Tokyo Calling



These are the sounds of Tokyo, the largest city in the world.

Tokyo, the crossroads of the universe for scholars, diplomats, royalty, and the tourist.

Tokyo, where one can turn a corner and the present becomes the past.

Yes, Tokyo, the largest city in the world.

Competitive, intriguing, fascinating.

And from Tokyo...

This is Tokyo Calling!

The opening copy for "Tokyo Calling" circa 1965

All Things To All People

AFRTS in general and FEN in particular have the daunting task of being all things to all people. Official policy gives highest priority to providing current news and information to military personnel and their dependents overseas. But if you ask the typical FEN listener what the station means to them, the answer is likely to be stateside music and entertainment.

Tokyo Calling was a long time staple of FEN programming airing on Sunday in time periods from mid-afternoon to early evening. The program was a two hour affair, running from five after the hour (following the news), a station break on the half-hour, with voice out at :54. News followed again on the hour. The theme ran at the beginning and end of the first hour and again at the end of the program. If you listen closely, you'll also hear the actual sound of the hustle and bustle of Tokyo in the background behind each break.

Featuring music, comedy, interviews, and literature, at its best, Tokyo Calling was a vehicle for a potpurri of programming designed to caputre the attention of yound and old alike, women and men, military personnel, their dependents, domestic audiences, and the worldwide audience on shortwave.

This Is The Tokyo Operator Calling

The name Tokyo Calling harkens back to a time when international telephone calls were special affairs -- and a far cry from routine. During the 1960s and earlier, the only way to make calls back to the states was through special operators, generally situated in the officers or NCO clubs. During holiday periods, it was not unusual for it to be many hours or even several days before a circuit became available so your call could be put through. You put your name on the list and then waited your turn -- making sure not to tie up your phone in the interim for fear of losing your place in line.

Once the local operator had an available circuit, say to Atlanta, Georgia if that's where you were calling, she would ring you up and, with you on the line, announce to the Atlanta operator that this was "Tokyo Calling" with a call for Marie from her son Jim in Japan. In 1967, a 3 minute call cost about $12.00 USD!

Tokyo Calling, the radio program, played on the phrase, inviting listeners both in-country and around the world to hear what was happening locally.

A Worldwide Effort

AFRTS affiliates around the world regularly produce features that are used not only on their own stations but are freely shared with other outlets worldwide. As these clips demonstrate, they run the gamut from an interview produced by FEN with comedianne Bobby Baker, to a Spanish artist, to movie celebraties.

Some longer form programming received from AFRTS headquarters did not make the schedule but a portion of the show might be repackaged as a feature on programs such as Tokyo Calling.

Talent - Only the Best!

We are very fortunate to be able to present telescoped air checks from three broadcasts of Tokyo Calling from 1965. The host is Airman Burr Hoyle -- his well modulated voice known across the Pacific in the 1960s and 70s. You'll also hear FEN's Marine Sergeant Jay Richards with the Bobby Baker interview.

Among the other hosts of Tokyo Calling are Tom Korzeniowski, Chuck Renner, and John Raese.

Dorothy Wiesinger produced Tokyo Calling.

Hiroshi Ono worked on the show along with Tom Korzeniowski.  Hiroshi went on to become an executive with NEC.

At times, Tokyo Calling also featured co-announcers from the host country. While several of us recall the practice, we're still researching to find the names and biographies of those individuals.

Technical Info

These recordings were made from the original master on-air copies of the program recorded on 10.5 inch reels of Scotch 111. They were recorded at 7.5 IPS so that the full 55 minutes for each program hour could be placed on one reel.

Time has not been kind to these tapes. While not particularly brittle, the outer portion of the tape has become badly warped making it difficult to keep solid contact with the playback head on the tape machine. All in all though, they are in amazingly good quality with the full fidelity still present in much of the recording.

Though not particularly evident in these RealAudio files, you can even hear the surface noise and scratches on the transcription disks that contained the original music and some of the features distributed from AFRTS headquarters. Perhaps if you think of the anomalies you'll hear as the fading ever present in a shortwave broadcast, the effect will add rather than detract from your listening pleasure.

Found Treasures - Our Thanks to Norm Medland!

Much of the material on this site I like to think of as "found treasures" and these airchecks fit that description well. Though there are exceptions, many of us didn't particularly think that we were making history during our stint at FEN. We often recorded our shows for later playback and analysis, or perhaps just to have the music, but then erased them just as quickly when something new caught our fancy.

In the 1960s, owning a tape recorder of any kind was the exception rather than the rule. The cassette format and even the nostalgic 8-track tape were still years away. We lucky ones saved our pennies and purchased reel-to-reel tape recorders. Living in Japan and having access to a variety of electronics through the local base exchange and Tokyo's Aki Habara made it a little easier to afford.

And just as blank VHS video tapes originally cost more than $20.00 USD each when they were first introduced, blank recording tape commanded a premium price. So we used and reused tapes. Those of us in radio gladly took donations from the station when old tapes were discarded. That was the fate of these masters of Tokyo Calling.

Norm Medland, an FEN staffer from the mid 60s recalls that there were a stack of tapes that had been deemed past their useful prime. FEN folk would take the big reels home and cut them up into smaller size reels that would fit consumer machines. We are fortunate that before Norm had a need to do this, Norm went through a PCS and the tapes got boxed up and sent off to storage, only to be rediscovered years later when he no longer had anything to listen to them on. He has generously offered to share these treasures with the rest of us.

Additional Thanks to Dr. Jim Nellen

We are also in the debt of Dr. Jim Nellen, a radiologist who was stationed at the Itazuke Hospital circa 1959 to 1961 for his "found treasure" of the July 10, 1960 Tokyo Calling program.  Jim also contribued an episode of Enjoy Japan found elsewhere on this site.

What treasures do you have stowed away?

We still need your tapes (we can handle any format including open reel-to-reel), pictures, newspaper clippings, or anything connected with FEN in general -- from any period of the network's rich history and from any of the studio locations. All materials will be returned to you and handled with extreme care while we have them.


This page last modified on Thursday, 21-Dec-2000 09:50:36 EST


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