The Dawn of Overseas Broadcasting

Major developments in international broadcasting The Dawn of Overseas Broadcasting

1935[International Broadcasting Begins in Japan]-1940s

Major developments in international broadcasting  1935[International Broadcasting Begins in Japan in]-1940s


Major developments in international broadcasting 1950s-70s


Major developments in international broadcasting 1980s-90s


Major developments in international broadcasting 2000-2015

1975-1979 Showa 50-54

From Okinawa Expo to Fall
of Saigon and Lockheed Case

CHRONICLE  >  1975–1979 >  From Okinawa Expo to Fall of Saigon and Lockheed Case  | Radio Japan Begins Overseas Relays

Tables of major events

  • 4/30. Vietnam War ends.
  • 5/7. Queen Elizabeth and her husband visit Japan.
  • 7/19. Expo’75 opens in Okinawa.
  • 9/30. Imperial couple’s 1st visit to U.S.
  • 11/15. 1st G7 Summit

1/31. Japan’s 1st quintuplets born.

7/27. Former PM Kakuei Tanaka arrested in Lockheed case.

9/6. Soviet MiG-25 makes forced landing in Hakodate.

  • 8/17. PM Takeo Fukuda announces 3 foreign policy principles toward Southeast Asia.
  • 9/3. Sadaharu Oh hits world-record 756th homer.
  • 9/28. JAL plane hijacked and forced to land at Dhaka by Japanese Red Army.
  • 5/20. Narita Airport opens.
  • 6/12. Quake off Miyagi
  • 8/12. Japan and China sign peace treaty.
  • China implements reform and open- door policy and seeks “Four Modernizations.”
  • 1/1. U.S., China normalize ties.
  • 2. Iranian Revolution. 2nd oil crisis
  • 3/28. Three Mile Island nuclear accident in U.S.
  • 6/28~29. 1st Tokyo Summit
  • 10. Sines relay station in Portugal begins relaying NHK broadcasts.
  • 10/26. SK president Park Chung-hee assassinated.
  • 12/24. Soviet Union invades Afghanistan. (~1989)
  • Video game boom



April 1975 saw the end of the Vietnam War, a symbol of the Cold War. In July, a world expo opened to mark Okinawa’s return from U.S. rule. In August, PM Takeo Fukuda announced the principles of friendly diplomacy toward Southeast Asia. In the 1970s, Radio Japan aired news and a variety of entertainment and sports programs for Japanese living abroad.

Essay Contest For Okinawa Ocean Expo

Aquapolis, the main site of Okinawa Ocean Expo.

Aquapolis, the main site of Okinawa Ocean Expo.

8/6/77. PM Fukuda heading for an Asian visit (Haneda Airport).

8/6/77. PM Fukuda heading for an Asian visit (Haneda Airport).

In July 1975, the Okinawa International Ocean Expo opened to mark Okinawa’s return to Japan from the U.S. Its theme was “The sea we would like to see.” Thirty-six countries and three international organizations took part. Radio Japan relayed live the opening ceremony in English and Japanese. It also aired programs on the close relationship between Japanese and the sea. Announcers speaking various languages visited pavilions to report on them and visitors’ reactions.

This year marked the 40th anniversary of overseas broadcasting. Radio Japan invited listeners around the world to send in their views on “The sea we want to see” and “Listening to Radio Japan.” Five contest winners were invited to visit Tokyo, the expo site and Kyoto.

Fukuda Doctrine

On August 17, 1977, PM Takeo Fukuda announced three principles of diplomacy toward Southeast Asia while he was visiting Manila. The Fukuda Doctrine says: Japan will never be a military power and will contribute to peace and prosperity throughout the world; Japan will seek heart-to-heart relations with ASEAN as a true friend in not only politics and economics but also social and cultural areas; and Japan will work to build peace and prosperity in Southeast Asia as an equal partner. These have been the guidelines for Japan’s foreign policy in the region since.

Relay Station in Sines, Portugal

1975 and ’76 were turbulent years. The fall of Saigon and the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam made headlines worldwide. The Lockheed payoff scandal shocked Japan. Diverse ways of conveying news to Japanese abroad were called for.

In those days, all of Radio Japan’s broadcasts were transmitted from KDD (now KDDI)’s Yamata Station. But the broadcasts were not reaching some parts of the world well. To solve this problem, Radio Japan began to use an overseas shortwave relay station in October 1979.

