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World’s oldest person dies at 119 in Japan who kept solving maths problems

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A Japanese woman certified the world’s oldest person has died at the age of 119, local officials said Monday.

Kane Tanaka was born January 2, 1903, in the southwestern Fukuoka region of Japan, the same year the Wright brothers flew for the first time and Marie Curie became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize.

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.

A century ago, she married Hideo Tanaka 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.

On her 119th birthday on January 2, Ms Tanaka’s family members said she hoped to live to 120.

When the Guinness World Records recognised Ms Tanaka as the oldest person alive in 2019, she was asked what moment she was the most happy in life.

The woman, who by that time could barely speak, replied with a single word: ‘Now.’

Ms Tanaka’s daily routine was described at the time as including a 6:00 am wake-up, and afternoons spent studying mathematics and practising calligraphy.

‘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.

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

‘I am extremely saddened by the news.’

The Russo-Japanese War began only a year after Ms Tanaka was born, and in her childhood lived through the final year’s of Japan’s Meiji era, considered to be a transformative period of modernisation.

She was recognised as the world’s oldest living person by the Guinness World Records when she was 116 in 2019.

In 2020 she became the oldest person in Japan at 117 and 261 days old.

According to the Guinness World Records website Ms Tanaka got married to her cousin aged 19 in 1922 and the couple ran a noodle shop called Tanaka Mochiya which sold udon, rice cakes and zenzai.

Her husband and eldest son fought in the second Sino-Japanese War which began in 1937.

Aged 90, Ms Tanaka had cataract surgery. The record-holder also underwent colorectal cancer surgery when she was 103.

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