50 Years of NHK Television

The Message of the medium

NHK's TV news reporting extends to current affairs programs that provide analysis and context for understanding the news in greater depth. With the development of TV documentaries, the quest began to create programs that would harness the full properties of the medium. Program makers sought to answer such questions as, "What message can television send? What can moving images convey?"

Fifty years of insights

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The television vernacular
In November 1957, Japan Unveiled, Japan's first TV documentary series, made its debut.
Yoshida Naoya, a young director inspired by social issues, used audio recording techniques borrowed from radio and adopted a novel approach to the making of documentaries called "hypothesis verification." The first installment employing this approach was New Religions. In the eighth, Jirocho and the Japanese, which presented the reality of the Japanese yakuza underworld, Yoshida highlighted the survival of traditional customs in Japanese society. His pioneering documentaries were a hit with the public.

Quest for documentary TV
In 1964, Japan Unveiled was succeeded by Images of Contemporary Society. In features like Chisso Corporation's Shareholders' Meeting and The Dazzling Blue Sky, the program went beyond the context of social problems and dug deep to expose the inside story. In doing so, it expanded the possibilities of the TV documentary.
Documentary, which started in 1971, offered programs that were linked to current news stories. Using a variety of film techniques, it took a penetrating look at contemporary society.
Features like Sleepless Villagers and The Women of Fusei adopted a direct approach, presenting viewers with the raw experience of the programs' themes. This technique struck a chord with audiences.

Seeds of mighty projects
"Why not bring together all the capabilities we've developed to create a heavy-duty current affairs show for the Sunday evening golden hour?" This idea led to the debut in 1966 of Current Affairs Special, which was aired each Sunday from 9:30 to 10:10 p.m. The format and subject matter were placed under virtually no restrictions. The name changed to Sunday Special in 1970, but the objective of serious, hard-hitting TV journalism remained the same.


Sunday Special employed a wide assortment of presentation techniques including studio debates, multiple live feeds, reports and documentary footage, and it took on such issues as pollution, prices, and agricultural problems. As such, it established a solid foundation for major current affairs programs in the evening, and can be considered the forerunner of NHK Tokushu.

A mirror of the moment
The incisive insights of presenters help viewers make sense of their rapidly changing and increasingly complex society.
Saturday Report, launched in 1982, pioneered a new style for current affairs programs with its rhythmic alternation of recorded pictures and studio commentary, and innovative use of video. The appeal of programs like The Ins and Outs of Automobile Freighters and Indian Merchants in Osaka was their freedom to look at a contemporary issue from any angle as long as it exposed an important facet of the modern world.
This production concept was carried over to the daily program Today's Close-up, which was launched in 1993 with an edition titled "The Russian Crisis."
The commitment to a new theme every day and a knack for picking timely stories enabled the program to respond to viewers' thirst for a deeper understanding of the world around them. The aim of Today's Close-up was to be "a mirror of the moment."
In addition to revealing, viewer-friendly, and informative reporting about what lay behind the news, the program added the expertise of numerous guests who were capably interviewed by Kuniya Hiroko. Today's Close-up earned praise for being an observatory of society, and for its unmatched originality.
After 10 years as a current affairs program for prime time, Today's Close-up has now broadcast over 1,700 features.

Japan Unveiled
Japan Unveiled
The Mysterious Moment (1966)
The Mysterious Moment (1966)
This won Japanese television's first Prix Italia for documentaries. The program explored the point where our mechanical civilization founders on the limits of human capability.
Saturday Report (The Ins and Outs of Automobile Freighters)
Saturday Report (The Ins and Outs of Automobile Freighters)
Images of Contemporary Society (An Adult in Okinawa)Images of Contemporary Society (An Adult in Okinawa)
Images of Contemporary Society (An Adult in Okinawa)
Current Affairs Special
Current Affairs Special
Today's Close-up
Today's Close-up

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