Mao Kobayashi: Japanese cancer blogger dies at 34

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Mao KobayashiImage source, Mao Kobayashi
Image caption,
Mao Kobayashi, pictured during her days as a television anchor, died of breast cancer

A former Japanese newsreader who won legions of admirers after deciding to publicly chronicle her battle with cancer has died of the disease.

Mao Kobayashi, who was named one of the BBC's 100 Women in 2016, died late on Thursday at home in Tokyo, aged 34.

Her husband, famous kabuki actor Ebizo Ichikawa, said in his own blog it was "the day I cried most in my life".

Ms Kobayashi's blog was ground-breaking in a country where people do not like to discuss personal issues.

Like many others, she had initially concealed her battle with breast cancer from public view, scared of "being associated" with illness as she continued to aspire to the ideal of "the perfect mother".

Writing for the BBC last year, the mother-of-two admitted: "I had been blaming myself and thinking of myself as a 'failure' for not being able to live as I had before. I was hiding behind my pain."

It was only after a Japanese media outlet published a story about her illness that she decided to "step into the sunlight" and discovered how much support there was for her in Japan.

Image source, Mao Kobayashi
Image caption,
She found many supporters after deciding to write about her illness online

Ms Kobayashi's last entry onto the blog was posted on Tuesday, describing how she was enjoying the taste of orange juice squeezed by her mother.

She had been hoping at see a performance by her four-year-old on 3 July.

Unfortunately, that was not to be.

Mr Ichikawa, who lost his father, the famed kabuki actor Danjuro Ichikawa XII to pneumonia four years ago, told a press conference on Friday that the family gathered on Thursday after Ms Kobayashi's mother realised her condition had taken a turn for the worse.

"Mao was able to talk the day before yesterday, but yesterday, she was unable to speak. When she passed, she was looking at me. She said 'I love you' and left us."

Image source, Mao Kobayashi
Image caption,
She leaves behind her husband and two small children

Mr Ichikawa said his wife continued to think only of her family and "show them her smile" until the last, adding: "She fought the cancer hard, she thought she could be of help to others if she could cure the illness.

"That's why she started her blog. Because of the media, her illness became public, and in a way, it was a good thing.

"By starting the blog, she could share feelings with those who're fighting the same illness. She was incredible. I know I'll keep learning from her."