David Jack: “One of the Most Inspirational People” in Kansai

David Jack, the jazz and cricket-loving British founder of Kansai Time Out, died of a stroke on September 17, according to his family and friends. He was 83 years old.

David Jack, seen here at a restaurant in Osaka in 2020, helped found Kansai Time Out, a magazine that gave its debut to many writers.

KTO, as the monthly magazine was known, was published between 1977 and 2009, and was one of the region’s most influential and detailed sources of information for the international community – and the only medium to specifically focus on Kansai before the Internet came.

In a two-part KTO series that appeared in The Japan Times in March 1985, columnist Stephanie L. Cook wrote that the magazine served two purposes that no other publication of its kind was able to achieve. The first was to provide information in English on local events to foreign residents, especially newcomers, who could not read Japanese. The second was to build a more integrated community of foreigners in the Kansai region, notably through its classifieds.

However, this community would expand beyond its target market and ultimately half of its readership would be Japanese locals drawn to the publication’s unique take on the region it served.

KTO also acted as a kind of local writers workshop. Many of those who lived in or crossed Kansai and then started writing careers published their first articles there. Speaking to the Japan Times in 2007, Jack recalled an episode in which a contributor sent an article about the Daitokuji temple in Kyoto, only to see it rejected. The unsuccessful young writer was Jay McInerney, who lived briefly in Kansai before returning to the United States and writing acclaimed books like “Bright Lights, Big City” and “Ransom”.

The magazine also scored a scoop, albeit subconsciously, when it put a young foreign aikido practitioner based in Osaka on its December 1979 cover. The martial artist’s Japanese name was Take Shigemichi, he was l one of the few foreign Aikido practitioners at the time. A few years later, Shigemichi returned to the United States and reinvented himself in Hollywood under his real name: Steven Seagal.

In addition to KTO, Jack and his wife, Sachiko Matsunaga, were involved in many charitable projects. They started an NPO called the Kansai Bangladesh Project in 1986, at a time when this was still rare in Japan. It lasted 35 years until last August, supporting members of the Barua community and educating girls from the Marma minority.

“David and Sachiko loved Bangladesh and made many trips there,” notes John Dix, a longtime friend of Jack’s and the resident potter of Fieldwork Japan, another project supported by Jack and Matsunaga.

“David was one of the most inspiring people I have ever met,” he says. “He had a brilliant and beautiful mind, filled with facts but never know-it-all – though sometimes it seemed like he had. He was humble, discreet, but infinitely curious, with an evil sense of humor.

Elizabeth Oliver, who runs Animal Refuge Kansai (ARK), a shelter for abandoned and abused pets, was also a good friend of Jack’s. He supported ARK’s efforts and Oliver remembers helping him land a writing job at KTO.

“When I first started subscribing, I noticed there was a column on gardening,” she recalls, adding that when the columnist had to give it up, she joined her. “I met Dave and asked him if anyone was going to continue, and I said if there was no one I would like to take him back. I wrote it from 1985 to 1995.

Dominic Al-Badri, who wrote for KTO from 1995 to 2009, and was editor from 1997 to 2004, recalls Jack’s efforts for the magazine.

“By the time I joined the KTO roster in 1995, David had already been an editor / editor for 18 years,” Al-Badri said. “One of his strengths, and a trait that made him endearing to many who crossed his path in Kansai from the mid-1970s, was his generosity. This manifested itself most clearly in a desire to offer people the opportunity to show what they can contribute to KTO, allowing the magazine to gradually evolve from a shaky ‘community publication’ to a serious monthly that often had 96 pages.

“While there was never the slightest doubt that the magazine was operating under his supervision and direction, he knew how much it meant for aspiring writers and editors to have their names printed or on the credits. In the long run, he was invariably willing to take a step back to allow others, some perhaps only in Kansai for a year or two, the opportunity to edit the magazine for a few months or wrap up a few. newspaper clippings in their kits as they walked home, some never to write much again, others to embark on a stable writing career.

As Japan’s international community grows and diversifies in so many ways, the need for anchors, for people who give newcomers opportunities and give them full support, becomes increasingly important. In this and many other respects, Jack will be missed.

In a time of both disinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
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