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IZUTANI Yachiyo, Director, Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) Nara

Born in Osaka Prefecture, after graduating from the School of Human Sciences, Osaka University, in 1981, Ms. Izutani joined NHK. In 1998, she became a chief producer in the Culture Department of NHK Osaka, producing programs such as "Koji Junrei [Old Temple Pilgrimage]," "Kokuho Tanbou [Touring National Treasures]" and programs such as "Kiratto Ikiru [Active Lifesytle]."

In the program, "Oooi Nippon, Osaka [Hey, Japan! from Osaka]," participants grilled an Okonomi-yaki that was 8 meters in diameter, a feat that was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records. In 2005, she began working as a manager of the departments of TV programing and management planning. Then in 2008, she became a manager of the program production department of NHK Osaka and was involved in the production of TV programs such as "Daibutsu Kaigen [Consecration Ceremony for the Great Buddha]," "Rekishi hiwa Historia [Secrets in History]," and serialized television series such as "Teppan" and "Carnation." Since 2011, she has worked as the head of the Nara bureau.

People make mistakes

"People make mistakes," a sentence from Industrial Behavior at the School of Human Sciences is still inscribed in Ms. Izutani's memory. She said, "Broadcasting people are not allowed to make mistakes, but we are human so we make mistakes. When we make a mistake, it's important for us to know what caused it. So I often tell young staff, "I won't criticize you for the scar on your forehead, but I will be angry for scars on your back. If you confront difficulties with your full power and make mistakes, I will support you. But if you make a mistake because you looked away from the challenge in order to save yourself, I will deal harshly with you."

Under the guidance from Professor Tsutomu SHIOBARA, she studied sociology. Soon after she joined NHK, she asked him for advice when looking for guests for her radio progam. At that time she had a poor network of personal connections. She said, "Looking back at those days, I am thankful for my alma mater. An alma mater is like a mother."

As a student, she also worked hard in the English Speaking Society (ESS). She participated in debates in English. She says, "In debating, one side often prevails over the other side by being more persuasive, but the actual goal of debating is to train one's thinking skills. Through the training, I acquired a basic attitude of journalist, thinking objectively from multiple viewpoints." In the summer camp as a freshman, she devoted herself to a debate on the topic of "Nuclear power plants should be abolished."

Held up her fists as a valedictorian

The April 1981 issue of Osaka University Gazette (the predecessor of the public relations magazine Handai NOW) tells of an episode in which, serving as a class representative, she held up her fists after receiving her diploma. "My friends added to the atmosphere by scattering confetti and holding up a banner making a stir ripple through the hall." Following the ceremony, then dean Professor Kazue KOUDA said, "The president is angry with you. Go apologize to him." However, she ended up having a happy photo session with Prof. Kouda and President Yuichi YAMAMURA.

Social mission of journalism

She liked movies as a student. She wanted to land a movie-related job. She looked for a position, focusing on ones in TV broadcasting companies. At that time, production departments in all broadcasting companies except for NHK didn't employ women. After she watched an NHK documentary program, she became determined to join NHK. The program had dealt with discrimination against foreigners and bullying foreigners. Overwhelmed by the visual appeal of the program, she desired greatly to make such a program herself. It was a program that changed her life.

After serving as a program director, she got involved as a producer in making programs about the welfare system in Japan. One program she produced was the first program produced from the viewpoint of the disabled. The program depicted the hardships of a young man in a wheelchair who tried to get a girl in a club for his girlfriend was broadcast, she received an email thank you letter from a viewer which said, "I have been world-weary, but the program gave me hope to continue living." The disabled young man's life-size struggle must have been conveyed through this program.

"Media people have a sense of mission, wanting to convey emotion and real information through their reports," she said. "When we understand the importance of conveying something, we can face any challenge." There are many staff members who make efforts with such missions in their minds. This is what she loves about NHK.

As a leader of NHK Nara, it is customary for Ms. Izutani to do one thing for staff members working for her: She serves tea to them as the host in a tea ceremony. Such times are also times for a face-to-face conversation with them. In the ceremony, she uses powdered green tea, sweets, tea making-utensils, and tea bowls, all made in Nara. "They are working hard. That's why they are sometimes confused and worried. We face many types of challenges," she said. Staff members are close to Ms. Izutani, who places a lot of importance on these times when they open up and talk with each other about their concerns.

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Deliver something to enrich people's minds

NHK Nara collects information ranging from small town topics to large-scale happenings. It also focuses on special programs regarding the reconstruction of the Yoshino region extensively damaged by the typhoon in September 2011. She is also engaged in the "Spiritual City of Nara Project" in cooperation with people supporting Nara Prefecture. She believes that there must be something that only Nara can provide Japan following the Great East Japan Earthquake.

She said, "Nara has been through rough times many times, but recovered every time. Taira no Kiyomori (1118 ~ 1181) completely destroyed Nara by burning the city. However, in the Kamakura Period (around 1185 ~ 1333), Nara flowered in a cultural renaissance by famous sculptors such as Unkei and Kaikei. Nara is a special place filled with vitality." She directs her energy to introducing culture and the spiritual climate cultivated in Nara.

Nara has the power to refresh people. By channeling her message into a catchphrase for promoting the "Spiritual City of Nara Project," she aims to share the beauty of Nara with the public. Asked "What is it in a nutshell that so attracts you to Nara?" she replies, "Nara is full of spiritual comfort. People appreciate the charm of Nara precisely because ours is an age of confusion. I hope people who read this article will become interested in Nara and come to Nara."

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