Japan's digital puzzle nearly complete


TOKYO -- Viewers in the last remaining nine Japanese prefectures to receive terrestrial digital television broadcasts woke up to improved images and sound quality Friday morning.

TV went digital in the western prefectures as well as the southern islands of Okinawa when the first broadcasts began at 5 a.m., according to a spokesman for the National Association of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan.

"This means that viewers across the entire country now have access to clearer pictures and enhanced sound," Hono Tajima said. "We started the program in the key urban areas of Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya in December 2003 and have now completed coverage to all 47 prefectures."

The digital TV network enables 84% of the 47 million Japanese households that have a tuner or television set incorporating a digital tuner to view programs.

Digital broadcasts are scheduled to replace analog services entirely by July 24, 2011.

Friday's achievement was marked at a ceremony at a hotel in Tokyo attended by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Genichi Hashimoto, chairman of national broadcaster NHK.