50 Years of NHK Television

80's a New Age of Scale and Diversity

The first half of the 80's ushered in a golden age of television in Japan. The Silk Road documentary series and the Morning Drama serial Oshin drew unprecedented attention, and current affairs programs were broadcast in prime time, reflecting a growing public demand for TV to deliver insightful information.

Hit programs The silk Road and Oshin

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Simultaneous Lower and Upper House elections: LDP wins
Japan boycotts Moscow Olympics
Iran-Iraq War
47 "war orphans" from China visit Japan
School violence in spotlight
Falklands War
JAL jet crashes in Tokyo Bay
KAL jet shot down
Miyakejima erupts
Benigno Aquino assassinated
Glico-Morinaga Incident
Los Angeles Olympics
Controversial homicide case in Los Angeles
1980 1981 1982 1983 1984
The Silk Road series
CNN starts
HDTV demonstrated overseas
University of the Air
Multiplex broadcasting
NHK color TV contracts reach 30 million/1-inch VTR
NHK uses AMeDAS network
NHK teletext
30th anniversary of TV in Japan
Test broadcasting on BS-1

Acivilization revealed through TV
The NHK Tokushu documentary series The Silk Road was broadcast at the beginning of the 80's, mesmerizing audiences with its electronic synthesizer music and stunning vistas of exotic sunsets and camel caravans.
To the amazement of viewers, TV cameras were able to penetrate the innermost regions of China for the very first time to present images of the ancient Silk Road. This huge-scale project was broadcast over a 10-year period. It was a realization of a TV dream that took seven years of planning and negotiations.

62.9% audience share
The morning drama serial Oshin was broadcast from April 5, 1983. The average audience share for this yearlong presentation was a record 52.6%, with a peak of 62.9%, still the highest figures for a drama program. The nation was riveted.
Oshin (Kobayashi Ayako as young Oshin)
Oshin brought tears to viewers' eyes with its depiction of a woman's battle to survive and succeed. Actress Kobayashi Ayako won a massive following for her portrayal of the young Oshin, staving off hunger with radish gruel as she endures a cruel apprenticeship.
In a survey of one million people carried out by NHK to commemorate the 40th anniversary of TV broadcasting in 1993, viewers were asked which program they most wanted to see again. Oshin was the most popular choice.
At a time when postwar economic growth was reaching its zenith, Oshin reminded people what life had been like just a few decades earlier, and offered a chance to reconsider Japanese history and culture.
  What can TV achieve?
War Orphans: Search for Relatives

War Orphans: Search for Relatives
War Orphans: Search for Relatives (Morning Plaza)
In March 1981, NHK General TV's morning programming sent shockwaves through the nation with coverage of 47 "Chinese war orphans." These were Japanese who, as infants and small children, had been separated from their parents in Manchuria during the confusion at the end of the Second World War. Now they had arrived in Japan to search for relatives, with only the faintest memories of who they might actually be. For a week, NHK presented a daily live program in which these orphans of 36 years were invited to the studio, and information was requested from viewers. Of the 47 people, 30 managed to discover their original Japanese identity. This program continued every year as more war orphans came to Japan until 1999. Those who were able to return to Japan permanently still keep in touch with the NHK staff involved in the program.
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