Tane Ikai was born in the rural district of Aichi, Japan on 18 January 1879. She was the third-born daughter in a family of farmers. She married at the age of 20 and had three sons and a daughter (all four would predecease her). She separated from her husband in 1917 at the age of 38.
On a typical day, Ikai would eat three very basic meals of rice porridge. In 1968, at the age of 89, she moved into a nursing home where she lived for the next 20 years. She played an active role in doing activities at home and enjoyed making pottery and sewing until suffering her first stroke in 1978 at the age of 99. Throughout her centenarian years, she was studied by medical researchers, who observed her overall physical and cognitive health. Until the age of 107, she maintained her independence, and could walk with the aid of a cane. Researchers found that, despite advanced hearing loss occasionally making communication difficult, she showed no signs of dementia. However, she began having memory issues at the age of 108, and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. In 1988, at the age of 109, Ikai suffered another stroke and was moved to a hospital, where she became unable to walk or take care of herself. Following a final stroke at the age of 113, she was left completely bedridden. At the time of her 114th birthday, she was unable to talk, but could nod in reply when spoken to. She died of kidney failure on 12 July 1995 as the oldest recorded Japanese person ever at the age of 116 years, 175 days (her record was broken by Misao Okawa in 2014).
Ikai is the first of only seven Asians to reach 116, the others being Jiroemon Kimura, Misao Okawa, Nabi Tajima, Chiyo Miyako, Kane Tanaka, and Fusa Tatsumi, a milestone all of whom would reach around 20 years after Ikai. She never held the title of the oldest living person as Jeanne Calment (1875–1997) was still alive when she died.