60 Years of TV Stardom: Hiroshi Sekiguchi’s Journey Through Rebellion and Success / 1: Inside the World of “Sunday Morning”

Hiroshi Sekiguchi

Hiroshi Sekiguchi, the iconic host of the Sunday morning information and news program “Sunday Morning” for 36 years, has stepped down from his role. What was the origin of the program’s bold stance in challenging government pressure through the spirited discussions of its unique commentators? Osamu Aoki, a regular on the show, conducts an in-depth interview with Hiroshi Sekiguchi to uncover the roots of his “quiet resistance” style and explore his remarkable journey.

 ”I’m disappearing today.” Hiroshi Sekiguchi

On the morning of Sunday, March 31st, at 9:52 a.m., with less than a minute remaining until the end of the program, the end credits began to roll. Hiroshi Sekiguchi, departing from his usual host chair, stood before the camera, turned to his co-star, and announced, “I’m going to disappear today.” Then, facing the camera, he added, “Thank you very much for your time.”

Moments later, at 9:53 a.m., the program concluded. Immediately, a big round of applause erupted from the station executives, staff, and others involved in the program, all gathered in the expansive studio. Bouquets of flowers, more than he could hold in both hands, were handed to Hiroshi Sekiguchi one after another. Tears seemed to glisten in his eyes, perhaps from the emotions of completing the live program that had aired for 36 years or from the realization that the program had “disappeared” after such a long run. Was it loneliness, or simply feeling a bit unwell from a cold?

 "I'm disappearing today." Hiroshi Sekiguchi

“Sunday Morning” began airing on TBS every Sunday morning starting October 4, 1987. For 36 years and six months, Hiroshi Sekiguchi not only hosted but also played a crucial role in the program’s production. Television insiders note that there is no other instance of a single individual hosting a live information or news program for such an extended period, even if only once a week. The show garnered overwhelming viewer support and, in Japan’s fiercely competitive television industry, consistently achieved top-tier ratings, earning it the status of a “legendary program.”

Despite its popularity, the show sometimes faced harsh criticism. In recent years, under the “one-power” government, it was attacked by some as a “biased program” while others praised it as “one of the few honest programs on television right now.” This dichotomy reflected the show’s significant impact and the passionate responses it elicited from its audience.

 “Conscientious” from one side, “biased” from the other.

Who is Hiroshi Sekiguchi, the man who not only led the production but also served as the host of such a program? How did the beloved “Sunday Morning” come to be known as a “legendary” show, and why did it continue to garner overwhelming support? In recent years, the media industry has been said to be experiencing a widespread atmosphere of deterioration and atrophy.

While some praise the program as “conscientious,” others criticize it as “biased.” How did this show withstand political intimidation and pressure? What were Mr. Hiroshi Sekiguchi views on television and TV journalism? This report, centered on a direct interview with Mr. Hiroshi Sekiguchi, explores these questions over several parts, offering a unique insight into his perspective and the program’s legacy.

60 Years of TV Life: A Soft “Rebellious Heart” The Life of Hiroshi Sekiguchi / 1 What kind of place is “Sunday Morning”?

However, before delving into the main topic, I must make a disclaimer. As you may know, in recent years, I have been directly involved as one of the commentators on Hiroshi Sekiguchi’s “Sunday Morning.” In that sense, I am not an entirely objective third party when it comes to discussing Mr. Hiroshi Sekiguchi or the program. As a journalist, I aim to maintain objectivity in this article, but I understand that many readers may find it challenging to fully absorb this perspective given my involvement.

Therefore, this article should be read as the account of someone who has been directly involved with Hiroshi Sekiguchi and the popular program he led, witnessing both sides from within. Given my unique perspective, I will refer to him as “Mr. Hiroshi Sekiguchi” throughout, though this is typically avoided in regular reporting. I ask for your understanding and permission to proceed in this manner.

