NHK’s Female Announcer Duo Mayuko Wakuda and Maho Kuwako Shine in Latest Power Map | FRIDAY DIGITAL

NHK’s Female Announcer Duo Mayuko Wakuda and Maho Kuwako Shine in Latest Power Map

With the rise of new ace candidate Moeko Soejima and the eldest daughter of former TBS announcer Takae Mikumo, NHK's female announcers now outnumber those of the commercial broadcasters in terms of both popularity and ability.

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Maho Kuwako (36), “Close-up Gendai” Tokyo University of Foreign Studies graduate, NHK’s leading ace entrusted with flagship programs. In November 2017, she enjoys barbecue with colleagues. After working at broadcasting stations in Nagano and Hiroshima, she was assigned to the Tokyo Announcing Department in her fifth year at the station.

In today’s television industry, NHK boasts the thickest layer of female announcers. Mayuko Wakuda (35) and Maho Kuwako (36) stand as the double pillar, with Meio Fukushima (32), who is slated to be appointed as the main anchor of “NHK News 7” from April this year, and Risa Hayashida (34), who has served as the main anchor of “News Watch 9,” both showcasing their potential as the next generation of aces.

Why have such a formidable legion of female announcers gathered, surpassing commercial networks? Let’s analyze the strength of this powerhouse through thorough interviews with television industry insiders and experts.

Of the two top figures, Kuwako received high praise from various experts.

“Kuwako is quick-witted, and when she’s around, the talk on the show livens up. She doesn’t hesitate even when dealing with big-name celebrities, making her an excellent fit for hosting events like the ‘Kohaku Uta Gassen’ (Red and White Song Battle). The fact that ‘Bratamori’ (Buratamori) became a stepping stone for young announcers is partly because of Kuwako’s emergence. In contrast, she demonstrates a strong determination to fulfill her role as a news caster by conducting on-site coverage in Ukraine for the current program ‘Close-up Gendai’ after her assignment.” (Columnist, Takeshi Kamekawa)

Wakuda is scheduled to go on maternity leave from the next fiscal year. The station will face a significant void.

“Because of her clear articulation, her announcements are easy to understand, and she always looks at the camera after finishing reading the news. This allows for a smooth transition to the next topic. She pays attention to such details. The recent major changes in NHK’s announcer personnel are heavily influenced by Wakuda’s upcoming maternity leave. With her departure leaving a significant gap, the station is now searching for the next ace.” (Female Announcer Critic, Daijiro Maruyama)

Although Wakuda’s absence will be significant, NHK has no shortage of talent to cover for her. Leading the charge is Meio Fukushima, who will inherit “News 7” from Wakuda.

“After working at broadcasting stations in Oita and Nagoya, she was assigned to the Tokyo Announcing Department in just three years. This is an abnormal speed, comparable to Wakuda’s pace. She is clearly on the fast track for success as an NHK announcer. While she began her career in Tokyo as a sports caster, she was appointed as the main anchor of ‘News 7’ from April. With her strong ability to read scripts, if she can suppress her slightly high-pitched voice, she should be able to level up even further.” (Maruyama)

Mayuko Wakuda (35)

News 7, University of Tokyo graduate

A remarkable announcer racing through the television industry at an astonishing speed.

It goes without saying, NHK’s ace. She has hosted highly anticipated programs such as the “Kohaku Uta Gassen” (Red and White Song Battle) and special news broadcasts covering the transition from the Heisei era to the Reiwa era.

Moemi Sokushima (32)

News Ohayou Nippon → News 7, Keio University graduate

NHK’s rising star expected to succeed the Kuwako and Wakuda duo.

Soejima appeared at Jingu Stadium in April 2018. She is also active in sports programs, and was the first female anchor of “Saturday Sports”.

NHK also has unique announcers

In the next generation expected to lead the pack, there are a variety of distinctive announcers.

“Anna Nakagawa (30) is a vibrant presence in NHK, which is refreshing in a good way. At first glance, she may seem unconventional, but she possesses solid skills and has been active as a caster for events like the FIFA World Cup in Qatar and sports programs. She actively posts her own content on social media, which I think is also a good thing. Like former TV Tokyo announcer Kasumi Mori (28), I hope she can gain support from younger audiences through social media buzz.” (Entertainment critic, Takeshi Misugi)

Rika Asano (30), who joined NHK at the same time as Nakagawa, has garnered popularity with her modest and down-to-earth character.

“Asano once had an incident on ‘Buratamori’ where she spoke casually to Tamori-san (78), which turned out to be amusing in the end. Because of her down-to-earth character, Asano has been widely accepted by viewers, so many viewers developed affection for her such occasional mistakes. With her natural demeanor, she’s the type of announcer who excels in conversations with comedians.” (Misugi)

NHK demonstrates a distinct difference in its response during disasters compared to commercial announcers. In the January Noto Peninsula earthquake, Izumi Yamauchi (30) significantly raised her profile.

