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

1980-1985 Showa 55-60

Broadcasting More to World Japan’s Voice and Reality

CHRONICLE  >  1980–1985 >  Broadcasting More to World Japan’s Voice and Reality  | 50th Anniversary of International Broadcasting

Tables of major events

  • 6/22. LDP gets landslide victory in simultaneous Lower and Upper House elections.
  • 9/9. Iran-Iraq War
  • 9/25. Program to mark 20th year of general service, “Hello from Tokyo,” aired.
  • Japan’s voluntary auto export restraints to U.S. (4/1981~3/1984)
  • 12/11. “Japan’s Positions, World’s Voices” starts airing overseas.
  • 12/15. Malaysia PM Mahathir proposes “Look East” policy.
  • 6/2~7/20. Essay contest in Japanese for 10th anniversary of normalizing ties with China
  • 7/20. People’s Daily takes up Japan’s screening of school textbooks.
  • 1980s. Bashing of Japanese-made cars in U.S.
  • 4/1983~3/1984. NHK TV drama series “Oshin” aired in Japan, later around world.
  • 5/26. Middle Japan Sea Earthquake
  • 8/21. Philippines presidential candidate Aquino shot and killed.
  • 9/1. KAL plane shot down.
  • 10/3. Mt. Miyake erupts after 21 years.
  • General service aired all day.
  • 4. Relaying via Gabon begins.
  • 6/1. “Telephone In for ‘Japan’s Positions, World’s Views’” aired.
  • 6/7~9. London summit. Special program aired.
  • 7/28~8/12. LA Olympic Games
  • 9/6. SK president Chun Doo-hwan visits Japan.
  • 10/31. India’s PM Indira Gandhi assassinated.



In 1982, a program went on the air in response to letters from listeners. It was “Japan’s Positions, World’s Voices.” This led to various other programs in which listeners participated, such as “A Plaza for Voices” and “Listeners Getting Together.” Radio Japan also sent verification cards to those who sent in reception reports. Through these measures, NHK hoped to have closer ties with listeners.

Japan-U.S. Economic Friction and Japan Bashing

3/81. Smashing Japanese cars amid Japan-U.S. trade friction. Photo :AP/Aflo

3/81. Smashing Japanese cars amid Japan-U.S. trade friction. Photo :AP/Aflo

8/21/83. Philippine President Marcos’s key rival Benigno Aquino assassinated at Manila Airport as he returned from U.S. AP/Aflo

8/21/83. Philippine President Marcos’s key rival Benigno Aquino assassinated at Manila Airport as he returned from U.S. AP/Aflo

4/83-3/84. NHK TV drama series “Oshin” aired in Japan, later aired in 68 countries and territories.

4/83-3/84. NHK TV drama series “Oshin” aired in Japan, later aired in 68 countries and territories.

In the 1980s, Japan’s internationalization progressed rapidly. More than four million Japanese per year went abroad. Five thousand Japanese companies were doing business in other countries. Japan was a focus of world interest and attention. This also caused economic friction between Japan and the U.S. and Europe. While Japan’s exports of automobiles and semiconductors increased, its market tended to be closed to their beef, oranges and other farm produce. In the U.S., Japan bashing was emerging, with some people calling Japan an unfair country.

Ties to Listeners Lead to New Programs

“Japan’s Positions, World’s Voices” was among the programs created based on letters from listeners. Every month, it set a theme and solicited opinions from listeners to hear what the world had to say and seek the world’s understanding of Japan’s positions and views. Radio Japan was getting about 20,000 letters a year about this program from Japan and abroad. Through such programs, it hoped to help dissolve misunderstanding about Japan. The program was later called “A Plaza for Voices,” and continued until 1997. Its themes ranged from diplomacy to various social issues.

Getting Together with Listeners

Radio Japan often organized exchanges with listeners. Its announcers and other staff interacted with them. In South Korea, such gatherings were held in Seoul in 1991, then in Busan, Daejeon and Gwangju. Such events were broadcast live or on tape in the program “Listeners Getting Together.” Now, in the 21st century, listeners are getting together in Thailand, Vietnam, Brazil, China, Tanzania and many other countries around the world. Public recordings for special programs are also held.

TV Drama About Woman Attracts Viewers Worldwide

In 1983, a TV drama about a woman, Oshin, became a big hit. She was born in poverty, but braved her fate and lived a life of her own, overcoming difficulties. The drama was aired in 68 countries and territories. The character won empathy and support across cultures and religions. Radio Japan reported on the drama in Indonesian, Persian, Spanish and many other languages.

”Give Us Better Reception!”

