Another Asadora: a talk show by Yurie Omi

On August 31, I went to NHK Culture Center at Aoyama-itchome in Tokyo to attend a lecture presentation of Ms. Yurie Omi. As I wrote in this entry, I have been a fan of the NHK Announcer, and once met her at her talk show in Nagoya two years ago. This time it was held in Tokyo and it was much easier to have access to the venue, so I applied to this lecture presentation as soon as NHK Culture Center began selling the tickets.

I took a position just in front of the speech table.

I arrived at NHK Culture Center at 8:30 am. The reception was still closed, and nobody else was there. Only a placard was on the entrance door, asking the guests to form a line to wait. A few minutes after I arrived, a man came. He greeted me, and I talked with him until the entrance opened. He said that he had ever attended such kind of lecture presentations of TV presenters.

The operation of the Culture Center begins at 9:30 am. The shutter opens at around 9:20. For students attending Announcer Yurie Omi’s lesson, please form a line from here to wait.

At 9:20, the entrance door was open, and the staff members of NHK Culture Center came by. One of them led us to the front of the door of a conference room where Ms. Omi was going to make the presentation. He asked us to wait where we were until 10 o’clock.

At 10 o’clock, the conference room door was open, and the staff asked us to get inside. A woman sat at a sign-in desk just beside the door in the room and asked the name of each guest coming in one by one. Then she checked the name in the name list where applicants’ names were printed out to make sure that the guest was registered beforehand.

Each guest was allowed to choose a seat in the conference room on a first-come-first-served basis. Because I was the first comer, I took a position just in front of the speech table where the presenter was going to stand. The room had 150 seats, with 80% occupied at the beginning time. People of all ages gathered there, with a roughly equal amount of men and women.

After the short introduction by the staff, Ms. Omi came into the room at 10:30. She was a short-haired woman wearing a sleeveless one-piece dress that was black with patterns of small red diamonds and large dark navy ones. While she looked short, slim, delicate, and pretty, she made a speech clearly and forcefully.

NHK was the only choice because it still had a job interview

She began her speech with the story of her job hunting. When she started job hunting in April 2011, she was interested in not only broadcasting companies but banking institutions, manufacturing companies, and many others. Unfortunately, it was just half a month after the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami, and most companies stopped recruitment. They were so devastated by the disaster that they were busy with getting back on track.

“NHK was the only choice because it still had a job interview,” she said. “Newscasters of most TV stations were reporting only the news about the disaster at that time. I found myself staying tuned to NHK in such a situation. I realized that broadcasting was important for protecting our lives and property, and I was sure NHK was it.”

Ms. Omi has been one of the most popular NHK presenters in the past few years. From 2016 to 2018, she appeared on NHK News Ohayo Nippon, a morning news show, as well as Bura Tamori, a geological program hosted by Tamori, one of Japan’s renowned personalities. Since April 2018, she has been one of the anchors for morning infotainment program Asaichi with a duo of comedians Hanamaru and Daikichi Hakata.

“What I’m now is because I learned many lessons when I was a rookie,” she said. “My boss was a stubbornly honest woman working very hard and steadily. She taught me to be so humble and sincere a person that people want to work with again. She repeatedly said to me, ‘Nobody can stand alone to complete work in a TV station. We can do a good job because plenty of staff members and viewers help us to do it. That’s why you should be such a person that the staff members want to work with again and the viewers want to watch you again.’”

“There is no Monkey work,” she introduced another lesson she had learned. When she started her career, she worked at a branch office in a rural prefecture. She was ordered miscellaneous tasks that were not what an announcer had to do, such as taking other presenters to a waiting room or arranging catering or cars for them. Because very few members work at such a rural office, even announcers had to do such kind of tasks to get entire work done. She said she had learned that the accumulation of small tasks like those had pleased presenters and had led to the success of a big business.

Next, she revealed how she felt nervous when she was ordered to take over Asaichi from Ms. Yumiko Udo. Because Ms. Udo was one of NHK’s most prominent broadcasters, Ms. Omi worried about being crushed by the pressure and an outcry from viewers of all over Japan after she hosted in place of the legend.

Fortunately, Ms. Omi had many supporters and good advisers pushing her to the new challenge.

“Many people stood by me,” she said. “Mr. Tamori gave good advice to me. He said to me, ‘Don’t try to work too hard. Even if you make some mistakes, don’t reflect on them. You’ll be hosting a program broadcast from Monday through Friday. If you work too hard, your body won’t hold it. If you reflect on your mistakes every time, your mind won’t make it. The same thing never happens again. Take it easy.’

