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NHK historical drama series 'Idaten' posts record low ratings

Public broadcaster NHK's headquarters are seen in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward in March 2019. (Mainichi/Masaaki Shimano)

TOKYO -- An episode of public broadcaster NHK's historical drama series "Idaten" televised on April 28 marked a record low average viewership in the Kanto region for such a program at 7.1%, a research company disclosed on May 7.

The annual "Taiga dramas" that started in 1963 are one of the main programs of the public broadcaster. In each series, 45-minute episodes are broadcast every Sunday night for a year, featuring a historical person. The program costs a huge amount to produce -- as much as the film shown in a theater -- and had been regarded as the most prestigious drama by the Japanese general public. The program's average viewership peaked in the late 1980s at nearly 40%.

Idaten features Shiso Kanakuri, a marathon runner who became the first Japanese to compete in the Olympics by participating in the 1912 Stockholm games, and Masaji Tabata, a swimming instructor who played a key role in Japan winning the right to host the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

The previous lowest rating for the historical drama was 7.3%, recorded by an episode of "Taira no Kiyomori" broadcast on Nov. 18, 2012, that featured a military commander in the late Heian period of the 12th century.

Idaten achieved a rating of 15.5% for the first episode broadcast on Jan. 6 this year but since then its popularity has been in decline. The latest episode broadcast on May 5 recorded 7.7%.

(Japanese original by Hisanori Yashiro, Cultural News Department)

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