Guinness World Records Honors 116-year-old Woman as ‘World’s Oldest Person’

March 10, 2019 Updated: March 22, 2019

Japan’s Kane Tanaka isn’t the oldest person ever to grace the Guinness World Records. But she is now officially the oldest person alive, according to the famed record keepers.

The 116-year-old was born premature on Jan. 2, 1905—the same year that the Wright brothers first achieved powered flight, and while Einstein was busy publishing his theory of special relativity.

Kane (pronounced Kané) is from Fukuoka—a city known for its ancient temples—on the island of Kyushu. She’s lived there for her whole life.

Guinness officially confirmed Kane’s title of “oldest person living” on Jan. 30, 2019. She was presented with a certificate during a ceremony on March 9. To go with the award, she received a box of chocolates. She opened them immediately and started eating.

Later, they asked Kane how many chocolates she ate, and she replied, “One hundred.”

A second title of “oldest woman living” was also presented during the ceremony.

Kane Tanaka during ceremony presentation (Guinness)

Kane (front row, center) with her brothers and sisters (Guinness)

Kane is the 7th child of Kumakichi and Kuma Ota. Just days after her 19th birthday, she married Hideo Tanaka, on Jan. 6, 1922. And, following Japanese custom at that time, Kane hadn’t even met her husband until their wedding day. Together, they had four children and adopted a fifth.

The family business, Tanaka Mochiya, was run by Hideo. They made and sold a variety of grain products such as sticky rice, zenzai (a mung bean and mochi desert), as well as udon noodles.

When duty called in 1937, however, Hideo joined the military to fight in the second Sino-Japanese War. Kane stayed on the home front and became more involved in the family business: polishing rice, making rice cakes, while taking care of the children and her mother-in-law.

Kane with family and relatives. From left: Hideo Tanaka, Kane Tanaka, Nobuo Tanaka, Tsuruko Kunimasa, Toyoko Nakamura (Guinness)

In 1943, their first son, Nobuo, also went off to fight. He was captured and was held by the Soviets until after World War II ended. In 1947, he returned home.

Since then, Kane has lived peacefully in her home in Fukuoka. Over the years, she’s undergone surgery several times, including once for cataracts, and another for colorectal cancer.

More recently, Kane’s day starts at 6 a.m. when she wakes up. In the afternoon, she enjoys studying math. She’s become an expert player of Othello (her favorite hobby) and often beats staff members at her retirement home.

From right: Kane Tanaka, Hana and Nao Sakai (sisters), Kiyoshi Ota (younger brother) (Guinness)
Kane Tanaka poses during ceremony presentation (Guinness)

As far as records go, Kane is still six years shy of being the oldest person ever. That title currently belongs to Frenchwoman Jeanne Louis Calment, who died at the age of 122 (and 164 days). Calment was born on Feb. 21, 1875, and died on Aug. 4, 1997. She’s held the record for the past 22 years.

With any luck, though, Kane still has many more years ahead of her. May she enjoy good health, and hopefully, she’ll be hearing from Guinness again soon enough!

Kane Tanaka poses during ceremony (Guinness)
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