“Normally calm and composed, Yamauchi, in an urgent tone, conveyed to viewers, ‘Please evacuate immediately! Remember the Great East Japan Earthquake!’ While there was some criticism towards Yamauchi for her delivery, her ability to make such an announcement on the spot was positively received within the organization. After working at Kanazawa Broadcasting Station for four years since joining, she was suddenly assigned to the Tokyo Announcing Department, where she has served on flagship programs like ‘News 7’ and ‘News Watch 9’. She’s a young talent expected by the upper management to be a serious journalist.” (NHK insider)

Anna Nakagawa (30)

Sunday Sports, Keio University graduate

She lived in Puerto Rico for four years from the age of 10. With her bright and outgoing Latin-inspired character, she exudes a charm that is quite different from typical NHK announcers.

Rika Asano (30)

Asaichi, Seishin Women’s University graduate

In her final appearance on “Buratamori” until April 2022, she was so moved that she couldn’t help but burst into tears. Her motto is “to finish beautifully.”

Izumi Yamauchi (30)

News 7

She showed her high level of disaster response by announcing the Noto earthquake. Photo from NHK’s official website.

Thoroughbreds with High Expectations

NHK also has a promising talent expected to inherit the DNA of its big-name anchors, and that is Mako Hoshi (33).

“Mako is initially thought to have a calm speaking style for her age, but upon learning that she is the daughter of Takae Mikumo (69), formerly of TBS, I understood it. She definitely inherited her mother’s qualities. While she gives a demure impression compared to her mother, she has an excellent sense of balance between conveying the news as an announcer and engaging in casual conversation. I think she excels in various fields, both in news and variety.” (From aforementioned source, Mr. Kamekazu)

Nanoka Akagi (33), who utilized her experience as a harpist during her student days to serve as the host of “Utacon,” will become the face of the morning on “Ohayou Nippon” starting in April.

“She has a unique sweet voice resembling an anime character, which is her distinctive feature. It’s not a voice that appeals to everyone, so she may be more skilled at hosting variety information programs in the studio than reading scripts on news programs. ‘Ohayou Nippon’ starting in April is perfect for her.” (From aforementioned source, Mr. Maruyama)

While members in their early thirties are making significant leaps one after another, mid-level female announcers with extensive careers support the station. Representative among them is Risa Hayashida, who has an unusual background from Tokyo Geidai (Tokyo University of the Arts).

“Risa was popular as an assistant on ‘Buratamori,’ but her personality is serious, making her suitable for reporting. Her transfer from ‘News Watch 9’ to ‘Saturday Watch 9’ in the April restructuring might seem like a demotion, but it’s not. Currently, Saturday nights are dominated by ‘Saturday Station’ hosted by Aya Takashima (45) (TV Asahi), and the station wants to break that dominance. Risa was sent in as the assassin.” (From aforementioned source, NHK-related personnel)

Nahoko Suzuki (42) is seen as the successor to her great seniors.

“She tends to win over the demanding opinions of housewives toward announcers and is struggling in the position of ‘post-Yumiko Udo.’ With a no-nonsense personality, she efficiently handles her duties as a ‘working person.’ She and the main hosts of ‘Asaichi,’ Hakata Hanamaru-Daikichi, also showcase a lively exchange.” (From aforementioned source, same as before)

Mako Hoshi (33)

Sunday Debate → News Watch 9

Graduate of Keio University

A thoroughbred in the TV world with a mother who is a freelance announcer and a father who is a commercial TV producer. With her mother’s announcing skills, she will carry the future of NHK on her shoulders.

Nonoka Akagi (33)
Saturday Watch 9 → News Ohayo Nippon Graduated from Keio University

She is in charge of a wide variety of programs, including sports, variety, travel, and news. She is an announcer with a sexy and distinctive animated voice that viewers will remember.

Risa Hayashida (34)
News Watch 9 → Saturday Watch 9

Nicknamed “Linda” by viewers, she has an absolute sense of pitch. Image from NHK’s official website.

Nahoko Suzuki (42)
Asaichi, graduate of Hosei University.

In 2008, she was in charge of the 2-minute promotional program “Almost 8 o’clock Premap”. The ratings were favorable, and at the time she was described both inside and outside the station as a two-minute smiling angel.

A different training system

NHK has built up its solid lineup through a distinct approach compared to commercial broadcasters. Professor Takahiko Kageyama from the Media Creation Department at Doshisha Women’s University analyzes the differences.

“Unlike commercial broadcasters, NHK anchors are initially assigned to local stations. There, they are not only tasked with reading scripts but also with various journalistic duties similar to reporters and assistant directors (ADs). Through hands-on reporting experiences, they gain a deep understanding of how to effectively convey information to viewers, even when simply reading a news piece.”

Professor Kageyama further attributes NHK anchors’ quality to their individual aspirations.

“NHK anchors have a strong sense of responsibility and pride in serving as public broadcasters. Especially during emergencies like natural disasters, their ability to respond appropriately is exceptionally high. Many viewers trust NHK, especially in critical situations like major earthquakes. This awareness of trust enables NHK anchors to perform tasks like those seen in the response to the Noto Peninsula earthquake by anchor Ms. Yamauchi.”

In terms of the quality of female TV announcers, NHK’s dominance is not likely to waver.

From the March 29, 2024 issue of “FRIDAY

  • PHOTO Nishi Keisuke (Wakuda and Kuwako)

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