50 Years of NHK Television
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NHK Tokusyu

In a 13-year run from 1976 till March 1989, no fewer than 1,378 feature documentaries were broadcast as NHK Tokushu. Harnessing NHK's full potential to create programs documenting the age, NHK Tokushu substantially raised the bar for public broadcasting and set a new standard for television journalism.

1,378 cultural assets: priceless legacy of the N-Toku era

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"Something new"
We need some fresh air in this organization. Let's create a new kind of television." With that rallying cry, NHK Tokushu was born as a new approach to program production that broke down invisible walls between departments and marshaled NHK's vast capabilities. To oversee the initiative, the NHK Special Programs Division was created. This division forged a new approach to creating programs, soliciting ideas from all over Japan and harnessing the energy of NHK's entire workforce.
The guiding concepts in this effort were experimentation and exclusives. Experimentation meant aggressively pursuing new techniques and content. Exclusivity meant not only cultivating a sixth sense for a scoop, but also being committed to revealing important issues that had been overlooked. The spirit of "N-Toku," as NHK Tokushu was nicknamed, was to do something new, a phrase that became a lasting watchword for program directors and producers.

Portable video revolution
In 1976 came a technological breakthrough that would change television forever: the introduction of the portable videotape cameras that enabled electronic news gathering (ENG). These video cameras became a key weapon in the N-Toku battle to produce experimental and scoop-oriented programs.
The first N-Toku milestone was Frozen Spring: Journey on the Okhotsk Coast. Footage taken from a Cessna flying over ice floes in the Sea of Okhotsk was made possible by the new portable video camera's ability to make long recordings. Zen Temple: The Eiheiji, which won the Prix Italia for documentaries, delved into the world of Buddhist priests and recorded their ascetic lives on portable video cameras.
N-Toku pioneered a variety of technologies and methods that opened up new possibilities for television.


Re-examining recent history
N-Toku began by turning its attention to historical events that had shaped contemporary Japan, examining the path Japan and its people had followed in their relations with the world. Founders of the Meiji Era painted a portrait of late 19th century Japan, as the nation struggled through treaty revisions and the Russo-Japanese war. Mitsuko recounted the life story of a Japanese woman who embraced internationalism at the end of the 19th century.
In Document Showa and Record of Upheaval, N-Toku traced the events that culminated in the Second World War, exploring Japan's path to war.
Postwar Japan illuminated the roots of contemporary Japan by examining the policies of the Allied occupation's GHQ, while What the World Did: Isomura Hisanori's Tour of Postwar History considered the contemporary significance of events that became turning points in history.

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Early days
Early days
Two major programs laid the foundation for the NHK Tokushu initiative. Our World in the 70's, a 90-min. series aired once a month from 1970-75, roamed the world covering human development and peace issues. Legacy for the Future, a film documentary exploring the contemporary relevance of cultural treasures around the world, was broadcast as a 17-part series in 1974-75. These two programs were the wellspring from which the great N-Toku river flowed.

Major Programs of NHK Tokushu 1976-82

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