The first station used, in Sines, Portugal, belonged to Radio Trans Europe. Radio Japan leased a relay facility there to transmit its broadcasts to Europe and the Middle East. In a letter, a Japanese listener living in Europe said, “It was a joy greater than when I first watched television.” A businessman stationed in the Middle East wrote, “I’m grateful, as it allows me to get the kind of information I could never get here before.”

BCL Boom Arrives

Many people around the world started listening to radio broadcasting regularly when it began in the 1920s. From those early days in Europe and the U.S., listening to shortwave radio broadcasts was a hobby among adults. In Japan during the early 1970s, it became especially popular among teenagers in what was called the BCL (broadcast listening/listeners) boom. Many electric appliance makers introduced BCL radios with stylish designs, good performance and reasonable prices into the professional sphere of world-band radios. They advertised the products with slogans such as, “Shortwave radios, once for a few, now for everybody.” In the pre-Internet age, young people were fascinated by this way of getting information from around the world. Many became BCL fans. They enjoyed collecting verification cards issued by domestic and overseas broadcasters in exchange for reception reports. As the craze took off, many BCL societies were launched. They issued monthly magazines, some with circulations of more than 100,000. Radio broadcasts in Japanese increased. At one point, more than 20 stations around the world offered them.

Interest in the practice began to fade in the mid-1980s, as information media diversified. But in recent years, it is said to have been rising again thanks to earnest BCLs now in their 40s and 50s.

Radio Japan Begins
Overseas Relays


In October 1979, Radio Japan began using overseas relay stations. The first one in Sines, Portugal, was used to improve reception in Europe and the Middle East. Relay stations in Gabon and Canada were later added. This put into operation a well-coordinated relay system conveying broadcasts from Japan to many parts of the world.

A Japanese Language Boom, Half a Million Textbooks Sent to China

10/22/78. Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping in Japan. He promoted a reform and open-door policy.

10/22/78. Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping in Japan. He promoted a reform and open-door policy.

The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. At a Soviet base in Kabul, tanks carrying guns headed for a town (Photo taken in May ’80).

The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. At a Soviet base in Kabul, tanks carrying guns headed for a town (Photo taken in May ’80).

In the 1970s, the number of Japanese living abroad increased sharply from 267,000 in 1970 to 445,000 in 1980. For them and others of Japanese parentage, Radio Japan aired not only news but also popular programs including those featuring sumo bouts and amateur song contests, and an annual music show on New Year’s Eve.

Interest in Japan and its language was also rising. Language-learning programs increased in number and their content was improved.. “Let’s Speak Japanese” became “Easy Japanese,” and was aired in all of the foreign languages offered. Intermediate lessons were also aired in English, Korean and Chinese. Textbooks were made for each and sent free of charge to those who wanted them. In fiscal 1971, 68,000 textbooks in 13 languages were printed and distributed.

In 1978, Japan and China signed a peace treaty. Then vice premier Deng Xiaoping’s visit to Japan was followed by a sharp increase in letters from China, most of which asked for textbooks for “Easy Japanese.” In 1980, Radio Japan sent half a million textbooks to China in a bid to expand its audience in that country.

As of the 80th anniversary of international broadcasting, “Easy Japanese” is still on the air in 17 languages.

Relaying via Overseas, Hard to Start, Hard to Carry On

Relaying via Sines upgraded reception in Europe and the Middle East. But it was only done twice a day for one hour in all. Listeners called for more. So, attention was focused on the Moyabi station in Gabon, West Africa. Its 500 kW-transmitter could reportedly be leased during idle hours. But for how much and under what conditions? In June 1983, a team of seven negotiators flew to Gabon via Paris. They were from NHK, KDD and the foreign and telecoms ministries. They negotiated with government officials and African Number One, which runs the facility. After three days, NHK was allowed to air for five days as a test.

The station is 600 km from the capital, Libreville. Switching domestic flights, the team members carried tapes made for the test. They began with the message “This is the Moyabi Relay Station in the African nation of the Republic of Gabon” in six languages, Japanese, English, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese. Recorded in between the different languages were Japanese folk songs and children’s songs. Local engineers showed interest in Japanese, which they heard for the first time. They asked “What are they saying?” An instant lesson in Japanese began.

In March the next year, the two sides signed a contract. Broadcasting began in April. But the initial joy was short-lived. A thunderbolt during a squall set fire to a microwave relay station, stalling all the relays. It took 10 days to resume broadcasting.