Kaoru Kanetaka, the trailblazing Japanese travel reporter who died on Jan. 5 at age 90, was known for her always classy, elegant language.

"Did you know there's an 'onsen' hot spring resort even in a desert in the Middle East? I didn't know, and I was quite surprised," she once commented on a popular TV travel show.

For 31 years, she hosted "Kanetaka Kaoru no Sekai no Tabi" (Travels around the world with Kaoru Kanetaka) aired by TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System).

The total distance she traveled through those decades was equivalent to circling the globe more than 180 times.

The show began in 1959. Featuring not only well-known cities such as Paris and Rome, it also introduced the reality of newly independent Ghana, and explored India's unique lunch delivery culture.

Such in-depth reports grabbed the attention of viewers.

Traveling with loads of TV equipment and recording tapes, Kanetaka was once asked by a customs official, "Are you moving house?"

While on site, Kanetaka kept the camera rolling practically non-stop, wanting to make every second count. She checked herself in the mirror only once in the morning.

"As I didn't want to waste any time on bathroom breaks, I refrained from drinking water as much as I could," she recalled.

The show's success owed largely to the fact that overseas travel was still well out of the reach of the general public at the time.

It wasn't until 1964--five years after the show's start--that the government lifted restrictions on overseas travel. And a trip to Europe would have cost about 30 times the starting salary of a rookie worker just out of university.

For smiling into the camera from remote parts of the world in that era, Kanetaka was a veritable object of wonder and admiration among viewers.

I rewatched an episode from the show's early days. It featured Guam and Saipan, both sites of intense battles during World War II.

Kanetaka explored the Imperial Japanese Army's air raid shelters and commented on how the commanders met their ends.

But instead of just presenting a dead-serious report, the episode also showed the peaceful postwar lives of islanders, befitting the travel show it was meant to be.

Today, many Japanese hesitate to travel overseas, saying they speak only Japanese and just don't want to bother stepping out of their comfort zone.

Were Kanetaka alive now, she would probably tell them, "Oh dear, what a shame. I wish you would consider looking at the world more with your own eyes."

--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 11

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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.