Okawa was survived by four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Okawa, born in Osaka's Tenam district on March 5, 1898, was recognized as the world's oldest person by Guinness World Records in June 2013 following the death at 116 of fellow Japanese Jiroemon Kimura.
Okawa married to Yukio in 1919. Her husband died in 1931. Her Osaka nursing home says she lost her appetite about 10 days ago. She stopped breathing as her grandson and nursing home officials attended, Japan Times reported.
Okawa, the daughter of a kimono maker, said at a birthday celebration last month that her life seemed rather short.
Experts attribute Japan's longevity statistics to a traditional low-fat diet, affordable healthcare and generous pensions.
Japan is home to most centenarians in the world, with more than 58,000, according to the government. About 87 percent of them are women.