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The world's oldest person, a Japanese woman, dies a few weeks after celebrating 117th birthday

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TOKYO — The world's oldest person, a Japanese woman, died Wednesday, a few weeks after celebrating her 117th birthday.

Misao Okawa died of heart failure and stopped breathing as relatives and nursing home workers stood by her side and praised her for achieving a long, healthy life, said Tomohiro Okada, an official at her Osaka nursing home.

"She went so peacefully, as if she had just fallen asleep," Okada said. "We miss her a lot."

A 116-year-old American woman, Gertrude Weaver of Arkansas, is now the world's oldest person, according to Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group, which keeps records of supercentenarians. She was born July 4, 1898.

PHOTO: FILE - In this March 4, 2015 file photo,  Japan's Misao Okawa,  then 116, who is recognized as the world's oldest living person by Guinness World Records is celebrated by Ward Mayor Takehiro Ogura at a nursing home in Osaka, western Japan ahead of her birthday on March 5. Okawa died Wednesday, April 1, 2015, a few weeks after celebrating her 117th birthday. (AP Photo/Kyodo News, File) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT
FILE - In this March 4, 2015 file photo, Japan's Misao Okawa, then 116, who is recognized as the world's oldest living person by Guinness World Records is celebrated by Ward Mayor Takehiro Ogura at a nursing home in Osaka, western Japan ahead of her birthday on March 5. Okawa died Wednesday, April 1, 2015, a few weeks after celebrating her 117th birthday. (AP Photo/Kyodo News, File) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT

Okawa, born in Osaka on March 5, 1898, was recognized as the world's oldest person by Guinness World Records in 2013.

She lost her appetite about 10 days ago. Until then, she had been eating well, enjoying her daily cup of coffee and her favorite dishes, including ramen, Okada said.

Okawa, the daughter of a kimono maker, said at her recent birthday celebration that her life seemed rather short. Asked for the secret of her longevity, she responded nonchalantly, "I wonder about that too."

She married her husband, Yukio, in 1919, and they had two daughters and a son. She was survived by four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Her husband died in 1931.

Japan's oldest person is now a 115-year-old Tokyo woman, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. The name of the woman, who was born March 15, 1900, was not released at the request of her family, the ministry said.

Japan has the most centenarians in the world, with more than 58,000, according to the government. About 87 percent of them are women.

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PHOTO: FILE - In this March 4, 2015 file photo,  Japan's Misao Okawa,  then 116, who is recognized as the world's oldest living person by Guinness World Records is celebrated by Ward Mayor Takehiro Ogura at a nursing home in Osaka, western Japan ahead of her birthday on March 5. Okawa died Wednesday, April 1, 2015, a few weeks after celebrating her 117th birthday. (AP Photo/Kyodo News, File) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT
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