together with her favourite soda and chocolate.”

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