Mr. Tomoaki Ogura
When you hear the name Tomoaki Ogura, you think of the "professional talker," who enlivens viewers of Fuji Television's morning program Toku Dane! The manner of his delivery, without taking a breath, shakes off your sleepiness and is one reason why people never tire of tuning into his program on a daily basis.
His wide range of interests and deep knowledge lead to a different topic being unfurled every day in his opening monologue, which is a masterpiece in itself. His influence is great, and the products and people he introduces consistently see a rise in sales and sudden surge in popularity.
That Ogura used to have a terrible stutter and had to work twice as hard just to "talk" in his thick Akita accent shows that you can't read into a person's past.
Don't have a dream, set a goal
Ogura was born two years after the war, at the start of the baby boom, and due to a lack of food at the time he developed beriberi (a type of malnutrition caused by vitamin B1 deficiency.)
"We were poor when I was young, so my knees weakened due to beriberi. Furthermore, I had a stutter. I still stutter every now and then, but I don't stutter when I receive money or when I am in front of the microphone (laughs.) But I do stutter in front of my family or in an argument. My eyes used to look like a telescope-eyed goldfish (demekin) when I was small so I was called "Domokin (stuttering goldfish.)" This was a shock to me as a child. When I transferred to a primary school in Shinjuku, I remember everyone laughing at me when I introduced myself in my Akita dialect. They really gave an uproarious laugh. After that.well.I thought I'd like to improve my speech and show them."
When he was in the fifth grade, Ogura's father told him, "don't have a dream." Most adults will tell children to "have a dream," but his father was different.
At the Tanabata Festival each July, Ogura would always write his wish on a strip of paper, "I want to fix my stutter. I want to be able to speak well." But, in reality, it was hard going. He just couldn't improve his speech. Then he went to his father and protested, "Tanabata is nothing but lies! I haven't got over my stuttering at all!" And his father replied, "Tomoaki, don't have a dream, set a goal." Dreams sometimes end as dreams, but if you have a goal, when you reach that goal you can set another. And if you reach that goal too, you can set another one again.
These teachings still serve as Ogura's bible, even at the age of sixty.
Hooked on athletics at high school
Spending his childhood days running around the hills and fields of Akita, Ogura was indifferent to university entrance exam study. While everyone in his generation was attending cram school classes, Ogura continued to take it easy and didn't study at all, even after moving to Setagaya in Tokyo. Of course, his grades were awful, with 3 being his best on a scale of 5. While neglecting his studies, he put his energies into extra-curricular activities as president of the student council, theater club leader, and captain of the athletics team. He had especially notable athletics records in the long jump and the 100m, so a senior of his at Chuo University High School at Koganei invited him to "come to Chuo and do athletics."
His classmates around him said, "Chuo High is a tough school, you'll never get in," and when test results were released, sure enough, his number wasn't on the board. While in shock that he couldn't get into Chuo High without any test preparation, a week later someone came banging at the window between the classroom and corridor. When he looked up, standing there was his mother shouting.
"Tomoaki, Tomoaki, you got in! Chuo University High! You got in as an alternate!"
At the time, Chuo High was a rough boys' school which excelled at sport. There were students with good grades, but for Ogura, who never studied for his entrance exams, getting in through sports was his only option. Even so, because of training everday from morning to night, and spending every day sitting on the ground giving his seniors massages, he felt physically exhausted.
One day Ogura came home and told his father, "I want to quit the athletics club," and his father went straight to the athletics club with the idea. When his father came home he was told, "You got into Chuo High for your athletic ability, if you leave the club, you have to leave school, too." With those words, Ogura had no choice but to continue athletics for three years.
That wasn't the end of the story. Later, the athletics coach came and said to him, "I told your father that if you want to quit the athletics club you can." In other words, it wasn't Chuo High regulations or the athletics coach who forced Ogura to continue with athletics, it was his own father.
"Since taking this road, you have to try hard at athletics, show determination."
Carving out a career by the skin of his teeth
Ogura continued athletics at Chuo High at his father's direction, but after becoming self-conscious of the fact that his athletic ability wasn't enough to get him through to Chuo University, he abandoned efforts to get into Chuo University. After studying for a year at home, he entered the French department at Dokkyo University, again as an alternate. His decision to become an announcer came when he saw a poster saying, "Fuji Television announcers wanted," during his job-hunting activities.
"At that time I had become able to talk a little better than others, so I thought that, just maybe, I may pass this even without studying, and I took the Fuji Television announcer test. After seven interviews in a month, six candidates remained out of 12,000 applicants. Of those, three passed and three were turned away. I was among the three who failed. There was nowhere else for me to go, and when I was thinking about what I should do next, I applied to then-Tokyo Channel 12, which was recruiting announcers, and passed."
He was an alternate at both Chuo University High School at Koganei and Dokkyo University. He missed out on a job as an announcer at Fuji Television at the final gate, but he became an announcer for TV Tokyo, and although he now freelances, he has a regular show on Fuji Television.
"In life, you don't know what misfortunes will come about or what paths will open up. It is important to believe that you can overcome your handicaps by yourself. If you don't have confidence in yourself, you should work hard to solve that."
Now, the remarks the "professional talker" gives, without a glimpse of either his Akita dialect or bad stutter, are true to his word.
(This article is based on a speech Tomoaki Ogura gave to the whole school in Chuo University High School's auditorium on June 23rd last year as one of Chuo University's 125th anniversary commemorative events.)