The "Kohaku Uta Gassen"
Literally, the "Red & White Song War", this is an extremely popular TV program that is broadcast on New Year's Eve.
Two famous 'tarento' (TV personalities) are selected each year to captain the two (red and white) teams, and a wide range of currently popular singers, of all song varieties are selected to participate on the two teams. To appear on the Kohaku Utagassen is considered to be the high watermark for a singer in Japan.
Some people criticize the broadcaster, NHK, for putting some of their own 'favorites' in the line-up even though their careers have been on the wain for some time. Even older genres such as 'enka' need to be represented, however. so some older choices are inevitable.
The stage for the event is always glitzy with lots of flashing lights, animated scenery and lavishly designed sets.
The judges for the event represent a smorgasbord of current cultural icons, usually including one sumo wrestler, a baseball star, a novelist and a nobel prize winner.
The program ends at 11:45pm so that the last 15 minutes of the year can be spent viewing the throngs of people gathered at various temples throughout the archpelago as they listen to the 'joya no kane' (New Year's temple bell-ringing).
Reported by: Thomas Robb
Date of Report: January 1999
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