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NHK, The Radio And Broadcast Corporation Of Japan

2013-01-06


For years I have been captivated by the cultural lure of Japan. Before graduating high school, I was already making mental itineraries and planning when I could study abroad during my university career. I read books on Japanese language, geography, and tradition. Selecting my prospective major in Global Studies with a concentration in East Asia was a complete no-brainer. I found that though I had never taken so much as one step in Japan, I was already in love with the land, and with the people. So when the March 11th earthquake and tsunami struck this country, I turned sick with worry, and overcome with guilt that the Japanese people were suffering while my life continued without a hitch in the United States. I tuned in to CNN and NBC religiously, at least once every twelve hours – any and every broadcast station that might have some news from the Land of the Rising Sun. I scoured headlines in the print of our local paper’s global section, and the online updates from the Associated Press. The news rarely improved, stating widespread destruction and eventually a severe nuclear crisis in Fukushima Prefecture. Even though every story made my heart drop into my stomach, brought tears to my eyes, or kept me awake at night, I drew some comfort from staying connected through the media – even though Japan was an ocean away, I still felt reassured by this trivial sense of contact.
However, my connection soon weakened. Though the nuclear crisis continued to rage, and the death toll continued to rise, Western-world broadcasting stations found more relevant topics on which to report. Conflict in Libya and upcoming GOP debates gradually pushed Japan from the headlines, and I felt as helpless as ever, without a way to check on my people. Days turned to weeks of no word. In a world where no news is rarely good news, I was lost without the media connection I relied on when the disaster first struck in March. But it didn’t take me long to find another way, thanks to the fine communications technology of our age.
During one of my desperate web searches, trying to find news, I stumbled across NHK, the radio and broadcast corporation of Japan. I couldn’t have possibly found a more reliable source so close to the epicenter of the disaster. While NHK was unavailable in terms of television for this captivated American, I found that, in addition to updated information on everything Japanese, NHK World recorded a daily radio podcast in English for its global listeners. After a surprisingly small amount of digging, I discovered an icon that connected me with NHK through Apple’s iTunes network. And just like that, with a simple drag-and-drop, I was receiving the exact status of disaster relief efforts and the Fukushima nuclear crisis each day, just by plugging in my little eight gig iPod Touch. Communication and information technology’s finest advancement over the past decade is the ability to personalize practical handheld devices – cell phones, Blackberries, and iPods – to meet the needs of the individual. Whether it’s keeping up with class work or a busy schedule, forming and sustaining connections with friends, family, and coworkers, or getting the latest news from an ocean away, it’s now all in the palm of your hand.
Companies focused on developing more efficient forms of information technology have been shrinking the original 1970s’ personal computer for decades. Now, in 2011, the world enjoys the luxuries of feather-light models that store unbelievable amounts of data for being such tiny devices. Some of our oldest practices – like keeping up with a schedule or calendar – can now be done anywhere, at any time. Whether we need to schedule an important business meeting or a quick rendezvous with friends, Blackberries, cells, and iPods can be programmed to meet our needs. Gone are the days when we had to go home to check our calendar. Even cute little pocket notebooks have been outdone – most people would rip their hair out in frustration before they could find a notebook smaller than the latest iPhone. And the best part? No pen required.
Even education has benefitted from this new, customizable form of technology. Seeing as we now live in a world where “there’s an App for that,” people can customize their technology to deliver up-to-date information across the disciplines, ranging from interactive periodic tables to recipes for easy, thirty-minute meals. Naturally, as part of my ever-amorous love affair with Japan, I have a dictionary of the Japanese characters that make up their (admittedly complex for a native English speaker) pictograph writing system. This dictionary includes the characters’ readings, examples of sentences utilizing the character, and even animations to demonstrate proper stroke order for drawing the character. It includes all 12,734 Kanji characters, yet still manages to load in about four seconds. Reviewing with this daily will keep me a little further along on the learning curve than my fellow students when I begin taking Japanese class this fall. While I’m probably the only eighteen-year-old within a hundred-mile radius who invests in Japanese-language Apps, I’m not even the only member of my household who takes advantage of the marvelous ability to tailor an iPod or cell – my little brother’s iPod Touch boasts over two hundred gaming Apps, and this count seems to grow on a daily basis. The bottom line is cell phones and other synonymously-small devices constantly evolve to meet the needs of the individual using them.
Let the personalized tailoring continue. In our age of Tweets and status updates, people are all about staying connected. Again, enter iPhones, Blackberries, and cell phones – the communication masterpieces of the twenty-first century. Mobile networks now span to all parts of the world, allowing people to text a family member or phone a friend wherever their travels take them. We can send pictures and videos with the push of a button or the swipe of a fingertip, so now we not only tell our friends where we are – we show them. While I’m still struggling to keep up with the constant advancements in social technology, I understand that now some phones actually allow you to see the person with whom you’re conversing – a sort of cellular Skype. This is a huge jump, since several decades ago we were talking on cell phones the size of a shoe box with a foot-long antenna jutting out the top. And just like with Apps, these devices are equipped with a plethora of media and social resources. A person can download podcasts from across the globe, or simply update his or her Facebook page. It’s the unspoken mantra of today’s handheld technology – whatever you need, whenever you need it.
Over the last few decades, the personal computer has evolved into today’s cell phones, iPods, and Blackberries – master switchboards of information, with unending features from which to choose. We can schedule, learn, play, and connect. We can receive information from around the world, or we can share our world with others, all with a sleek little gadget that fits in our back pocket. All you have to do is press “Power.