Broadcasts began Friday in eight Japanese prefectures

TOKYO — Digital terrestrial TV broadcasts began Friday in eight Japanese prefectures, primarily in the southern main island of Kyushu.

All 47 prefectures in the country now receive digital terrestrial broadcasts, completing the diffusion that began in December 2003, when the Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya metro areas became the first in the country to go digital.

At present 84% of Japan’s 47 million TV households, or 39.5 million, can receive terrestrial digital signals, though many have yet to buy the still relatively pricey digital sets. Japan will complete the switch from digital to analog broadcasting on July 24, 2011.

A ceremony in Tokyo celebrated the digital diffusion landmark, attended by government officials, celebrities and broadcasting execs from around the country.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the gathered: “We often speak of innovations that improve technologies, but digital broadcasting is an innovation also important for the major changes it will bring to society and people’s lifestyles. The government will exert every effort to spread digital broadcasting even further.”

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more