Sekai Fushigi Hakken! Professor William Reed on the Popular TV Program

Japan Studies Professor speaks about filming experience on popular show

Japan Studies Professor William Reed is no stranger to appearing on public media, having appeared on TV with YGU-graduate and first non-Japanese professional Shogi Player in the past and most recently has been on NHK’s Gogo Café radio program. Reed is an accomplished and well-known master of several Japanese arts, most notably Aikido and Japanese Calligraphy, and an expert on samurai culture.

Japan Studies Professor practices nanba walking on Sekai Fushigi Hakken
Japan Studies Professor William Reed is an expert on Nanba Walking

Reed holds a Special Shihan Rank in “Nanba Walking”, a method of walking that was famously practiced by samurai and by the couriers of the Edo Period, who were known to have easily covered up to 40 kilometers a day using Nanba Walking. Professor Reed teaches a class on Nanba Walking at iCLA. In May, Professor Reed filmed with Sekai Fushigi Hakken (世界ふしぎ発見!), a nation-wide popular TV show on-air since 1986. The show explores the mysteries in the history and culture of Japan and of the world.

Sekai Fushigi Hakken TV Program Episode Title Written in Japanese Calligraphy
Title Card Written in Japanese Calligraphy by Professor Reed

This episode challenged Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s Chuugoku Oogaeshi historical feat, where Hideyoshi traveled back to Kyoto from Takamatsu Castle (located in what is presently known as Okayama Prefecture) after learning of Oda Nobunaga’s death. In approximately 10 days, Hideyoshi traveled 230 kilometers with his 20,000 troops. In just the first two days, Hideyoshi covered 100 kilometers, taking him and his soldiers to Himeji Castle in present Hyogo Prefecture.

In the spirit of the Sekai Fushigi Hakken! TV program, Professor Reed and the TV crew tested whether this was humanly possible by walking 100 kilometers from the location of Takamatsu Castle to Himeji Castle in two days, using the method of Nanba Walking.

The episode’s storyboard initially planned for Reed to teach Nanba Walking to Soejima Jun, the host of the episode, after which they would part ways and Soejima would embark on the 100-kilometer journey alone. But Reed, a true master, was worried that Soejima might forget about the lessons he was taught.

Japan Studies Professor and a Japanese TV Host do nanba walking for Sekai Fushigi Hakken
Professor Reed and Soejima Jun

“I was a little bit worried that he would forget what I taught him. And then it would be like, well, we tried Nanba but it didn’t really work,” Reed said.

“So I wanted Nanba to be established. And I also wanted to do the experience and test it for myself. Walking 100 kilometers in two days is not a small feat,” Reed laughed, “But in the Edo Period, people usually would walk 40 kilometers when they travel in a day, easy.”

The filming crew wanted to recreate the journey exactly as Hideyoshi had embarked in a number of ways. Reed and Soejima set out on their 100-kilometer journey from the exact hill which Takamatsu Castle once stood in Okayama Prefecture.

“We ate the same food that they did, which was 2 or 3 omusubi, umeboshi, and miso soup,” Reed explained.

We also asked whether Reed thought it was possible for them to complete 100 kilometers within the 2 days prior to the start of the journey.

“I tried to measure what it would be like here. And in one day, it would be like walking from Kofu Station to Shosenkyo… and back, and then again, and back. It’s a long way,” chuckled Reed, “But I thought… you know, it’s possible to do.”

In the end, they successfully completed the 100-kilometer journey from the same hill in Okayama Prefecture (that Hideyoshi set off) to Himeji Castle.

Himeji Castle in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan
The finish line at Himeji Castle

In Sekai Fushigi Hakken! episode host, Soejima Jun’s reflections on the episode, he credits the lessons that Reed taught him on Nanba Walking and Nanba’s secrets to walking long distances to the success of the 100-kilometer journey. He notes that, had they walked the journey with the modern method of walking, they would have surely had to quit halfway through.

Reed regularly appears on media, ranging from radio to print to television. One of the roles that became the starting point for his regular appearance on media was his role as a TV commentator on Tetete TV, a program by Yamanashi Broadcasting System (YBS) that was broadcast every Thursday afternoon.

“[YBS] called me, and they said we would like you to be a regular, are you interested? So yeah, I did that every week for three or four years, every Wednesday or Thursday afternoon. I got used to being on TV.” Reed explained.

Since then, Reed, has been on many other media to share his expertise on samurai culture, Aikido, and Japanese Calligraphy.

For his message to students, Reed says, “Even if you don’t appear in the media, you do need to get comfortable on camera. That takes practice and it takes coaching, which I am providing now through my Career Design Course.”

The following is a short list of Reed’s media appearances:

iCLA Professor William Reed

William Reed’s Faculty Profile
Samurai Walk