Since the 1960s, many countries began sending information via shortwave international broadcasting. This resulted in sharp increases in frequencies and radio interference. Broadcasters worked to raise power output. Amid that situation, Radio Japan had lost some ground, as the world was already in an age of 250-500 kW power.

”We cannot hear Radio Japan well here. Please give us better reception.” That’s what a Japanese in Malaysia said to a minister from Japan when a delegation of then PM Zenko Suzuki visited ASEAN. This prompted debates and studies in and out of NHK about what to do concerning cost and technology.

There are two ways to improve reception of shortwave broadcasting. One is to use overseas relay stations. The other is to raise the output of transmitters at Yamata Station in Japan. As for relaying via overseas, NHK had begun relaying via Sines in 1979. It added relays via Gabon in 1984 and via Canada in 1986.

As for Yamata Station, four 300-kW transmitters and four 100-kW transmitters were built over four years from 1984. New antennas and related facilities were also set up. This greatly improved reception in Southeast Asia and North America.

50th Anniversary of
International Broadcasting“This is Radio Japan. We are 50 Years Old!”


The year 1985 marked the 50th anniversary of international broadcasting in Japan. Special programs were aired on overseas radio and domestic television. A commemorative exhibition was held at a Tokyo department store. Verification cards were sent to listeners in Japan. In fiscal 1985, a record-high 84,083 letters and reports were sent in from all over the world.

Fifty Years from the Start

6/85. Verification card issued for 50th anniversary of NHK’s international broadcasting.

6/85. Verification card issued for 50th anniversary of NHK’s international broadcasting.

Radio Japan has been issuing various verification cards to interact with listeners worldwide.

Radio Japan has been issuing various verification cards to interact with listeners worldwide.

June 1, 1985, was the 50th anniversary of Japan’s international broadcasting. Daily air hours in fiscal 1985 totaled 40 hours for general and regional services combined. Services in 21 languages were offered.

Various Special Programs Aired

Around June 1st, its birthday, Radio Japan aired various special programs. These included “This is Radio Japan. We are 50 Years Old!,” “A Radithon (Radio Marathon) to Mark Radio Japan’s 50th Anniversary,” “Good Morning, London! Good Evening, Tokyo!” and “Hello! This is Tokyo! An Amateur Song Contest for Foreigners.” Also, jointly with the NHK documentary unit, Radio Japan made and aired “NHK Special: Nippon Beyond Radio Waves.” For this program, Radio Japan invited listeners to send in essays on or pictures of the images of Japan they had conceived through Radio Japan’s broadcasting. It received 700 entries. Some were introduced in the program. About 100 drawings were displayed at a department store in Tokyo.

Radio Broadcasting Useful in TV Age

In the world of media, television grew rapidly. It was an age when overseas incidents were reported almost instantly with images but only in advanced countries. In many parts of Asia, Africa and the rest of the world, many people found radios indispensable. Also, in countries under military or socialist regimes or dictatorships, information was often shut off or limited. So radio broadcasting across borders was extremely valuable. Radio Japan expanded its overseas relays and aimed at broadcasting that could be heard anywhere in the world.

Letters from Listeners Abroad

Radio Japan interacted with listeners a great deal. The staff at the International Department read all of the letters carefully. After making it sure they were about Radio Japan programs, the staff sent verification cards to the senders. The cards were the size of postcards, with colorful photos of tourist spots, traditional events or nature in Japan. They were popular among listeners. Some listeners competed to collect them. In fiscal 1985, more than 80,000 such letters came. They were featured on programs such as “Listeners’ Corner” and “Thank You for Your Letters,” in the writers’ languages.

Global Radio Warfare, Jamming from Behind Iron Curtain

Jamming has always been an untold part of the history of international broadcasting. It is usually done by countries that do not want their people to listen to certain broadcasts. It is done by transmitting huge noises on the frequency used for the broadcasts. This method is said to have started in the 1930s. During World War II, Japan did it using the same frequency as the U.S. Jamming violates the spirit of international treaties. But it was rampant for 40 years until the end of the Cold War. It had been done mostly by Eastern-bloc nations. From the latter half of the 1950s, the Soviet Union and China jammed each other as a result of ideological differences.

The 1980s saw the height of a propaganda battle between East and West in the Cold War. The U. S. and the Soviet Union were the main players. In the 1990s, the Cold War ended, and jamming from the East stopped. But over differences in politics and religions, jamming is believed to be done now in Asia and the Middle East.

Today, jamming is not about radio and particularly shortwave broadcasting alone. The target is satellites. It has been reported that powerful radio waves with the same frequencies are shot at transponders to seize satellites.