50 Years of NHK Television

NHK Tokusyu A Record of the Times

The 1970's were a period of uncertainty in the shadow of an unpredictable future. NHK organized a major project involving several departments, committing funds, people, and time to the task of recording the contemporary world, analyzing its features and identifying signs of what lay ahead. These efforts were symbolized by NHK Tokushu, which set new standards for broadcasting.

N-Toku, NHK's signature program

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Breaking the ice
Frozen Spring: Journey on the Okhotsk Coast
Frozen Spring: Journey on the Okhotsk Coast
Broadcast in 1976, the first NHK Tokushu, or N-Toku, was Frozen Spring: Journey on the Okhotsk Coast. It was the first major documentary to use a small VTR camera capable of making long recordings. In this case, the camera documented ice floes drifting towards Japan's coast. Much of the shooting was done from a Cessna light aircraft.

"Something new"
The NHK Tokushu project was made possible by breaking down walls within the NHK organization. It also marked a departure from film, using electronic news gathering (ENG) cameras to explore and extend the potential of TV. The key concepts were "experimentation" and "exclusives," ideas expressed economically by the project's slogan, "something new." N-Toku started off at a pace of one broadcast a week.

Major projects
In the 70's, N-Toku took on the challenge of producing various major series. Founders of the Meiji Era and The Western World Today led the way and were broadcast in 1976. They were followed by Postwar Japan in 1977, What the World Did: Isomura Hisanori's Tour of Postwar History and The Nuclear Age in 1978, and Oil: The Unknown Technological Empire in 1979.

 

  Core of TV journalism
The 1970's were a time of growing economic and political globalization, accompanied by amazing breakthroughs in such scientific and technological fields as space exploration, biotechnology and genetics. Increasingly, programs addressed complex global issues whose coverage required substantial cooperative effort. These issues involved not only individuals, but also major corporations and even governments. The scope of themes and objectives had thus grown beyond the limits of conventional documentary production, in which ample time was available for planning and consideration before a given project went ahead. In response to these changing parameters, NHK carried out major organizational reforms in the making of NHK Tokushu, which ran for 13 years until 1989 and resulted in no fewer than 1,378 documentaries.
The program themes could be broadly arranged into four categories. (1) The verification of modern and contemporary history, exemplified by Founders of the Meiji Era, Record of Upheaval, Postwar Japan, and What the World Did: Isomura Hisanori’s Tour of Postwar History. (2) The contemplation of global and domestic issues, as in The Japanese Condition: That Day in Japan, 1995, and Japan in the World: Who Does the Land Belong To? (3) Warnings to mankind in programs like The Nuclear Age and The World after Nuclear War. (4) Major cultural, historical and travelogue series such as The Silk Road, The Yellow River and The Miracle Planet.
NHK Tokushu became the program everyone in TV broadcasting wanted to be involved in—not just the staff of NHK.

New means of expression
In the late 70's, broadcasters began experimenting with a new form of TV using VTR and computer graphics, marking a departure from the conventional studio productions and film documentaries. The program-makers sought to create a new genre that combined qualities of documentary and drama.
Founders of the Meiji Era
Founders of the Meiji Era
What the World Did:Isomura Hisanori’s Tour of Postwar History
What the World Did:
Isomura Hisanori’s Tour of Postwar History
Postwar Japan
Postwar Japan
That Day in Japan, 1995
That Day in Japan, 1995

Information programs

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