The world's oldest person, a Japanese woman, has died 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 an Osaka nursing home.

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

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

A 116-year-old US 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 on July 4 1898.

Ms Okawa lost her appetite about 10 days ago. Until then, she had been eating well, enjoying her daily cup of coffee and her favourite dishes, Mr Okada said.

The daughter of a kimono maker, she 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."