In preparation for this article, I conducted another lengthy interview with Mr. Hiroshi Sekiguchi on April 9th. It had been less than 10 days since he announced his departure from the program, so I asked him directly: “Mr. Hiroshi Sekiguchi, what did ‘Sunday Morning’ mean to you?” After a brief pause, Mr. Hiroshi Sekiguchi responded.

“To put it simply, I would say that ‘Sunday Morning’ was half of my life as a TV guy. This year marks my 60th year in the entertainment industry, and hosting ‘Sunday Morning’ took up more than half of that time.”

“Needless to say, Mr. Hiroshi Sekiguchi was born in Tokyo in July 1943 as the eldest son of Shuji Sano, an actor known as one of the ‘Three Crows’ of Shochiku. He began his acting career in 1963 while still in university, starring in a TV drama. In the 1970s, he hosted Fuji TV’s ‘Star Thousand and One Nights,’ followed by TBS’s ‘Shikaru!’ in the 1980s. During this period, he also helmed programs such as ‘Quiz 100 People’ (TBS, 1979-1992), ‘Waku Waku Dobutsu Land’ (TBS, 1983-1992), and ‘Are You Going to Do It?!’ (Nippon Television Network, 1989-2002).

However, it would be more accurate to say that all these programs were ‘produced by Hiroshi Sekiguchi,’ given his deep involvement in their production.”

“In other words, for many people of my generation, he is ‘the celebrity’ we grew up watching on television screens. Reflecting on his 60-year career in the entertainment industry, ‘Sunday Morning’ stands out as a distinctly journalistic news and reporting program. However, Mr. Hiroshi Sekiguchi himself admits he didn’t embark on the endeavor with great enthusiasm, nor did he anticipate it would span 36 years.”

“The staff at the time, and even I, didn’t anticipate it lasting this long. Reflecting on the beginning, a former producer friend of mine approached me with, ‘The Sunday morning slot is available. Is there something you’d like to do?’ That’s how it all began.”

“I wanted to try a caster showHiroshi Sekiguchi

“It might seem surprising now, but in the 1980s television landscape, Sunday mornings were considered a ‘barren time.’ Reflecting on my memories of spending my middle and high school years in the countryside during that era, many aspects of this resonate with me. Back then, when even a two-day weekend felt insufficient, adults would often choose to sleep in on their precious days off, while kids with nothing planned would turn on the TV and watch reruns of anime.”

“Yes, back then, the famous Sunday morning programs were travel shows like TBS’s ‘Kaoru Kanetaka’s World Journey’ and NTV’s ‘I Want to Go Far Away.’ In other words, all TV stations seemed to treat Sunday mornings as a time when viewers were still asleep.”

Mr. Hiroshi Sekiguchi IDEA!

Mr. Hiroshi Sekiguchi was approached about creating a new program during such a time slot, and he proposed an idea to the producer. Let’s delve into Mr. Hiroshi Sekiguchi thoughts on this: “At the time, I was frequently traveling abroad for a program shoot, so I was often away from Japan. Since there was no internet back then, I relied on Japanese newspapers and magazines during my flights back home, striving to stay informed. It was essential because without it, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with conversations even during casual gatherings with friends (lol).”

“If so, why not create a program that summarizes the events of the week?” That was the simple yet profound starting point. “Viewers are busy with work every day, finding it difficult to keep up with daily news. So, on Sunday morning, while leisurely having breakfast or coffee, they can catch up on the week’s news. I believed such a program would resonate, and that belief carried through until the very end. That’s why I didn’t start this program with any political bias or agenda.”

On the other hand, Hiroshi Sekiguchi had another idea for the program. “I wanted to do a news anchor show,” he explained. “When I entered the television world in my 20s, I fell in love with it deeply and wanted to explore it further. As I observed the television landscape, I saw that the anchor show was the pinnacle of television presentation. So, I harbored a desire to try it someday. Essentially, it’s a program where anchors deliver news in a clear and accessible manner.”