“Also, the head of the Tokyo Announcement Room said to me, ‘None of the viewers think you can do as good a job as Ms. Udo. They are expecting you to fail, struggle, and grow up little by little. You know, Asaichi begins at 8:15 am. It’s just after Asadora that is on air from 8 o’clock to 8:15. Asadora is a drama of woman’s success story, and they want to see another Asadora of you.’”

Thanks to their support and advice, her anxiety seems to be unfounded. Since she started to host Asaichi in April 2018 with Hanamaru-Daikichi Hakata, it has continuously kept over 10% of viewership rates. It is the highest of the programs aired in all TV stations in those hours.

“Mr. Tamori told me to leave it to Hanamaru and Daikichi,” she added. “He said, ‘They are skillful, and they know how to handle the program very well. They’ll do a good job.’”

For her, Tamori is still a mentor in her life, although a year and a half have passed since she stepped down from Bura Tamori. She told us that she had learned these ideas from him and make use of them for the program she now hosts:

  • Don’t always try to draw one conclusion. Not all issues in the world can do it. Stay in the dark, and reconsider it next time, then you may have a better answer.
  • Getting off the track is exciting. A program where things don’t happen as expected is more interesting than that where they do.
  • You don’t need 100 friends. You have only to be with a few friends you can trust.
  • Enjoy working as if you were playing. It is important not to work too hard, but to work as you breathe.

“I want to make Asaichi such a program where viewers and we think together, suffer together, and find out many great ideas together.”

The program she now hosts, Asaichi, mainly targets women of their 40s.

“The aim of it is for providing information to women and discussing what they are worried about, what they want to see, and what they want to know,” Ms. Omi explained. “It’s broadcast live in the ‘almost blue’ studio. Its design images a morning market surrounded by old European building. At the patio in the center of it, presenters are taking part in various kinds of events.”

Ms. Omi emphasized that Asaichi was, unlike most other NHK programs, somewhat cutting-edge. She said that all the cast and staff of it cherished the “viewers first” mindset. Asaichi accepts to receive fax or emails from viewers for real-time feedback when it is on the air. Its directors and announcers try to send particular messages about topics, and viewers sometimes give oppositive comments or unprecedented suggestions to its staff.

“Viewers’ opinions are suggestive,” she told us. “Adopting these opinions to the program helps it increase depth. I want to make Asaichi such a program where viewers and we think together, suffer together, and find out many great ideas together.”

Ms. Omi told us that, through Asaichi, she wanted to work toward a society where diversity was respected. She found out that not only working women but housemakers had their worries.

“The world today is different from what it was in 2010 when Asaichi started, and issues of women are different from those nine years ago,” she added. “I’m broadcasting with my hope of our society being generous and tolerant enough to respect any ways of life. I hope people accept men or women, or anybody with any sexual orientations living true to themselves.”

She also said, “Environment has been changing a great deal as well. Natural disasters occur more frequently. I understand we can’t stop it, but I’m sure we can do something to overcome such difficulties with our wisdom and ingenuity. Since I always consider the next generation, I want to let them take over the Earth as it is clean. To make it possible, I want to think about good ideas from a consumer’s point of view, that is, for instance, what I can do to live without plastics. I welcome your comments.”

She added what she was struggling as a host:

  • To make the program what it is for thinking about topics together with viewers, not for unilateral transfer of information
  • Not just to introduce things and persons, but to help solve problems in them
  • To get used to behavior in front of a TV camera

“One of my favorite phrases by Hisashi Inoue is ‘Say difficult things simply, simple things deeply, deep things funnily, funny things seriously, serious things pleasantly, and pleasant things thoroughly pleasantly.’ I think that’s the way Asaichi is in the future,” she concluded at the end of her speech.

Since I sat right in front of her, I was able to see her facial expressions during her speech. She looked generous to the last. A staff member tried to play viral videos amid her presentation, but he was not used to how to use the blu-ray player and failed to display the right videos on the screen. She did not expose even a momentary feeling of irritation. She looked at him in a lenient manner and waited until he successfully played the videos. I admired her tolerant attitude. I was sure that one of her strengths was the authentic gentleness that attracted talented people around her to help her lead to success.

“Ms. Wakuda is perfect as you may see on TV.”

Asked what she thought one of her nearest rivals out of announcers of similar age was, she answered that Ms. Mayuko Wakuda was what she was concerned.

“I sometimes go for lunch with Ms. Wakuda. I love her so much. She is perfect as you may see on TV. She is super smart, generous, and has a good character. Her fault is, say, lack of faults,” she said.

According to the Friday magazine, Ms. Wakuda had a wedding ceremony and reception in the evening of the very day of Ms. Omi’s lecture. I am not sure if Ms. Omi attended, but I am sure that she is so generous as to celebrate it. I believe that, as long as she has such a good character, she will gain happiness and success, like the final episode of Asadora.

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