Robert Whymant, Foreign correspondent and author

 Robert Whymant, who covered East Asia
for 30 years for a succession of British broadsheets, was killed in the
26 December tsunami disaster while on holiday in Sri Lanka.

Whymant,
60, had been swimming with his Japanese wife, Minako, close to their
hotel near the town of Galle when the tsunami struck.

As they ran
from the beach together, Mrs Whymant was knocked unconscious. Her
husband’s body was recovered from the Indian Ocean five days later.

Born in Luton,Whymant read Oriental Studies at Magdalene College, Cambridge.

He
first went to Japan in the early 1970s, where he parlayed his fluency
in the language and knowledge of the history and culture into a job in
journalism.

Between 1972 and 2002, he was the Tokyo correspondent for The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Times.

During
that three-decade period — which saw a remarkable 14 prime ministers
come and go in Japan — Whymant witnessed the steep rise in the
country’s economic fortunes, followed by its sudden decline.

His
ability to turn the most complicated economic or political crisis into
insightful prose won him admirers among the rest of the foreign press
corps in the Far East, while an unfailing eye for the curious brought
Japan alive for his British readers.

Whymant subsequently
combined writing for the Courier-Mail newspaper organisation of
Australia with lecturing at Tokyo’s prestigious Waseda University, but
it was a 20-year project to give due credit to the Second World War
Soviet spy Richard Sorge that won him most acclaim.

His book,
Stalin’s Spy: Richard Sorge and the Tokyo Ring, was published in 1996,
with a review in The Observer describing it as a “penetrating
biography? in which “Robert Whymant delves into the nether regions of
human betrayal?.

Whymant joined the Foreign Correspondents’ Club
of Japan in 1974, where a memorial event and celebration of his life is
to be held.

His devotion to Mako-chan, an elderly dog of
indeterminate breed who accompanied him at the FCCJ, endeared him the
club’s Japanese staff.

In a statement, club president Anthony
Rowley said: “Robert was a much respected member of the FCCJ and he
will be very sadly missed.? Whymant was cremated in Colombo on 1
January.

Julian Ryall in Tokyo

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