Behind his sentiments was a dissatisfaction with traditional television reporting and news programs. “It may sound blunt, but back then, TV news departments were dominated by individuals who seemed like the elite, and news shows comprised announcers reading scripts crafted by these figures. I found that style of news to be dull,” he remarked. However, he was intrigued by the emergence of newscaster-driven shows, which brought a more engaging and television-friendly approach. “The pioneer in this regard was undoubtedly ‘(JNN) News Corp.,'” he recalled.

“JNN News Corp,” modeled after the American CBS news program anchored by Walter Cronkite, debuted on TBS in 1962. The initial anchors were Hideo Den from Kyodo News, later joined by Tsunamasa Furuya from the Mainichi Shimbun. Den and TBS engaged in confrontations with the government during their coverage of the Vietnam War, establishing themselves as Japan’s first news anchors. The program gained renown as a pioneering example of a full-fledged “caster show” type news program.

 The pride that television journalism should have

The trend gradually spread to other stations, and in the 1970s, NHK began airing “News Center 9 o’clock,” featuring Naonori Isomura as the anchor. In 1985, TV Asahi launched “News Station” with Hiroshi Kume as the anchor. TBS, known for its “TBS News” as a benchmark, also competed in this field. In 1987, “JNN News 22 Prime Time,” anchored by Morimoto Takero, faced challenges and was short-lived. However, in 1989, “Tsukushi Tetsuya NEWS 23” began its broadcast.

60 Years of TV Life: A Soft “Rebellious Heart” The Life of Hiroshi Sekiguchi / 1 What kind of place is “Sunday Morning”?

Of course, there were both advantages and disadvantages to transforming “news” into “entertainment” on television. This shift aimed to make “news” more appealing as popular programs with high ratings. Television, emerging as a new media post-war, finally entered a prosperous era where stations competed fiercely with “news shows” featuring renowned anchors. This marked the dawn of television’s dominance as the premier news medium.

In other words, Mr. Hiroshi Sekiguchi “Sunday Morning,” which debuted in 1987, follows in the footsteps of “News Corp.” as a type of “caster show.” It shares similar ambitions with renowned news programs like “Kume Station” and “Tsukushi 23.” It marks its own beginning and distinct voice in this lineage.

“I’m just a TV guy, not a journalist. So initially, I brought in Toshiaki Niibori (1934-2018), who had served as a TBS commentator and caster for JNN News Corp., to join me as a regular commentator, and we began discussing various topics. We worked together to develop the format of the program.”

Mr. Hiroshi Sekiguchi often describes himself as a “TV guy” rather than a journalist. Whether it’s a sense of pride in understanding television as a medium or a humble acknowledgment of being an amateur in news reporting, he has undeniably developed a profound affection for television and actively sought to uncover its true essence. Despite not fitting the conventional journalist mold, his commitment to the medium and his inherent journalistic spirit are unmistakable. He possesses a keen awareness of both the potentials and constraints of television journalism, maintaining a steadfast sense of pride in upholding its standards.

This time, during our two-hour interview at Mr. Sekiguchi’s office, followed by a visit to a nearby sushi restaurant where we enjoyed some beer, I asked him, “Mr. Sekiguchi, as someone who identifies as a TV guy, can you name a person on TV who you admire and who has influenced you?” After a brief moment of contemplation, Mr. Hiroshi Sekiguchi responded with the following: “There are many individuals who have influenced me, but if I had to choose one, it would be someone who embodies the ethos of ‘living in the present.'”


It sounds like you’re describing a prolific and insightful writer whose works delve into various aspects of contemporary issues and societal phenomena. His books such as “Abe’s Three Generations,” “Information Hiding Nation,” “Dark Scandal Nation,” “Resisters of the Age,” “Heretics of the Age,” “To the Destroyers,” “Cult Power,” and “Rebels of the Age” reflect his deep research, sharp analysis, and distinctive writing style. His career path from a Kyodo News reporter to a freelance journalist has enabled him to explore and illuminate many facets of modern times through his literary contributions.


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