Kane Tanaka


The writers of “world’s oldest person” obituaries will never again be able to recycle the old “they were this old when the Wright brothers made their first flight” cliche. Kane Tanaka, who has died at a staggering 119, was the last known person alive to be born before that fateful day at Kitty Hawk. Born in 1903 the day before Hitler’s father died, Tanaka worked as a store owner in her youth, survived cancer twice, and gained minor local celebrity aged 107 after her son published a book about her life. Ascending to the world’s oldest person title in 2018 thrust her fully into the limelight, where her cheerful personality and love of Coca-Cola and chocolate quickly won the hearts of longevity geeks. Japan likewise embraced her, and there were originally plans for her to be a torchbearer at the Tokyo Olympics last year before COVID concerns forced her to withdraw.

Tanaka was an impressive outlier by even supercentenarian standards – only four years since the reign of Jeanne Calment have seen the world’s oldest person at New Year’s survive the year, and three of them were under Tanaka’s watch. It’s in fact the first time an obit for the world’s oldest person has appeared on the current edition of the DDP front page (oh wait, there was Larry King last year…). She became the first person this millennium to reach both her 118th and 119th birthdays, and just days before her death she narrowly inched past Sarah Knauss to become the 2nd oldest verified person in history. If the way longevity circles saw Tanaka as a mythic superhero was a bit much, as someone who has paid attention to supercentenarians for 15+ years, it was genuinely remarkable to see Knauss fall to #3 after all this time.

The world’s oldest person can usually count on being picked by at least a dozen teams, with Tanaka being selected by 17 this time around. As Jeanne Calment retains her Ken Jennings-esque grip on the big longevity records, Carkers Convention 2022 sneaks into the top 5. Other teams who crack open their Coke cans in celebration – it clearly doesn’t hurt the lifespan any – include Are You Still Dying, Darling?, eejit, and Prophet’s Prophecy.

Kane Tanaka
2 January 1903 – 19 April 2022, aged 119
17 TEAMS (💀💀💀 3 POINTS, 🃏 (x4) 6 POINTS)