Obituary June 2018

Charles Smith

Gifted, cool and calm with pen and cello


It is with great regret that I report the demise of Charles Smith, one of our longest-serving regular members, who passed away of acute respiratory failure on 18 May. He had been suffering from malignant lymphoma since early 2015.

A classics scholar from Magdalen College, Oxford, Smith developed a taste for reporting from abroad when he worked on the staff of an English-language magazine in Argentina. In 1973 he was posted to Tokyo as Financial Times bureau chief, a position he held until 1984. That year, he joined the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER), which he served until 1995 as Tokyo bureau chief and as regional editor based in Hong Kong.

During his reporting career, which focused on Japan’s politics, economy and business, Smith set the standard for calm, cool analysis. He was superb at his craft and widely respected by his peers and by the many Japanese he encountered during his reporting activities.

After leaving FEER, he wrote for several financial publications, notably Institutional Investor, until he retired from day-to-day journalism. He recently finished writing his memoirs.

Smith was a gifted musician and, despite his illness, continued to play the cello. His musician friends played in his memory at his funeral, held at Waseda University, on 22 May.

He is survived by his wife, their two daughters, his three older children and seven grandchildren.