Toru Takahashi, respected photo editor of AP Asia, dies at 62

TOKYO (AP) — Toru Takahashi, a Tokyo-based photo editor and photographer for The Associated Press who has spent his long career meticulously taking pictures and sharing his wealth of knowledge with colleagues, has died. He was 62.

Takahashi, who was being treated for lung cancer, died on Friday just days after returning home from the hospital, according to his wife Mieko Takahashi.

Originally from Kumamoto in southern Japan, he joined AP in Tokyo as an editorial assistant, running errands for photographers and reporters. He learned both English and photography from senior staff and eventually landed jobs as an editor and photographer.

Takahashi was known for his wry humor and tireless attention to detail while on the job preparing his colleagues’ photos for publication.

“Toru was the ultimate pro at the (editing) desk, never stingy, always telling you where and when you went wrong, but always friendly,” said Mark Baker, AP’s photo editor for Australia and New Zealand. “He cared about image service and left a legacy in the region of photographers who know how to use tones and captions.”

Earlier in his career, Takahashi asked his then-boss Chikako Yatabe to send him to a Formula 1 race in central Japan and told AP he would not regret it.

“And just as he promised, he has proven to be an excellent photojournalist at various sporting events as well as in general reporting,” Yatabe said.

During his 36-year career at AP, Takahashi covered a number of important events overseas, including Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997 and the 2002 South Korean presidential election, as well as two Olympic Games – the 2000 Sydney Games and the 2008 Beijing Games – and seven F-1 races, both as editor and photographer.

Yatabe said he inspired many of his peers, not only with his work ethic but also with his wit. “Laughter surrounded him the whole time.”

In a typical editing shift, Takahashi sat hunched over the computer monitor at his desk, a beloved chocolate-covered donut and a cup of coffee by his side as he edited hundreds of photos submitted by photographers from AP bureaus around the world.

He was also a gifted photographer.

In 2016, he captured a memorable moment after Panamanian boxer Luis Concepcion defeated Japan’s Kohei Kono in a WBA super flyweight world title in Tokyo.

“Concepcion suddenly fell into the corner of the ring and climbed up the ropes,” Takahashi wrote in an AP blog. “I thought he was going to play with the crowd a bit, so I pointed my camera at him, but then he jumped off the rope and did a backflip. I didn’t expect him to show such acrobatic celebrations in the ring, but I was fortunate enough to capture an image that shows the contrast between the celebrating champion and his baton standing almost emotionless to one side.”

Takahashi decided to return home instead of staying in the hospital.

“He texted me that he will try to win the fight. Adding, “Home is comfortable.” I wasn’t surprised by his mention of home. He often spoke of his family – mostly with humor. And love,” said Yirmiyan Arthur, an AP photo editor in South Asia.

In lieu of flowers, Takahashi’s children filled his coffin with some of his favorite items, including horse racing brochures, movies, baseball and boxing photos, and the camera bag and shoes he used on reporting trips.

They also performed Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and the theme song from his favorite samurai drama, his wife said.

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