TOKYO (AP) — Toru Takahashi, a Tokyo-based photo editor and photographer for The Associated Press who spent his long career meticulously capturing images and sharing his wealth of knowledge with colleagues, has died. He was 62.
Takahashi, who was being treated for lung cancer, died 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 members, eventually receiving a job editing and taking photos.
Takahashi was known for his wry sense of humor and his relentless attention to detail, while on assignment and while preparing colleagues’ photos for publication.
“Toru was the ultimate professional on the (editing) desk, never cut corners, always told you where and when you did wrong, but always in a friendly manner,” said Mark Baker, AP’s photo editor for Australia and New Zealand. “He cared about the picture service, and he has left a legacy in the region of photographers who know how to tone and caption.”
Early in his career, Takahashi asked his boss at the time, Chikako Yatabe, to send him to cover a Formula One race in central Japan, saying the AP wouldn’t regret it.
“And just as he promised, he proved to be an excellent photojournalist at various sports events as well as general news coverage,” Yatabe said.
During his 36-year career at AP, Takahashi covered a range of major overseas events including Hong Kong’s 1997 reversion to China and the 2002 South Korean presidential election, as well as two Olympics — the Sydney Games in 2000 and Beijing Games in 2008 — and seven F-1 races, both as an editor and a photographer.
Yatabe said he inspired many of his colleagues, not just with his work ethic but also because of his wit. “Laughter surrounded him all the time.”
On a typical editing shift, Takahashi would sit hunched over the computer monitor at his desk, a beloved chocolate-covered doughnut and a cup of coffee by his side as he edited hundreds of photos filed by photographers from AP bureaus around the world.
He was also a skilled photographer.
In 2016, he captured a memorable moment after Panamanian boxer Luis Concepcion beat Japan’s Kohei Kono at a WBA world super flyweight title bout in Tokyo.
“Concepcion suddenly dashed to the corner of the ring and climbed up the ropes,” Takahashi wrote on an AP blog. “I thought he would play to the crowd a bit so I aimed my camera at him, but then he leaped from the rope and did a backflip. I didn’t expect him to show such acrobatic jubilation on the ring, but I was lucky to capture a frame that shows the contrast between the celebrating champion and his staff standing to the side, nearly emotionless.”
Takahashi decided to return home instead of remaining in the hospital.
“He texted me saying he was going to try and win the battle. And added ‘Home is comfortable.’ I wasn’t surprised of his mention of home. He spoke of his family often — most times with humor. And love,” said Yirmiyan Arthur, an AP photo editor in South Asia.
Instead of flowers, Takahashi’s children filled his coffin with some of his favorite things, including horseracing pamphlets, movies, baseball and boxing photos, and the camera bag and shoes he used on reporting trips.
They also played Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” and the theme song from his favorite samurai drama, his wife said.