Atsuko Chiba, 1986

Atsuko Chiba, 1986

A financial reporter at a time when that was a rare beat for a woman in Japan, Chiba (1940–1987) shocked the nation with her frank columns about her battle with breast cancer

Atsuko Chiba was already an exception of exceptions in Tokyo before she headed for Harvard—a female newspaper reporter for the economics section of Tokyo Shimbun in the 1960s, when Japanese media were still very reluctant to hire women.

The year she spent as a Nieman Fellow changed her life. Bloomberg chief content officer Norman Pearlstine, who hired Atsuko as a stringer for The Wall Street Journal when he was the paper’s Tokyo bureau chief in the early 1970s, remembers Atsuko saying that her Nieman experience gave her the confidence to work for and write about foreigners as well as Japanese. Soon after returning to Japan, Atsuko formed her own company to write reports for foreign financial institutions while writing business stories for foreign publications. She also had the confidence to write about her breast cancer, describing the challenges she faced at a time when talking openly about cancer was taboo. When Atsuko passed away, friends and readers added to her own bequest to the Nieman Foundation to establish the Atsuko Chiba Fellowship.

By Mutsuko Murakama, Tokyo-based journalist and member of the advisory board of the Atsuko Chiba Foundation

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