It is said that people appreciate them, “discover” them when they are gone. It’s not true. I esteemed and appreciated Stefano before even knowing him personally. I read it here, in this newspaper, and I envied it for its ability to “tell”, making it accessible even to the layman, even complicated topics, as specialists, as often happens to those who write about economics. And of Japan, then, a country that the more you know it, the less you understand it.
I have been dealing with Japan, and more generally with East Asia, for over 40 years and I must say that there are few colleagues I have followed with more respect and attention. Always “on the piece”, precise, capable of combining the rigor of numbers with agile, clean writing, but anything but arid. His pieces were beautiful, they made themselves read, from top to bottom, even the longest ones. It is the best compliment that can be paid to each other among colleagues. For years, after we began to cross paths around Asia, and then become inseparable friends, we would send each other our songs, before sending them to our respective newspapers. His were almost always impeccable, it was difficult for me to catch any inaccuracies. Mine, on the other hand, came back full of question marks: errors that he not only pointed out, but diligently corrected. It is not for everyone, especially in the middle of the night, to waste time to correct a colleague’s piece. And I took advantage of it. I preferred to ask him rather than Google. And the answers arrived immediately, precise, and abundant. “I’ll also point out these data – he told me – in case you want to extend or deepen”.
Stefano was generous. A humble person, and of a kind soul. Available to everyone, always and in any case. I always remember him ready to lend a hand, even in moments of greatest tension and physical fatigue, such as when we found ourselves “covering” together the terrible tragedy of the tsunami and the nuclear accident in Fukushima, in March 2011. An experience we have lived together from day one, and that cemented our friendship. We had crazy rhythms, enormous technical and logistical difficulties, yet he was always the last to go to sleep, to offer to drive the van in which we were moving, to wait for a very slow wi-fi to finish sending our services. “Go and rest, come on, I’ll check that everything is fine.” But then in the morning he was the one who got up first and when I arrived for coffee he had already prepared the program for the day.
He was the “mind”, the one who, thanks also to the precious work of Keiko, his “historical” companion who assisted him remotely, as they say today, was looking for the stories, and the best way to tell them. I remember once he didn’t show up for breakfast. We were in Kesenuma, in Northern Japan, one of the cities most affected by the tsunami. The van was also missing, and the cell phone did not answer. I began to worry. He arrived at lunchtime, visibly worn out. A co-worker from Norwegian TV was blocked by snow over 100km in the middle of the night and needed help. He hadn’t thought twice about it: he had just gone to rest but jumped into the van, to go and retrieve his colleague and her cameraman. Thanks Stefano, thanks for having been there and for showing us how we can be good, serious, but also generous and nice. Next Sunday, here in Tokyo, many of us will come together to remember you with much affection.