TOKYO — The world's oldest person, a Japanese woman on the southern island of Okinawa, has died a week before her 115th birthday, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Kama Chinen, who witnessed three centuries, died Sunday, according to Kaoru Shijima, a spokeswoman at her care facility.
Petite and gray-haired, Chinen spent her final years at a care center in Nanjo on southeastern Okinawa. She was born on May 10, 1895, according to the Gerontology Research Group , which tracks individuals of extremely old age.
Her family guarded her privacy closely, and details regarding her death were not released to the press – many Japanese newspapers didn't even give her name.
Chinen became the world's oldest known person when Gertrude Baines died in a Los Angeles hospital at age 115 in September.
The oldest human is now 114-year-old Eugenie Blanchard, a French woman born on Feb. 16, 1896, according to the research group. The group has validated 75 "supercentenarians" worldwide who are at least 110 years old, according to its website.
Japan has a high percentage of the world's centenarians, many of whom are from the southern Okinawa region.
There were more than 40,000 Japanese over 100 years old when the government released its annual report in September. Over 86 percent of them were women.
By 2050, Japan's centenarian population is expected to reach nearly 1 million, according to U.N. projections.