Fresh news from Japan will be of interest for some time following the earthquake and tsunamis of March 11, 2011, and the Fukushima meltdowns.
Instinctively, during any developing situation felt worldwide, radio hobbyists seek out streaming audio from local broadcast stations in the affected areas as a source of news.
A search for streaming radio from Japan is remarkable for what isn’t, as much as what is, available.
My first search yielded one station streaming in English, Internet-only, playing uninterrupted American classic rock the day after skyscrapers in Tokyo swayed and tsunamis washed away entire towns. I wanted what I’d hear on a radio if I was in Japan; live and local, broadcast to the public and not narrowcast on the Internet, hopefully in English.
Mike’s Radio World, Radio Station World, streamingthe.net, and RadioTime are the most complete, accessible, directories of the world’s live audio streams.
In them, frequencies and call signs separate generic Internet-only streams from the live streams of local FM and AM broadcast stations.
The FM broadcast band in Japan starts at 76, and ends at 90, mHz. Medium wave (AM) stations are spaced 9 kHz apart, starting at 540 kHz. Call signs begin with the letters JO, are made up of four letters, and may also include a number followed by two additional letters. All licensed broadcast stations have call signs, but not all use them in their imaging.
Any Japanese station without a JO call sign whose entry includes a decimaled FM frequency between 76.1 and 89.9 mHz, or a three or four digit MW frequency, will be broadcast and not Internet.
Amazingly, NHK-1, the news and information radio network — Japan’s BBC — suspended live streaming eleven days after the quake. “For copyright reasons,” stated the home page when translated into English.
NHK would be the first place I’d go, if I was from Japan and far from home, or Japanese-American. But there’s only silence at all the NHK stream links.
Eleven days after Katrina, WWL – the heritage news-talk station in New Orleans – was not only streaming, but making every effort to let the world know they were streaming.
NHK World does offer on-demand newscasts in several languages including English, streamed or as podcasts. The newscasts are updated several times a day. For the English-speaking listener or viewer, they’re the best source of fresh news. But the network isn’t live, as was Al Jazeera during the weeks of protests that led to President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation the previous February.
Podcasts, whether downloaded or streamed, lack the immediacy of live radio heard in this recording of the first tsunami warnings, from the NHK-2 station on 828 kHz in Osaka Prefecture.
In Japan, radio station lists of most-requested songs can all be American number ones. English is taught in primary and lower secondary schools, and many monolingual tourists from the English-speaking world visit. I was therefore surprised to find no stations broadcasting at least part of the day in English, and streaming. As there are all-Spanish stations in Chicago, or even Des Moines, Iowa.
Armed Forces Radio broadcasts from Yokota Air Force Base, near Tokyo, as “Eagle 810.” The 50,000 watt medium-wave station – equal in power to the strongest United States MW stations — has a big coverage area, is all-English, but doesn’t stream.
Inter FM – JODW on 76.1 in Tokyo – is recommended as a source of frequent emergency bulletins in English. Its popular morning show is bi-lingual Japanese / English. The songs “playing now” on its website have all been favorites of American classic rock stations. This is the one I’d want to hear. But the Japanese text I copied and pasted in Google Translate tells me the station is geo-blocked to Internet listeners outside Japan.
English from Japan can also be heard on short wave, on NHK’s overseas service relayed from the RadioCanada International transmitter site in Sackville, New Brunswick. The transmission is a magazine show, squeezing news, pop music, features, and human interest stories into only thirty minutes.
On the FM band, nearly all the vocal music, and all the station IDs, I’ve heard have been in English. The presenters speak only Japanese.
I settled on Shonan Beach FM, 78.9 in Hayama, a coast town about thirty miles south of Tokyo. Mid-day for me is late night into early the next morning there. Shonan Beach FM plays quiet, relaxing music then, including much classic American jazz from the 1950s and 60s. It was also way cool to hear “Paperback Writer” one afternoon, just past my midnight.
I still wish they, and all the streaming stations in Japan, would include even a minute or two of news updates in English to let the world – not only news junkies and radio buffs – know how their country is recovering from the worst natural disasters in its history.