Kohaku Uta Gassen

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  • Topic: J-pop, Japan, Enka
  • Pages : 5 (1740 words )
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  • Published : February 10, 2013
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Mengyu Wang
Professor Fumie Bouvier
JPN 110
Nov. 15th 2012
Kohaku Uta Gassen
Mengyu Wang
Speaking of the holidays in Japan, the most important one must be New Year. Like in the U.S., the day of New Year is January 1st. Usually, there is a three-day holiday for New Year celebration. In Japan, the New Year’s Eve is called Omisoka. It is a tradition that families gather to spend Omisoka together. Japanese families usually have long noodles before midnight of that day because they think that long noodles predict long life. While Japanese families are having delicious noodles, they are usually watching a television program together (“Omisoka, Japanese New Year’s Eve” 9). This program is called Kohaku Uta Gassen, which means Red and White Song Contest in English. Kohaku Uta Gassen has been one of the most-watched shows in Japan for a long time. In this song contest, the most popular singers from that year are invited and divided into two teams. Female singers are labeled as the red team while male singers are labeled as the white team. At the end of the show, the live audience, television viewers, and a panel of judges vote to determine the winning team (Powers and Kato 213). Kohaku Uta Gassen debuted in 1951 on the public broadcaster NHK (“A Celebration of Popular Song”). At that time, the program was aired on the radio. Beginning with the fourth Kohaku, which was in 1954, it has been aired on television. During 1960’s, there was an economic growth in Japan. People’s income increased and their living styles changed. This had a great influence on the music industry in Japan. For instance, Western popular music has become popular since then. In addition, largely affected by Western music, Japan began developing a type of its own popular music, which people call “J-Pop”. The flourishing of Japanese music industry made more and more people pay attention to NHK’s Kohaku Uta Gassen because they could hear the most popular songs of the whole year in the show. In 1963, when the 14th Gassen was held, 81.4% of the country was watching it, and which is an amazing number (“Audience Rating”). On the stage of Kohaku Uta Gassen, there are usually two types of songs that are performed. One type is J-Pop. As I mention previously, J-Pop is a type of popular music in Japan and it was largely affected by Western music, especially by American pop music. (Powers and Kato 207) Some famous J-Pop stars perform in the show for several years, such as Ayumi Hamasaki, SMAP, and Namie Amuro. There are also some newly up-and-coming stars invited to the Gassen because they have hit songs in the current year. In 2009, a female electronica music group, Perfume, was invited to Kohaku Uta Gassen by NHK because they drove the wave of electronica music in Japan with their hit songs in that year. People are excited to see these faces on the show. (“Audience Rating”) Usually, as soon as NHK releases the list of artists invited, people begin to have a hot discussion about these artists and the show. Another type of the songs that are performed in Kohaku Uta Gassen is Enka. Enka is another type of popular Japanese music, which is influenced greatly by traditional Japanese music. However, compared to J-Pop, it is considered “old” because it emerged in the 1880s. Though time changes from then to now, Enka is always in the form of sentimental ballads. (Power and Kato, 207) Every year in Kohaku Uta Gassen, there are many Enka singers invited to give performances. Most of them are Enka veterans and have been in the show for more than 20 years. Kitajima Saburo, who is one of the most famous Enka singers in Japan, has been in the Gassen for 48 years (“Audience Rating”). As Japan steps into the 21st century, International communication is becoming even more frequent. Japanese people are getting to know more western culture. J-Pop, which mixes the characteristics of western music, is attracting more and more people than Enka. Although Enka is still very popular among old...
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