The ministry said Tanaka, who was born on January 2, 1903, died on April 19.
Guinness World Records said they were saddened to hear of Tanaka’s death, and said the news of her death was confirmed by chief gerontologist Robert Young, who also helped confirm her record as the oldest living person in 2019.
In a tweet about her death, Guinness World Records said: “She became the oldest person alive in January 2019 at the age of 116 years and 28 days.
“She is also the second-oldest living person ever recorded, after Jeanne Calment who lived to the age of twelve.”
Tanaka’s family said in a tweet earlier this month that she had been very ill recently and was “in and out of hospital”.
Born in 1903, Tanaka married a rice store owner at the age of 19, and worked in the family’s shop until she was 103.
She is a twice cancer survivor and has lived through many historical events, surviving two world wars and the 1918 flu – as well as the Covid-19 pandemic.
CNN previously reported Tanaka as she prepares to take part in the Olympic torch relay ahead of the postponed Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.
The plan was that she would take the torch as it passed through Shime, in her home prefecture in Fukuoka, but she eventually did not participate, due to concerns about Covid-19.
Tanaka was living in a nursing home in Fukuoka. Her family said she kept her mind and body by doing the math and staying curious.
Tanaka’s granddaughter, Junko Tanaka, created a Twitter account in January 2020 to celebrate the lives of centenarians.
She tweeted pictures of her grandmother enjoying treats like cake and soda, and shared her accomplishments and the exchanges she had with her relatives.
CNN previously reported that Junko said of her grandmother, “I may be biased because I relate to her but I think it’s amazing — I wanted to share that with the world and for people to feel inspired and feel her joy.”
In 2020, one in 1,565 people in Japan was over the age of 100 – more than 88% of them were women. Government figures released in July 2020 showed that the average life expectancy for women is 87.45 years compared to 81.4 for men.
Guinness World Records, which announced Tanaka’s death on its website on Monday, said that “the titles of oldest living man and oldest living person (female) are currently being investigated” and that more details will be announced in due course.