From NBC’s Anchorage, Alaska affiliate, KTTU:
Thirty-nine years ago Sunday, a significant state visit by Emperor Hirohito of Japan changed the relationship between the U.S. and Japan — and President Richard Nixon was in Anchorage to meet him. Watch the video here.
Footage of the event was recorded on videotape — cutting-edge technology at the time — and has survived to document a moment in world history.
The 1971 meeting between Hirohito and Nixon was shot in black-and-white several decades ago — but in former Channel 2 station manager Al Bramstedt’s memory, it all happened in color.
“It was a very proud moment for Anchorage,” Bramstedt said.
At the time, Bramstedt worked behind the scenes as part of a camera pool. His job: shooting the meeting for broadcast across the nation and around the world.
“It was a huge event because of its significance, plus it was the lead story for weeks in advance — every night in the news, lead story in the local news: ‘Emperor Hirohito and Nixon coming to Anchorage,’” Bramstedt said.
After thousands of years of Japanese history, Hirohito would be the first emperor to step on foreign soil. The place would be Anchorage, a fuel stop for Hirohito’s plane.
“Carefully, after I brought him over to the podium (in a camera shot), and he was there and speaking, I carefully locked down my camera — it was no longer hot — and I got a look at this guy with my own eyes, and I peered over the sights like, ‘Whoa, President Nixon!’ It was a big deal,” Bramstedt said.
The moment when the two leaders shook hands was an image that remains clear in Bramstedt’s memory, and in the minds of many others.
“The viewership at the time, I was told, was the highest level of worldwide viewership in the history of television, up to that point,” Bramstedt said. “Every year, on Sept. 26, I think about that; it was a big moment, because it was one of the biggest events for our town.”
Hirohito was the 124th emperor of Japan. He died in 1989.