Who is Kane Tanaka?

Kane Tanaka, the world's oldest living person, born in 1903, smiles as a nursing home celebrates three days after her 117th birthday in Fukuoka, Japan. Kane Tanaka, born in 1903, smiles as a nursing home celebrates three days after her 117th birthday in Fukuoka, Japan.

The seventh of nine children, Tanaka was born on 2 January 1903, the year the Wright brothers made their first powered flight and the first Tour de France was held. She has lived through the reigns of five Japanese emperors.

She is now the third-oldest person ever, behind Jeanne Calment, a Frenchwoman who died in 1997 at the age of 122, and American Sarah Knauss, who died in 1999 at age 119, according to the US-based Gerontology Research Group.

A worthy title

A 117-year-old woman with a weakness for fizzy drinks and chocolate has become Japan’s oldest person on record, as the country marks a public holiday devoted to its senior citizens.

Kane Tanaka, who had already been recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest living person in March last year, achieved the all-time Japanese age record on Saturday, when she became 117 years and 261 days old.

The supercentenarian, who lives in a nursing home in the south-western city of Fukuoka, beat the previous record, held by another Japanese woman, Nabi Tajima, who died in April 2018 aged 117 years and 260 days.

Japantimes.co.jp added that on Saturday, Fukuoka Prefecture sent commemorative gifts to Tanaka and a congratulatory certificate from Gov. Hiroshi Ogawa through the staff of her care home. She looked happy as she put a blanket over her knees made of Kurume Gasuri, a traditional cotton fabric from the southern part of the prefecture, that was sent to her as a gift, according to the staff.

Living a happy life

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Kane Tanaka

Photo: TheDailyMeal.com

Tanaka, who has not been able to meet relatives due to the coronavirus, has reportedly been passing the time playing a board game with other residents. Tanaka celebrated the achievement with a bottle of Coke – her favourite drink – and wore a T-shirt with her face printed on it that had been given to her by members of her family.

Her grandson, 60-year-old Eiji Tanaka, told the Kyodo news agency that his grandmother was in good health and “enjoying her life every day,” despite restrictions on family visits due to the coronavirus pandemic. “As a family, we are happy and proud of the new record,” he said.

Tanaka is not alone in living past 100. New government figures released ahead of Respect for the Aged Day on Monday showed that the number of Japanese aged 65 and over stood at a record-high of 36.17 million, including 80,450 who are aged at least 100.

Why is the world's oldest person a Japanese?

The number of centenarians rose above 80,000 for the first time, underlining the financial and healthcare challenges posed by the country’s rapidly ageing population, with women accounting for more than 88% of the total, the health ministry said last week. By contrast, the number of Japanese aged 100 or over came to just 153 when the survey was first conducted in 1963.

The over-64s now account for 28.7% of Japan’s population – the highest proportion of any country – according to the internal affairs ministry.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research projects that age group will comprise just over 35% of the population by 2040.

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