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Kane Tanaka, the World’s Oldest Individual, Dies at Age 119

(Photo Credit: JIJI PRESS/ Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: JIJI PRESS/ Getty Images)

The oldest person in the world has just passed away. Kane Tanaka, who was 119 years old, died in Japan on April 19, 2022. She was the oldest person in the world and the second oldest person ever recorded behind Jeanne Calment, who lived to be 122.

Kane Tanaka in 2019
Kane Tanaka circa 2019. (Photo Credit: STR/ Getty Images)

Kane Ota was born on January 2, 1903, in the village of Wajiro (now part of Higashi-ku, Fukuoka), on the southern island of Kyushu. Her birth year was the same year the Wright brothers became the first individuals to achieve powered flight.

When she was 19 years old, Kane married Hideo Tanaka. They had four children together and later adopted a fifth. She helped run a family business that sold sticky rice, udon noodles, and the Japanese dessert zenzai.

During the Second World War, Kane’s husband was drafted into the Japanese army and sent to fight in the Solomon Islands as part of Japan’s campaign in the Pacific theater. Her oldest son, Nobu, was also sent to fight on the Korean Peninsula and Mongolia during the War. He was captured and put into a POW camp in Siberia, but eventually returned to Japan in 1947.

Kane Tanaka 1923
Kane Tanaka circa 1923. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons via Public Domain)

During the war, Kane kept herself busy by running the family business and opening an udon noodle restaurant at the Japanese Navy’s base in Fukuoka. She continued working at the Navy base after the United States military took it over in 1945.

Although she lived to be 119 years old, she faced several health problems during her life. In 1938, she contracted paratyphoid fever. In 1948, she underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer. In 2006, when she was 113 years old, she underwent surgery for colon cancer.

Kane Tanaka became the oldest living person in the world in January 2019, at the age of 116 years and 28 days. She had planned on participating in the Olympic torch relay for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but ultimately pulled out due to COVID-19 concerns.

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In September 2019, Kane was asked the secret to living so long. Her response was “being myself.” That’s a lifestyle hack we can all get behind!

During her lifetime, Kane Tanaka survived two World Wars, the 1918 influenza outbreak, The Great Depression, and saw the world around her change at a rapid rate. We hope she rests in peace.

Madeline Hiltz

Maddy Hiltz is someone who loves all things history. She received her Bachelors of Arts in history and her Master’s of Arts degree in history both from the University of Western Ontario in Canada. Her thesis examined menstrual education in Victorian England. She is passionate about Princess Diana, the Titanic, the Romanovs, and Egypt amongst other things.

In her spare time, Maddy loves playing volleyball, running, walking, and biking, although when she wants to be lazy she loves to read a good thriller. She loves spending quality time with her friends, family, and puppy Luna!