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117-yr-old woman recognized as Japan's oldest ever person

FUKUOKA -- A 117-year-old Japanese woman recognized by Guinness World Records as the world's oldest living person was also certified on Sept. 19 as being Japan's oldest ever person on record.

    Kane Tanaka, a resident of the city of Fukuoka's Higashi Ward in southwestern Japan, reached the age of 117 years and 261 days on Sept. 19, which beat the previous confirmed oldest age ever recorded by Japan's Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry set by Nabi Tajima, from the town of Kikai in Kagoshima Prefecture, also in southwest Japan. Tajima passed away at 117 years and 260 days in 2018.

    Tanaka has apparently been celebrating her second supercentenarian title by savoring some chocolate washed done with a Coca-Cola -- her favorites -- and spoke enthusiastically of her wish to visit the United States.

    In this photo provided by family, Kane Tanaka is seen wearing a shirt that was given to her by relatives to celebrate her recognition as the oldest person on record in Japan, at a nursing home in the southwestern Japan city of Fukuoka's Higashi Ward, on Sept. 18, 2020.

    Tanaka was born on Jan. 2, 1903 -- the year the Wright brothers made their first powered flights -- as the seventh of nine children in the town of Wajiro in Fukuoka Prefecture, now Higashi Ward. She married her late husband Hideo Tanaka at 19 years old, and managed an udon noodle shop on her own after her husband and eldest son Nobuo were sent to the front during the Pacific War. After her husband's repatriation following the war, the couple were baptized as Christians and ran a rice shop together.

    Tanaka has been witness to the five Imperial eras of modern Japan: Meiji, Taisho, Showa, Heisei and Reiwa. Relatives described her as hard-working, strong-willed, and the type to unfailingly fulfill what she sets her mind to doing.

    Her 60-year-old grandson Eiji Tanaka, from Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, said, "It's amazing that she can eat and talk on her own, even now. When she reaches the age of 120 three years from now, my wife will have reached her 60th birthday, so I'd like for us to celebrate together."

    Tanaka lives at a nursing home in Higashi Ward. Although she has not been able to meet relatives due to the coronavirus, she has been spending her days in good health and playing Reversi, a board game she excels at, with fellow residents. It was also announced this year that Tanaka had been chosen as a torch relay runner for the Tokyo Olympics. If the Olympics and torch relay had not been postponed, she would have carried the torch on May 12 from the town of Shime, a suburb of Fukuoka, while being pushed in a wheelchair by her relatives.

    Kane Tanaka, left, is seen enjoying a game of Reversi at a nursing home in the city of Fukuoka's Higashi Ward, southwestern Japan, on July 27, 2020, in this photo provided by family.

    On Sept. 18, a smiling Tanaka raised her hands into the air to show off her T-shirt, given to her by her 23-year-old great-granddaughter and others and that read, "Congratulations on setting Japan's oldest age record." A congratulatory certificate and commemorative gifts from Fukuoka's governor are also set to arrive on Sept. 19.

    The title of Japan's oldest ever person was once held by Shigechiyo Izumi, who died at the supposed age of 120 in 1986. He was also briefly certified by Guinness World Records. However, Izumi's recognition was rescinded as suspicions rose that his birth record was actually that of his elder brother, who had died at a young age.

    According to U.S.-based Gerontology Research Group, an international organization consisting of doctors and scientists, the record for the world's oldest ever person is currently held by Jeanne Calment from France, who passed away in 1997 at 122 years and 164 days. The second-oldest is Sarah Knauss from the United States, who died at an age of 119 years and 97 days in 1999. Tanaka has stepped up to third place.

    (Japanese original by Yusaku Yoshikawa, Kyushu News Department)

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