50 Years of NHK Television

Special Programs

The chance to tackle tough subjects for the first time on TV galvanized the entire NHK organization. Nor was the mission confined to one-shot specials. Through the creation of major series that spanned a year or more, NHK acquired a truly global reach.

Epic series on a global scale

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Japan and the world
In the 1980's, the nation's attention turned to the ways in which society was being distorted by various problems involving land, health care and education. Strained international relations in connection with trade and agriculture also caused concern. The series The Japanese Condition addressed these issues and questioned which way Japan was headed. That Day in Japan, 1995, projected circumstances 10 years down the road, using dramatization techniques to highlight aspects of employment, aging, and health care.
Japan in the World: Warnings from America, broadcast in three parts on successive nights, took a long look at America's impatience and irritation with Japan. This presentation, co-produced with ABC and PBS of the United States, featured such innovations as a U.S. reporter interviewing Americans in a program made for Japanese TV.
The next series was Japan in the World: Who Does the Land Belong To?, which addressed land-related issues in three parts. This evoked a remarkable viewer reaction, with 23,000 calls in three days, and a five-part follow-up series was produced.

Future alert
N-Toku never hesitated to examine problems relating to science and technology, war, natural resources and the environment.
The Nuclear Age revealed the nuclear strategies of the U.S. and U.S.S.R. when they were still locked in the Cold War struggle. The series depicted nuclear war from every angle and assessed the potential for nuclear weapons to prevent future wars.
The World after Nuclear War used the latest TV technologies to present the effects and aftermath of a nuclear war. The program received the Prix Italia along with several other awards.
Sea Lanes: Ocean Defense Strategy introduced submarine sonar technologies and activities of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, focusing on the defense of sea lanes used to transport oil.


The series Warning for the 21st Century considered the future of humanity from the perspective of global coexistence. It called attention to dark clouds gathering over the future of the human race, sounding the alarm about the population explosion, dwindling food supplies and natural resources, environmental destruction and the extinction of species, the collapse of families and alienation of the younger generation.

The Silk Road: a mighty landmark
From the first broadcast of The Silk Road: Distant Chang'an on April 7, 1980, to the airing of the final episode, The Silk Road of the Sea: Return to Chang'an on March 26, 1989, The Silk Road spanned 10 years. At 42 episodes, it was the longest N-Toku series ever undertaken.
The series guided viewers through the Eurasian interior, exploring wilderness, ruins and oases as well as introducing a wide variety of people and customs as it journeyed as far west as Rome. The audience was captivated, and The Silk Road came to be regarded as the quintessential N-Toku production.
The pattern established by The Silk Road served to inspire other major documentaries on cultural and natural wonders, including The Yellow River and The Miracle Planet.

Human dramas
Starting with Quintuplets, a series that chronicled the growth of its eponymous family, NHK Tokushu broadcast numerous "human documentaries" about life and death.
In 1981, Kozue: Age 20 featured Yoshimori Kozue, a girl who was born without arms as a result of thalidomide poisoning. The program followed her experiences from childhood until a trip to Europe in the autumn of her 20th year, revealing her indomitable spirit and positive outlook on life.

Quintuplets: Age Six
Quintuplets: Age Six

Major Programs of NHK Tokushu 1982-88

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