Sam Jameson, a former Los Angeles Times foreign correspondent who died Friday in Tokyo at 76, “knew Japan, its culture, its history and its language like few correspondents,” said Alvin Shuster, a former foreign editor for The Times.
Arriving in Japan in 1960 to work for the U.S. military newspaper, Pacific Stars and Stripes, while he was in the Army, Jameson spent a year studying Japanese after his 1962 discharge. He became Tokyo bureau chief for the Chicago Tribune the next year and joined The Times in 1971, heading the paper’s Tokyo bureau until 1996.
Jameson’s spoken and written fluency in Japanese, attained at a time when few Western correspondents in Tokyo had mastered the language, allowed him “to correct translations of official documents” used for his stories, Shuster said. “And he was always right.
“His Japanese was also valuable in cafes in Tokyo where his renditions of old, sad lullabies drove many to order another bottle of sake,” the former foreign editor said. “And I saw that happen.”