(former) NHK Newscaster
After graduating from Waseda University, Keiko Hirano worked for a foundation before joining NHK, where she had a number of roles, including as a newscaster and a narrator for the Taiga drama (an NHK historical drama) about Mori Motonari. She is also a dramatic storyteller who performs recitations of various works on stage and on television, both in Japan and overseas. She received the Galaxy Encouragement Prize for her work on the NHK Performing Arts program, The Narrating World by HIRANO Keiko; in 1997, she won the Grand Prize at the National Arts Festival of the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs for her work in theater; and in 2010, she received the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Award in recognition of the contributions she has made over many years to the art and practice of storytelling. In 2014, Hirano went as a Japan Cultural Envoy to Turkey and Germany where she gave storytelling performances of Japanese literature. She has produced numerous storytelling CDs, DVDs and books. She has performed “The Fire of Rice Sheaves,” “Erutoururu-go no Monogatari” and “Jinmu Tosei,” all of which are connected with Wakayama. Hirano is currently a professor at the Osaka University of Arts.
When I first realized how many heartfelt stories there are of people in Wakayama giving everything to overcome adversity, I was amazed. For someone like me who tells stories for a living, my connection to Wakayama has been forged through any number of tales. The same is true for Koyasan and Kumano, as well. From the moment I set foot on that hallowed ground, it seems as if the very air is different. And as I walk the pilgrim’s path through Kumano, I feel as if I am hearing the beating heart of the mountains. The story of Emperor Jinmu’s Eastern Expedition, found in Japan’s oldest historical record, the Kojiki; the story of “The Fire of Rice Sheaves” and “The Tale of the Frigate Ertuğrul” are all legends and traditions from this region. It is a place where I am enveloped by a deeper and more deliberate rhythm of life. And as I approach Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine, I encounter the sparkling magnificence of the Nachi Waterfall. In 2017, I had the great honor of delivering a recitation here of “Kumano Nachi-otaki to Nihonjin no Kokoro no Monogatari” as part of the 1,700 year anniversary of Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine’s establishment and the 1,300 year anniversary of Nachisan Seiganto-ji Temple’s establishment and inclusion in the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage. It is my sincerest hope that this profound spirit will be carried on for future generations.