The Wall Street Journal (hereinafter referred to as “WSJ”) newspaper and its online edition are read every morning by business people working around the globe. Tatsuo Ito (50), a 1986 graduate of Chuo University, is a senior correspondent at the WSJ and Dow Jones Newswires in Tokyo. Ito mainly writes articles on Japan’s monetary policy which is part of closely-watched Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policy, or Abenomics. Ito’s articles are read throughout the world.
“There is no need to panic,” says Ito smilingly when giving a message to students who have started job hunting.
After graduating from the Department of International Economics in the Chuo University Faculty of Economics, Ito spent one year studying abroad in America before finding a job in Japan. He also switched careers twice before assuming his current position. His message that “there is no need to panic” seems to be related to his career.
Our interview started by reflecting on Ito’s university student days.
“One part of university life which left a deep impression on me was the seminars,” recalls Ito. “I was forced to switch from the memorization-based study I adopted until high school to study in which I had to think for myself.”
During his first and second year, Ito studied international economics in a seminar taught by Professor Masaru Saito. In his third and fourth year, he learned about management strategy under the instruction of Professor Shoichi Hayashi. “Both professors often admonished me to ‘think for yourself.’”
“In an effort to understand economics, I started reading the Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Japanese newspaper focused on business and economics) to practice thinking for myself at my second year at university,” explains Ito. “However, it took me a while to understand what were written about.”
Even today, Ito and his seminar classmates get together and dine out once a year.
Despite receiving a job offer from a major corporation, Ito didn’t accept the offer and instead decided to leave for the United States after graduation.
“I couldn’t be excited about working in an organization for many years immediately after graduating from university,” he says.
Ito thought about what he could do after going out in society. Even when other students all followed the same path that led toward employment, he did not feel uneasy about his decision.
“I had a strange sense of confidence that everything would be OK,” he recalls.
A turning point
Ito spent one year studying at California State University, Northridge. During the day, he studied English at the university. In the evening, he returned to his host family where he helped by washing dishes and taking care of the dog. His host father worked as a lawyer. “I experienced a relatively well-off American lifestyle,” says Ito. “I was blessed by a wonderful environment. I also remember how well I got along with the children in my host family.”
A turning point came while Ito was studying at the university. He met other Japanese people who had quit their jobs and had come to America to study at the university. “By interacting with these people, I could gradually see what it would be like to work in society,” he explains.
After returning to Japan, Ito found employment at the Tokyo bureau of Reuters, a global news agency with headquarters based in London.
“At first, I didn’t intend to be a reporter,” says Ito.
Upon entering Reuters, he was mainly responsible for inputting financial markets data. After a while, he was given the chances of writing English articles. “I put a lot of effort into writing my articles,” remembers Ito.
This was the beginning of his career as a reporter.
“Although I felt a little bit uncertain about my new career, I never felt uneasy,” reveals Ito. “I was happy to embrace the challenge.”
After spending 12 years at Reuters, Ito moved to Bloomberg L.P., which provides financial data and news for institutional investors. The company’s headquarters is located in New York.
Although Ito had previously written English articles, he chose to write economy stories in Japanese at the second company.
“At one point, I went overseas almost every month reporting on events such as the Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting and the WTO (World Trade Organization),” says Ito. “I also accompanied diplomatic envoys of Prime Minister Koizumi (at that time) and wrote articles on meetings between national leaders.”
Ito traveled everywhere from the U.S. to the Middle East to cover events overseas. Economic news occurs on a global stage with no borders. Ito spent 11 years at the company.
What kind of articles is he writing at the WSJ?
“Now I travel domestically more,” explains Ito. “For example, I write articles by traveling to regional areas to cover a speech of policy board members who determine the monetary policy at the Bank of Japan.” Ito takes about 20 business trips in Japan every year.
Currently, Ito’s reporting is focusing on monetary policy at the BOJ, one of the three arrows of the Abenomics. Ito covered the open lecture given at the Chuo University Tama Campus in October by Kikuo Iwata, a deputy BOJ governor.
“I always try to ask the question ‘why?’” says Ito. His eyes shine as he discusses reporting and articles from a veteran’s point of view. “Constant awareness of issues sometimes leads to finding unexpected answers.”
The skill of a reporter is shown by the questions that he or she asks. Most of the government officials are clever during an interview and prepare answers according to the level of the questions they are asked. “Asking an incisive question which strikes the core of the matter can lead to a big scoop,” explains Ito.
Even today, Ito draws upon the skill of independent thinking which he acquired from Chuo University seminar.
WSJ is known for assembling reporting staff members with top-class writing skills. Ito continues to study even today.
“I keep studying to learn new English words, but, more than anything else, studying is essential for writing quality articles,” he says. “A reporter must keep working hard to stay up-to-date with the ceaselessly changing environment and information. But ultimately…I must admit that I like my work.”
Ito’s coworkers come from the United States, Canada, and Australia. His boss is also non-Japanese. Global markets keep a close eye on English news from Tokyo. “Before writing an English article, I think about the main message of the article in Japanese,” Ito says. He thinks in Japanese and expresses himself in English.
In addition to reporting and writing articles, Ito goes through about 100 email messages every day. He is inundated with messages from research organizations about economic news and press releases. The only time that Ito can relax is the weekend, when economic activity takes a break.
“I’ve enjoyed fishing since I was an elementary school student,” he reveals. “The other day, I caught horse mackerel, mackerel and sand borer in Tokyo Bay. In fact, I caught 35 mackerel, which I enjoyed eating for about 3 days cooked differently. My cats were really happy too!”
Ito offered advice for students who are job searching as they set sail for the vast ocean known as society.
“If you don’t know what you should do, it is best to devote yourself to something which you are interested in,” he advises. “You’re more likely to continue something interesting.”
“There is no need to panic.” For Ito, life is like a marathon.
Born in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1963. Graduated from the Department of International Economics in the Chuo University Faculty of Economics in 1986. Studied for one year at California State University, Northridge, America. Worked at Reuters and Bloomberg L.P., and entered Dow Jones Japan K.K. in 2010. Currently at the Wall Street Journal, Ito is a reporter and senior correspondent.