World’s oldest person in Japan celebrates 119th birthday

The world’s oldest person, Kane Tanaka, born a year before the start of the Russo-Japanese War, celebrated his 119th birthday in southwestern Japan on Sunday.

Tanaka, born Jan. 2, 1903 in Fukuoka Prefecture, lived through Japan’s current Meiji, Taisho, Showa, Heisei, and Reiwa eras, and hopes to live to be 120 as an immediate goal, according to his family members. Personalities born in 1903 include British novelist George Orwell, director Yasujiro Ozu, and Japanese poet Misuzu Kaneko.

Kane Tanaka, the oldest person in the world, makes a peace sign in September 2021. (Photo courtesy of Fukuoka Prefecture) (Kyodo)

Tanaka was recognized by Guinness World Records in March 2019 as the oldest person in the world at 116 and also reached an all-time Japanese age record when she reached the age of 117 and 261 days.

Residing in a nursing home in Fukuoka, Tanaka interacts with staff through gestures and often challenges himself to solve digital puzzles. She loves chocolate and soft drinks.

When the centenary received flowers on Respect for the Elderly Day last September by Fukuoka Governor Seitaro Hattori, she expressed her joy by making a peace sign.

Tanaka, the seventh of nine siblings, got married at the age of 19. She supported her family by running a noodle shop when her husband and eldest son went to fight during the Second Sino-Japanese War which began in 1937.

“I would like to personally congratulate her soon,” Tanaka’s grandson Eiji, 62, said. “I hope she stays healthy and has fun every day as she gets older.”


Associated coverage:

Japan’s centenarians hit record 86,500 – over 10,000 for the first time

World’s oldest person in southwestern Japan turns 118



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