Who's on TV? Monta Mino, of course!

He is a ubiquitous presenter with a portfolio of shows that draw Japanese viewers in their millions. Now he's getting political – and the government is worried.

Picture the world's busiest television presenter and imagine yourself squinting through the glare of high-wattage celebrity, struggling to breathe in air perfumed with pampered showbiz ego. But fresh from hosting Japan's most popular afternoon talk-show, Monta Mino arrives (in a reception lounge at the broadcasting giant Nippon TV) with nothing more elaborate than a crinkly-eyed grin and the faint whiff of high-performance aftershave. No entourage, chaperone or even PR manager in sight, the dapper 64-year-old oozes bonhomie and easy charm from his perma-tanned pores.

It's been another busy year for the self-confessed workaholic, who has a place in Guinness World Records for appearing live in front of TV cameras more than anyone else on the planet. This year he topped his previous record by 18 minutes, clocking up 22 hours and five seconds in one week, then wondered aloud why he couldn't work Sundays as well. Many may lay claim to the title, but this may really be the Hardest Working Man in television.

"I find it difficult to say no," he says, throwing his head back in his trademark bellowing laugh. "And I love to work. Some people might find standing in front of cameras stressful but to me it's tremendous fun."

Five days a week Mino – real name Norio Minorikawa – drags himself out of bed at 3am to host a pre-breakfast show before being chauffeured from the TBS studios to rival NTV for a long-running afternoon slot hugely popular with housewives. Both shows have helped make him as powerful, and sometimes as controversial, in Japan as Oprah Winfrey is in the US. Not that Mino has heard of the American queen of the small screen. "I don't watch much television to be honest, because it's work to me."

After a trip to the gym and a nap, he is back in millions of teatime living-rooms with several prime-time shows, including the Japanese version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Totally Unbelievable Animals and As Good as it Gets. On weekends, there are radio slots, interviews and the variety show Mino's Saturday Zubatto, an untranslatable Japanese word that means something like "in your face". Seemingly immune to fears of wearing out his welcome, he shills for beer, real-estate and denture cleaner on network TV, and has been known to pop up on other shows as well. He sleeps just three hours a night.

To a large section of the Japanese population, particularly the middle-aged and elderly, Mino's health tips, product plugs and clipped asides on the issues du jour are akin to tablets of stone. Over the years, he has generated runs on sea-salt, red wine, radishes, bananas, sake and countless other items. When he praised the antioxidant benefits of cocoa, stores across Japan ran out, leaving a three-month waiting list. Unsurprisingly, he says his office is "inundated" with requests to hawk goods.

But it is in the arena of politics where the tireless MC's influence is perhaps most profound, and least understood. A liberal populist, Mino peppers his morning show with terse, often critical comments on the government and the ruling Liberal Democrats (LDP), who are struggling through the deepest crisis of their half-century existence. The comments reflect and fuel fears among his audience that the government has no answer to Japan's growing problems, especially the widening income gap, and poverty among Mino's key demographic. "My great concern is that the elderly won't be able to survive if things keep going the way they're going. I get angry when I think about how old people are treated."

Mino's nose for the zeitgeist was in evidence again last month, during the controversy over comments defending Japan's war record by Japan's Air Self-Defence Force chief of staff. General Toshio Tamogami described claims that Japan was the aggressor in the Second World War as "false" and called for a "correct understanding". "What Japan did was wonderful," he wrote. Mino called the views "a joke" on his morning show. The general was forced to quit.

"I thought the comments were ridiculous," Mino said later. "The official government stance is that we waged a war of aggression. We're not the only nation that invaded other countries: France, England and Germany also colonised China, for instance. But my position is that we should accept what we did and reflect on it, not deny it. So I said so."

He was rewarded, not for the first time, by a visit from Japan's much feared ultra-right, who circled the TBS studios in their militarised black vans screaming for him to come out and face the music. Mino's asides often generate what he calls similar "painful feedback", including complaints from viewers, calls to advertisers and even pressure from the government. "I get a lot of mail supporting me, but the other side makes more noise," he laments. "My wife tells me to soften what I say but when I hear mistaken views like that I just have to speak my mind."

Mino's furious work ethic may stem from what appears to have been an unhappy time as a journalist on the conservative Sankei newspaper, where he says most of his copy was trashed. A long spell as a radio announcer followed but for most of his thirties he hawked water meters for his father's company and returned to broadcasting in his forties. His breakthrough came when he started turning down the sound on US baseball broadcasts and filling the gap with commentary.

"I never forget the sadness of not having work and always bear that in mind when I'm asked to take on another job." Like many of Japan's baby boomers (Mino was born in 1944), the lean post-war years profoundly shaped his view on life. "We were so poor my father had to work at everything. Now we're able to choose, and that's good. But people have forgotten how to stick to something because they have to. There are a lot of people now who work part-time or with dispatch agencies and they just work when they want. When I get a new job, I work my guts out."

Mino credits his health and famous glowing tan to gardening, and a half-beer-and-tomato-juice concoction every morning. "It sharpens me up. I love to drink, especially Scotch whisky and I can drink any time," he says, laughing again. "Sometimes I present shows where alcohol is featured and I'm told not to touch the booze. But I can't resist trying the drinks out."

After two decades at the top of the greasy entertainment ladder, he briefly slipped three years ago when he was forced to take two weeks off for a back operation, throwing a large chunk of Japan's popular TV schedule into a tailspin. For the first time, he considered retiring. "It was a terrible time," he says. "All the advertisers had signed up for Monta Mino so they pulled out.

"I'm almost 65 and of course I think about the future. I talk with my wife about handing over the reins to younger presenters because we worry sometimes about me keeling over in front of the cameras. I think about the trouble that would cause to everyone. But then I get a second wind and want to keep going."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Dynamics CRM Developer (C#, .NET, Dynamics CRM 2011/2013)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Dynamics CRM D...

Web Developer (C#, ASP.NET, AJAX, JavaScript, MVC, HTML)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Web Developer ...

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?