TBS Television Sports Department Business Promotion Section assistant director
There has always been a tough competition rate for employment at television stations. The highest hurdle being female announcer positions, with a said acceptance ratio of one in 2000 to 3000 applicants. Even the acceptance ratio for male announcers is one in 1000 applicants. Popular TBS announcer Naoki Takekata (49) is a Chuo University graduate. There are probably people who will look at the face in the picture to the right and recall him by saying, “I know him, I know him.”
Recently, he has disappeared from our TV screens. He has moved into a position supporting program production, further raising the value of the television business. He declares that “television is number one in the mass media market.” That pride masked the unknown harsh experiences that come with the devotion that comes with being an announcer.
It’s good being healthy
He was at the TBS Television entrance examination. In the interview, where the tension multiplied, Chuo University Faculty of Economics 4th year student Takekata asserted, “Because I have a big voice.”
The interviewer’s question was, “Tell me why you are suited to being a sports announcer.” It was a question he had imagined during his job-hunting activities.
From the many replies involving liking professional baseball and golf, the response, “I have a big voice” stood out. His manner of responding was full of confidence and impressive.
At Chuo University, Takekata belonged to the (then) Culture Association’s Recitation Society. There were three members at the time and he was persuaded to join the club at a time when its continued existence was in doubt. Before realizing it, he was infatuated with reciting Chinese poetry and worked towards holding an event commemorating the 100th anniversary of the club.
Reciting Chinese poetry is adding intonation characteristics of Chinese poetry and tanka, and chanting (singing) it. “Kawanakajima”, depicting the battle between Shingen Takeda and Kenshin Uesugi, is well known and, for example, the phrase bensei shukushuku yorukawa wo wataru (crossing a river in the night, making even horse-whipping sound smaller) is sung with a vibratos at the end.
In a breathing method called abdominal breathing, you exert your voice from the bottom of your stomach. This is said to have effects such as stabilizing one’s nerves and activating the brain. Takekata continued this for four years. This gave backbone to his appeal of “having a big voice” at the entrance examination.
He only took a one week intensive course at an announcer school which prospective announcers often attend. Wanting to become a newspaper journalist, Takekata also showed his face at a private school run by an ex-Mainichi Shimbun reporter. His mass media aspirations came from a feeling of satisfaction of writing and expressing a script for a Recitation Society performance.
It was also called “The Chinese Poetry Musical.”
Smooth sailing as an announcer
Takekata officially entered TBS. He was in charge of numerous television and radio programs as an announcer, and soon gained a reputation for his witty delivery. In information and variety programs, he livened up the programs alongside popular celebrities such as Conto Aka-Shingo leader Masayuki Watanabe and George Tokoro.
“Tokoro dares to break with convention. I learnt that free conception is born from that. He is a person who cultivates half his land at his home on prime real estate in Tokyo. His office is full of items that, at a glance, would appear to be junk (to Tokoro, they are treasures.) He buys tape measures by the boxful, when he goes out on his motorbike to buy materials for making a shelf, he comes back with them tied to his back…by attempting things that average people wouldn’t attempt, ‘something’ is born.”
He even made his presence felt as a professional baseball commentator. Quick-witted, delivering his voice from his stomach, and varied speech. Not to be outdone by newspaper reporters, he conducted interviews, and obtained much sought after stories about star players. Players he got to know through the interviews are now managers and coaches. Takekata’s pleasant personality has enabled these friendships to last.
The turning point arrives
“It was almost the ideal life of an announcer.”
He has an animated expression on his face when he talks of the productive period of his job and life. The turning point suddenly came 20 years after entering the company. Personnel reshuffling. Takekata was told that he was being moved to the Information Section’s PR Center.
He relates, “If I was going to continue as an announcer, I would have to leave the company and go freelance. I had a difficult time deciding whether to stay in the company or not and do a different job. The announcement came on my birthday,” and remembers it well. After carefully thinking it over, he decided to remain. It was a time when the economic situation was harsh and freelance announcers were waging an uphill battle.
After three years in the PR Center, Takekata was moved to the Production Section, giving support behind the scenes of drama and variety programs.
“I didn’t know how to enter the accounts on the computer, I had to confirm the number and which shop to use when ordering boxed lunches for the cast, and whether they smoked or not when booking waiting rooms…there were many things I couldn’t do. I hadn’t formed as a working adult. I had devoted myself entirely as an announcer and came into the assistant director’s position with no experience.”
“I was told ‘You haven’t done assistant directing, have you?’ and ‘You were an announcer.’ But what you get out of a job, you give back to the job. Even if I was in tears the previous night, I would turn up the next morning with a smile on my face.”
He had a strong mind that was honed in his competitive mountaineering* days at Ehime Prefectural Imabari West High School. Never give up in adverse situations. He persevered. He refused to back down. He hated to lose.
He slaved hard behind the scenes to carefully produce programs. TBS puts a lot of effort into the World Athletics Championships. It is a big event that ranks alongside the Olympics. Takekata was in charge of publicity for the 2007 Osaka World Athletics Championships.
In Tokyo, large signs advertising the program were put up on the main thoroughfare in Omotesando and on buildings in Shibuya.
“Because you pay tens of millions of yen for those spaces, you can’t afford to fail.” He says his feeling of satisfaction is no less than that of his time as a sports announcer.
Anchorman for the World Athletics Championships, Yuji Oda, talked to his audience with a smile on his face. Behind the scenes, Takekata and co. were putting in strenuous efforts. The audience can’t see that. Although that is unseen, those efforts were indispensable to the success of the program.
Talent required for television
Television is watched intently from various workplaces. Where this is praise for a television program, there is also criticism. Because television is easily viewed, it is a medium that is easy to talk about. Media has become diversified and although it is said that television will be the next thing people turn away from after newspapers, Takekata doesn’t give an inch.
“More than the internet, more than anything, as a TV professional, I believe that television is number one in the mass media market.”
He adds, “Supporting that are talented people who can think creatively. In this business, you withdraw from the front line when you pass 40. You wear out quickly. The basics of the job are physical strength, attentiveness and creative power. You need something that other people don’t have. I want you to have a unique presence.”
Based on his experience, those words came from the bottom of his stomach. That was the voice that got him in the company.
Takekata got into this during his hiking club days at Imabari West High School in Ehime. His stomping ground was the famous Mt. Ishizuchi in the Shikoku ranges with a height of 1982m. It is the highest peak in western Japan west of the Kinki region. The event involves spending four days on the mountain and sleeping in a tent. Surveying weather charts, analyzing maps and calculating calorie consumption, it is a contest of the overall skills required for mountaineering. “As well as developing mind and body, it nurtured my ability to make calm decisions in extreme conditions. As well as building physical strength, more than anything, I made friends.”
Offered by: HAKUMON Chuo 2012 Autumn Issue No. 228
Born in Ehime Prefecture. Graduated from the Faculty of Economics, Chuo University. Belonged to the Recitation Society as a student and is obsessed with reciting Chinese poetry. Became a TBS announcer after graduating from university. He was specifically in charge of sumo and boxing broadcasts. Transferred to the Information Department in 2006, where he remains today.