Photo/IllutrationA ceremony is held in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward to mark the launch of ultra-high definition 4K and 8K TV broadcasting services on Dec. 1. (Wataru Sekita)

A play-by-play commentary on a baseball game for a live radio broadcast has its own unique charm, quite different from that of a TV broadcast.

“Going, still going back, center fielder is chasing, can he make the catch?”

As you hear a play-by-play announcer describing the scene in a tense voice, a vivid picture of the player desperately tracking the fly ball comes before your mind’s eye.

The late Masayori Shimura (1913-2007), a former Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) announcer, was a master of the art.

“Sawamura is raising his left leg as high as he can as he is winding up for the first pitch, his leg so high that you can see clearly the spikes on the sole,” Shimura, then a rookie announcer, said as he described Eiji Sawamura pitching.

Sawamura (1917-1944) is a Japanese baseball legend, a right-handed fastball pitcher who played for the forerunner of the Yomiuri Giants professional baseball club.

“Exactly!” exclaimed one of the spectators in the stadium while listening to Shimura’s accounts of what was happening on the field, according to “Masayori Shimura’s Radio Days,” a book on this announcer by Yoshiyuki Ojima.

Shimura’s terrific verbal descriptions of scenes were as vivid as pictures.

“I describe in great detail what I want people to pay attention to and what particularly impresses me and describe other parts in less and less detail as they move away from the center,” said Hiroshi Yamamoto, explaining the trick of good running commentaries. Yamamoto is a former NHK announcer who was Shimura’s younger colleague.

Meanwhile, new TV technology that offers better picture quality has arrived.

On Dec. 1, Japanese TV broadcasters rolled out ultra-high definition 4K and 8K services. Viewers can now watch certain programs on these formats if they buy special TV monitors or external tuners.

Ultra-high definition TV can show clearly “the reddening of a sumo wrestler’s skin after being slapped,” according to the promotional pitch.

I visited a consumer electronics store to see how good it actually was. Indeed, the new-generation TV technology offers amazingly sharp and realistic pictures, allowing you to appreciate all the fine nuances of the texture of a sculpture and brushwork in Japanese painting.

The technology gives images that look so exactly like what we see in real life that, it seems, we no longer need to imagine how beautiful the real things actually are.

But this also makes me feel a subtle sense of loss, as the technology leaves little room for feeling overwhelmed when I see the real things with my own eyes.

There is a lot of talk about how traditional TV is in trouble with declining ratings. It is vital for TV broadcasters to ponder carefully what they should focus on and what they offer to viewers.

In addition to better picture quality, TV broadcasters clearly also need to come up with better ideas for programs, to make viewers exclaim, "Exactly!”

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 2

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.