Tune into NHK’s BS 1 station some Sunday nights at 9:10 and you’ll see Chiaki Kamakura bringing the world to Japan. As co-host of "Chikyu Agora," Kamakura and her colleagues interact via webcam live with Japanese people living all over the world. “I think Japanese people are basically interested in foreign issues, but they tend to think in a domestic way. We try to make viewers’ minds more open to the world,” says Kamakura during an interview at NHK.
Born in Yaezu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, to a Japanese father and Taiwanese mother, Kamakura had plenty of “international” exposure as a child. Her mother was a teacher at ECC and taught her English. The family traveled abroad a lot, often to the U.S. and Australia. At university, she majored in language policy. “I focused on how languages are controlled due to colonization. I think my family background and what was happening to the Taiwanese language got me interested in the subject,” Kamakura recalls.
She joined NHK in 2001 and was assigned to the Okinawa bureau. “My first job was to report on the battle in Okinawa during World War II. I had to interview a survivor who had created picture books to tell people his experiences. I was just 22 and trying to interview this man who lost his brothers and father, and was still looking for their bones. I couldn’t ask anything about the war or how it affected people’s lives during the 2-hour interview. I just asked him about his picture books. I felt so much pressure.”
Returning to Tokyo, Kamakura was a presenter for other programs before joining "Chikyu Agora" in April. “We interview Japanese about what is happening in their part of the world,” she explains. “The resolution of webcams is not that great but it does enable us to find people who can report from anywhere. At first, we focused on community-based issues, but due to requests from viewers, we now deal with more serious topics such as food crises and Iraq.”
Kamakura also co-hosts a monthly music program NHK BS 2 on Saturdays from 6-6:50 p.m., "Anatano machi de yume," where ordinary people can hire a professional orchestra and perform together with them. “I’m into classical, hip hop and even Chinese music,” Kamakura says of her tastes. “I like singing, too. When I was in Okinawa, I was called the ‘Karaoke Queen.’ I can’t let go of the mic once I get it. I think all announcers must be like that. I often go to a bar in Minami-Aoyama to sing with a live band. I play the piano, violin, oboe and flute, although my level is not professional.”
Kamakura is always working to improve her presentation on TV. “It’s often little things, like how often I nod,” she says. “I get feedback from my mother, too. She recently sent me an email saying my hair was too bright and that I had poor posture. My friends comment on my hairstyle and make-up.” She starts her day around 8:30 a.m. by checking the news. Then she goes to NHK where she gets involved in planning her upcoming programs or does narration work.
Since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Kamakura says she has started following financial news. “I’m most interested in the subprime problem. I’m trying to educate myself on these issues by watching TV programs and reading George Soros’ books.”
Taiwan is another topic of interest. “Where is Taiwan going? In spite of its anti-China attitude, it has become pro-China since Ma Ying-jeou became president. I’m following the domestic reaction among people in Taiwan, which is not reported in Japan,” Kamakura says. “Since I've been to China 10 times, my thoughts toward China have changed. I used to distinguish between Chinese and Taiwanese before, but I now think that’s not good. In the future, I would like to work in a field related to Sino-Japan relations and make use of my ability to speak Chinese.”© Japan Today