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

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

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 outlet to focus on Kansai specifically before the internet came around.

In a two-part series on KTO that appeared in The Japan Times in March 1985, columnist Stephanie L. Cook wrote that the magazine fulfilled two goals no other publication of its type was capable of meeting. The first was to provide English-language information about local events to foreign residents, especially recent arrivals, who could not read Japanese. The second was to build a more integrated Kansai-area community of foreigners, especially through its classified ads.

That community would expand beyond its target market, however, and eventually half of its readership was said to be Japanese locals who were drawn to the publication’s unique take on the region it served.

KTO also acted as a local writers’ workshop of sorts. Many who lived in, or passed through, Kansai and later went on to writing careers got their first articles published there. Speaking to The Japan Times in 2007, Jack recalled an episode in which one contributor sent in a piece on Kyoto’s Daitokuji temple, only to have it rejected. The unsuccessful young writer was Jay McInerney, who lived briefly in Kansai before returning to the United States and writing such acclaimed books as “Bright Lights, Big City” and “Ransom.”

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

In addition to KTO, Jack and his wife, Sachiko Matsunaga, were involved with numerous charity projects.They started an NPO called the Kansai Bangladesh Project in 1986, at a time when doing so was still rare in Japan. It ran for 35 years until this past August, supporting members of the Barua community and providing schooling for 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 at Fieldwork Japan, another project that Jack and Matsunaga supported.

“David was one of the most inspiring people I have ever met,” he says. “He had a brilliant, beautiful mind, filled with facts but never a know-it-all — though at times it seemed he did. He was humble, understated, but endlessly curious, with a wicked sense of humor.”

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

“When I first started subscribing, I noticed there was a gardening column,” she recalls, adding that when the columnist had to give it up she came on board. “I met Dave and asked him if anyone was going to continue it, and said that if there wasn’t anyone, I would like to take it on. I wrote it from 1985 till 1995.”

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

“By the time I joined the KTO roster in 1995, David had already been the editor/editor-in-chief for 18 years,” Al-Badri says. “One of his strengths, and a trait which endeared him to many who crossed his path in Kansai from the mid-1970s onwards, was his generosity. This manifested itself most clearly in a willingness to offer people the opportunity to show what they could contribute to KTO, allowing the magazine to steadily evolve from a flimsy ‘community publication’ to become a serious monthly that often ran to 96 pages.

“While there was never any doubt that the magazine operated under his oversight and guidance, he knew how much it meant to aspiring writers and editors to have their names in print or on the masthead. In it for the long haul, he was invariably willing to step back for a time to allow others, some perhaps only in the Kansai for a year or two, the opportunity to edit the magazine for a few months or to pack a few print clippings in their kit bags as they headed home, some never to write much again, others to embark on steady writing careers.”

As Japan’s international community broadens and diversifies in multiple ways, the need for anchors, people who give newcomers chances and provide wholehearted support, grows ever more important. In this regard, and many more, Jack will be missed.

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