Obituaries: Junichiro Itani, Sumiko Takahara

Junichiro Itani, an internationally renowned anthropologist and professor emeritus at Kyoto University, died of pneumonia at a Kyoto hospital Sunday, his family said Monday. He was 75.

A native of Kyoto, Itani graduated from Kyoto University in 1951. He became professor at the university’s Faculty of Science in 1981 and founded the Primate Research Institute and the Center for African Area Studies, both at the state-run university. Itani also served as a professor at Kobe Gakuin University and president of the Primate Society of Japan.

He began studying wild Japanese macaque in Oita Prefecture when he was young, feeding them and learning to recognize individual monkeys.

His long-term observations revealed the rules and organizational structure of the monkey group as well as its tendency for cultural patrimony. The findings became the basis of other successful studies on monkeys today. In 1958, Itani began studying wild chimpanzees and gorillas in Africa and became a front-runner in primate studies around the world. He also researched ethnic African studies.

In 1984, he received the Huxley Award in Anthropology from the Royal Anthropological Institute in London, often dubbed the Nobel Prize in anthropology, for his studies revealing the ecology and social rules of primates, the subject of many books by Itani.

Sumiko Takahara, former chief of the now-defunct Economic Planning Agency, died of malignant lymphoma Sunday at a Tokyo hospital, her family said. She was 68.

After graduating from Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, Takahara worked as a reporter for the Mainichi Shimbun between 1955 and 1963 before becoming a freelance economic critic. She served as EPA chief under the Cabinet of Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu between August 1989 and February 1990, becoming the sixth woman and the first female nonpolitician in history to join the Cabinet.

In 1995, she was appointed ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Finland, a post she held until 1998.

Takahara, a Tokyo native, in March 1998 also became the first female president of Japanese baseball’s Central League. She stepped down from the post last December after her health began to deteriorate.

Takahara had been hospitalized with mycosis fungoides, a rapidly progressive skin disease, since last August.

Her husband, Tomiyasu, will serve as the chief mourner at the wake today and funeral Wednesday, both of which will be held at Tokyo’s Zojoji Temple.