Japan’s Eight Years of Broadcasting 

10 March 2023 tbs.pm/76580


Cover of World-Radio

From World-Radio magazine for 1 September 1933

[Although broadcasting did not begin in Japan until 1925, the authorities were alive to its importance and possibilities considerably before that time. In 1923 Japanese experts visited Britain and made a thorough survey of the methods and activities of the B.B.C. They had no hesitation in recommending that the British broadcasting system, with necessary local adjustments, was more suited for Japan than one of commercial broadcasting.]

Nation-Wide Anniversary Speech

(From our Tokyo Correspondent)

MR. JUKURO KADONO, Managing Director of the Tokyo Central Broadcasting Station, celebrated the eighth anniversary of the opening of the JOAK Station (Tokyo) by a nation-wide “hook-up” speech. He gave some of the reasons for what he called the “amazing popularity” of broadcasting in Japan, and in the course of his speech said that there were more than 600,000 registered listeners in Tokyo alone. He also gave a brief history of broadcasting in Japan. The translation of part of the director’s speech is as follows :—

“The first broadcast in Japan was made at the Shibaura Provisional Broadcasting Office on March 22, 1925. When we reflect to-day on the service in the early days, we cannot but be impressed by the vast improvement in programmes, technical equipment, and in the number of listeners.

“At first the authorities did not anticipate that the number of subscribers in Tokyo would exceed thirty thousand. It was soon necessary, however, to correct that under-estimation, for by the time the Japan Broadcasting Corporation was established in August, 1928, with a seven-year scheme of service expansion and unification, there were already 300,000 listeners in Tokyo and 720,000 in all Japan. From then the subscribers have increased at an amazing rate. This has been particularly noticeable during the past two years, and the figures to-day are about twice those of 1928. The approximate total for Japan is 1,400,000, of which 600,000 are in Greater Tokyo. Thirty-eight families per hundred, or 1.2 in each three families, are registered as regular subscribers.

“It is noteworthy that no other public enterprise in Japan has developed more rapidly. It surpasses that of the Japanese Press, which is more than sixty years old, as is also the telegraph service. The country’s telephone and electric light services have worked hard for forty years to attain their present popularity. Even the cinema, which is so popular in Japan, and the development of which has surprised all, is more than thirty years old. Yet, in less than eight years, broadcasting has surpassed them all. Thereis but one explanation of this amazing progress. It is that the service has established the most intimate intercourse with Japanese citizens and their daily life. The J.B.C. has never spared itself to meet the public’s demands. In the early days, for instance, the programme rarely occupied more than six hours per day, between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. To-day, there are eleven hours of programmes between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Educational Transmissions

“Broadcasting has done much for education in Japan. By treating all alike it has guaranteed an equal opportunity for all who seek education. Every effort, therefore, has been made by the J.B.C. to provide educational programmes which will offer useful know ledge and satisfy the people’s growing desire for cultural as well as for moral instruction. It was for this reason that the J.B.C. adopted the dual system of broadcasting, since it specially desires to foster social education.

“No service is prompter than the broadcasting news service. In the remotest corners of agricultural Japan listeners to-day can receive news immediately after the event. It is for this reason especially that broadcasting in Japan is a part of our citizens’ daily life, and its growing popularity is a barometer, so to speak, of the Nation’s cultural development.

“Japan ranks fifth in the world if judged by the actual number of subscribers. When judged by the ratio per family, however, Japan drops to fifteenth in the world, with one radio set to every nine families. Denmark and America have slightly more than one set per two families, and Britain nearly one in every two families. Nevertheless, if our number of subscribers continues to increase, we may safely expect that it will reach 1,800,000 within 1933, and 2,000,000 before the summer of 1934, while it is certain that Tokyo will have one million subscribers within a few years.”


Five men play wind instruments

A studio quintet playing the Shakuhachi, made of bamboo


JOAK To-day

The unique mixture of eastern and western civilisation which is the Japan of to-day made more than its ordinary impression upon me. I touched the beautiful-toned Buddhist gong in the shrine of the second Shogun in Tokyo — “A time-signal for prayer,” as my guide put it in his quaint English — and then, stepping into our waiting car, was whirled up to the summit of the Ataso-yama Hill, there to see in JOAK, the principal wireless station in Japan, the long metal tube on which is sounded the time signal of to-day. (N.B. — I did not sound this one!) Over 1,000 years separate them, but they are in daily use together.

Though in point of size JOAK may be inferior to many of Europe’s chief stations, its situation must surely be among the most beautiful. Built on the highest point of the Ataso-yama Hill, with a magnificent view over the city and bay from its windows, it is a simple two-storied building in rough-cast, one half being circular in shape to accommodate the music, lecture, and practice rooms.

Our guide luckily managed to include us in a party of about a dozen Japanese gentlemen w ho were just waiting for an official of the company to show’ them over the building. While waiting for him, we glanced into the practice room for the artists on the ground floor, the doors and windows all being open, and were gratified by the sight (and sound) of a clarinet player and a flautist rehearsing, while pots of green tea stood by on a little table for their refreshment.

The polite bows of the Japanese gentlemen warned us that our escort had arrived, and we hurriedly joined the tail of the little procession up to the first floor. Here were the Lecture Hall (as it was in use we could not see it); a room with a small dais, used for producing Japanese plays; and the music-room. The green hangings of the dramatic productions room reminded me of those in a studio at Savoy Hill from which the orchestra I used to belong to broadcast two or three times. This room also contained a cottage piano which had been used for the time-signal before it was superseded by the long metal gong.

Coming out on to the landing again, we were shown a large drum made of wide wooden slats covered with canvas. This, its iron handle being rapidly revolved, is used to convey realistic typhoon effects, and its success was enthusiastically endorsed by its Japanese hearers when it was operated for their benefit. They listened, too, with deep interest to other effects — motor horns, whistles, rattles, and the sound of pouring rain made by shaking gravel at the bottom of a large wicker basinette!

Passing on to the music room, we were in time for the midday programme given by the band of the Toyama Military College. All the doors and windows of this room being wide open, we stood in the doorway, as it was a very hot day, and listened in comfort.

The programme, with the exception of an item called Cherry Blossom in the Park, was a very martial one. It consisted of an overture, Alliance, marches, and several marching songs, sung, of course, in Japanese by some of the Cadets, while the others accompanied. The standard of the performance was very good, and we should have liked to hear more of the programme; unfortunately, another engagement limited our time. As we hurried away, we heard the concluding strains of the item we had just been listening to issuing from the loudspeaker which was surrounded by a small, appreciative crowd in the public gardens outside JOAK. This was the first all-Japanese programme that I had heard in Japan, for at the foreign-style hotels at which most tourists stay the wireless musical programmes are nearly all composed of gramophone records by European artists. I gathered that JOAK is always willing to arrange the broadcast of good foreign music, lectures, and so on, so British artists travelling in the East might keep this in mind.

K. B. L.


A Transdiffusion Presentation

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