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Married 100 years ago, Japanese record holder dies at 119 years old

AFP, April 26, 2022 6:30PM Kids News

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The world's oldest person, Japanese woman Kane Tanaka, has died at the age of 119. Picture: AFP Photo/Fukuoka Prefectural Government media_cameraThe world's oldest person, Japanese woman Kane Tanaka, has died at the age of 119. Picture: AFP Photo/Fukuoka Prefectural Government


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A Japanese woman certified the world’s oldest person has died at the age of 119.

Kane Tanaka was born on January 2, 1903, in the southwestern Fukuoka region of Japan, the same year American aviation pioneers the Wright brothers flew for the first time and Polish- born physicist and chemist Marie Curie became the first woman to win a Nobel prize*.

c1910. First aeroplane built by the Wright brothers shows off its paces on the Sand Hills of Kittyhawk, South Carolina. (NB: this is not the first flight.). b/w. /aircraft media_cameraThe first aeroplane built by the Wright brothers is seen here being put through its paces in South Carolina, USA, circa-1910. The godfathers of aviation first flew in 1903, the same year Japanese woman Kane Tanaka was born. Picture: file image

Ms Tanaka was in relatively good health until recently and lived at a nursing home, where she enjoyed board games, solving maths problems, soda and chocolate.

In her younger years, Ms Tanaka ran various businesses, including a noodle shop and a rice cake store. She married Hideo Tanaka a century ago in 1922, giving birth to four children and adopting a fifth.

She had planned to use a wheelchair to take part in the torch relay for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, but the pandemic prevented her from doing so.

Opening Ceremony - Olympics: Day 0 media_cameraThe pandemic prevented Kane Tanaka, then aged 118, from taking part in the Tokyo Olympics torch relay as planned. Pictured is Naomi Osaka of Team Japan after lighting the Olympic cauldron at the Opening Ceremony on July 23, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

When the Guinness World Records recognised her as the oldest person alive in 2019, she was asked what moment she was happiest in life.

“Now,” she said.

Her daily routine was described at the time as including a 6am wake-up, and afternoons spent studying mathematics and practising calligraphy*.

media_cameraKane Tanaka was recognised by Guinness World Records as the oldest person alive in 2019 and is pictured here on March 9 that year following the announcement. Picture: JIJI PRESS/AFP/Japan OUT

“One of Kane’s favourite pastimes is a game of Othello* and she’s become an expert at the classic board game, often beating rest-home staff,” Guinness said.

Local governor Seitaro Hattori hailed Ms Tanaka’s life after she passed away on April 19.

Japanese calligraphy experts media_cameraMs Tanaka enjoyed the ancient art of calligraphy until very late in her long life. Picture: file image

“I was looking forward to seeing Kane-san on this year’s Respect for the Aged Day (a national holiday in September) and celebrating together with her favourite soda and chocolate,” he said in a statement on April 25.

“I am extremely saddened by the news.”

Japan has the world’s most elderly population, according to World Bank data, with around 28 per cent aged 65 or older.

The oldest-ever living person verified* by Guinness was Frenchwoman Jeanne Louise Calment, who died aged 122 years and 164 days in 1997.

Jeanne Calment, the world's oldest living person will celebrate her 121st birthday 21/02/96, displays her record at her retirement home in Arles, southern France. The album is titled "Time's Mistress" & will be launched in Canada.  P/ media_cameraJeanne Louise Calment died in 1997 at the age of 122 and retains the record for the oldest-ever person, as verified by Guinness World Records. Picture: file image


  • aviation: relating to flight and the airline industry
  • pioneers: among the people first to do something
  • physicist: scientist of physics, the field that explores the relation between energy and matter
  • chemist: chemistry specialist who studies the composition of matter and its properties
  • Nobel prize: annual international prize for chemistry, physics, medicine, literature, economics and work towards world peace. Someone who has won a Nobel prize is often referred to as a Nobel laureate.
  • calligraphy: the art of beautiful handwriting, especially prized in languages with aesthetic value when written, including Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian and Arabic
  • Othello: a strategy board game for two players using 64 identical game pieces
  • verified: confirmed, proven, substantiated, demonstrated beyond doubt to be the case


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  1. What are two historic things that happened in 1903, the year Kane Tanaka was born?
  2. What did Kane Tanaka enjoy eating, drinking and doing at her nursing home in recent years?
  3. What percentage of the Japanese population is aged 65 and over?
  4. A whole century has passed since Kane Tanaka did what?
  5. How old was Frenchwoman Jeanne Louise Calment when she died in 1997?


1. Cultures and living longer
Japan has the world’s most elderly population. Maybe they hold the secret to living a longer life?

Create a chart comparing Japanese culture, diet, physical and lifestyle factors side-by-side with Australia’s, then choose your top three tips for living a longer life.

Three top tips for living up to 119 like Kane Tanaka:

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Intercultural; Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
From the Kids News article, highlight five things that may have led to Ms Tanaka living a long and healthy life:

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Health and Physical Education; Critical and Creative Thinking

Stretch your sentence
Find a “who” in the cartoon – a person or an animal. Write it down.

Add three adjectives to describe them better.

Now add a verb to your list. What are they doing?

Add an adverb about how they are doing the action.

Using all the words listed, create one descriptive sentence.

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