I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

66th (2015) NHK Kohaku Utagassen (第66回紅白歌合戦)

Well, we all know the current year is coming to an end when the announcements for the lineup for the Kohaku Utagassen are released. And that is what happened earlier this morning when I woke up. The folks at NHK News gave the grand announcement with the introductions of the hosts, captains and the participants for both the Red and White teams.

Above is footage of my first Kohaku Utagassen...the 32nd to be exact from December 31 1981. And that is the lovely Hitomi Ishikawa(石川ひとみ)singing and then crying through "Machibuse" (love the aidoru hair!). However, the video also features the big surprise for the 66th edition. As much as she did for that show from 34 years ago, Tetsuko Kuroyanagi(黒柳徹子)will be returning as host with her rapid-fire banter. The legendary co-host from "The Best 10" may have slowed up a bit with age but I think she will still probably verbally outrace most of the folks on the stage. There is the expression "You never forget your first (fill in the blank)"; well, Totto-chan was my first Kohaku host. She will be paired up with veteran NHK announcer Yumiko Udo(有働由美子).

In any case, here is the lineup for the 66th Kohaku Utagassen (and I thank the relevant Wikipedia article):

Akagumi/Red Team
Captain: Haruka Ayase

AAA (6)
AKB48 (8)
Akiko Wada (39)
Aya Shimazu (2)
Ayako Fuji (21)
E-Girls (3)
Fuyumi Sakamoto (27)
Ikimonogakari (8)
Kana Nishino (6)
Kaori Mizumori (13)
μ's (from Love Live!) (Debut)
Mariko Takahashi (3)
Miki Imai (2)
Miwa (3)
Natsuko Godai (22)
NMB48 (3)
Nogizaka46 (Debut)
Perfume (8)
Rebecca (Debut)
Sakurako Ohara (Debut)
Shiina Ringo (3)
Seiko Matsuda (19)
Sayuri Ishikawa (38)
Superfly (Debut)
Yoshimi Tendo (20)

Shirogumi/White Team
Captain: Yoshihiko (Inocchi) Inohara

Arashi (7)
Bump of Chicken (Debut)
EXILE (11)
Gen Hoshino (Debut)
Gesu no Kiwami Otome (Debut)
Go Hiromi (28)
Golden Bomber (4)
Kanjani8 (4)
Keisuke Yamauchi (Debut)
Kiyoshi Hikawa (16)
Hideaki Tokunaga (10)
Hiroshi Miyama (Debut)
Hiroshi Itsuki (45)
Masahiko Kondo (10)
Masaharu Fukuyama (8)
Miwa Akihiro (4)
Sandaime J Soul Brothers (4)
Sekai no Owari (2)
Sexy Zone (3)
Shinichi Mori (48)
SMAP (23)
Takashi Hosokawa (39)
Tokio (22)
V6 (2)
X Japan (6)
Yuzu (6)

The theme for the show this year is "That's Nippon! That's Kohaku!" As for what I'm going to look forward to, I'll be happy to see Miki Imai(今井美樹), Mariko Takahashi(高橋真梨子), Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子), Rebecca(レベッカ) and Superfly on the Red Team while it'll be great to view Hiroshi Itsuki(五木ひろし), Masahiko Kondo (近藤真彦'll be interesting to see if he can still pull off those kicks and jumps) and Hiroshi Miyama(三山ひろし). Yes, my age is indeed showing here in my choices (with the exception of Superfly). I am a bit disappointed that Kouhei Fukuda (福田こうへい...despite him being listed on the Wiki article) and Sakanaction won't be appearing though.

NHK also had footage of enka star Sachiko Kobayashi(小林幸子)so I thought at first that even she was returning to the show as one of the Red Team (I could have imagined the set designers screaming "Where the heck are we going to get 100 square kilometers of fabric?!"), but such is not the case. She is actually coming on as a special guest (1000 square kilometers of fabric?).  You can check her costume above at the 4-minute mark.

Last year, the 65th edition apparently scored the lowest ratings in recent memory. It's not particularly surprising since there is a whole lot more to do now outside compared to the early years of the show, and there are weekly music programs on NHK which cover both the enka and pop sides on that same Shibuya stage. So perhaps bringing back Kuroyanagi and singers like Seiko-chan and Matchy and coming up with the overall theme are attempts to evoke past glories, but I am wondering if it might be time for a huge revamp or just to retire the program altogether...that latter choice, I realize, would have the broadcaster and some fans unleashing the dogs on me, mind you.

Anyways, I welcome any comments about on topics such as who you are rooting for or even if the Kohaku should still be existing. One suggestion I do have is to shorten the length of the show back to 1980s levels.


  1. Hi, J-Canuck.

    It's almost December, a month with lots of lenghty Japanese music shows to watch. In a way, I think of Kouhaku as the true pinnacle of this party.

    As for my highlights, they are...

    ~Red Team~

    -Perfume: Not a strong year for them, but I'm a fan. In my opinion, they'll probably go with "Pick Me Up", which was their most upbeat song of the year;

    -Seiko Matsuda: Classic, classic, classic... (I'm waiting for an aidoru medley from her);

    -AKB48: They had a pretty good single called "Bokutachi wa Tatakawanai" this year. "Halloween Night" was not so bad, either;

    -NMB48: They had two good singles in the form of "Don't look back" and "Must Be Now". I'd go with the first, if I were them.

    -Rebecca: I'm just curious to see what they're going to perform. I'd love to see them perform "MOON", but it wasn't a hit back then. They're probably going to sing "Friends";

    ~White Team~

    -Arashi: I liked their first single of the year, "Sakura", but they'll probably go with one of the other two singles, which I didn't like and don't remember the names;

    -Takashi Hosokawa: He's legendary. That's enough;

    -SMAP: I want to see what KimuTaku's hair is looking like this year. Also, it'd be nice to see some old songs performed ("$10", "Aoi Inazuma", "Dynamite", "Yozora no Mukou", etc...), but I'll be satisfied if they sing "Kareinaru Gyakushu", which was their best song this year.

    I was happy to know Tetsuko Kuroyanagi will be hosting Kouhaku this year. Also, I was surprised to not see Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (she released very poor singles this year, so I understand her absence), Nana Mizuki, and J-Pop's divas Ayumi Hamasaki and Koda Kumi on the list.

    As for the whole existance of Kouhaku, I hope it continues being aired. Some things may not be as popular as in the past, but they need to continue... I'm on the tradition side here. Kouhaku may be cheesy and even repetitive, but it showcases a portion of Japan's huge music market. Of course we wouldn't like to see many of the performers that were invited (Sexy Zone, for example), but, at the same time, we're cheering for our favorite acts, even knowing they'll perform the same old things we've watched the whole year. In my case, I know Perfuume didn't have a great year, but I'll be more than happy to see them on Kouhaku's stage performing "whatever song they choose" in the usual playback.

    On the other hand, I admit Kouhaku isn't my favorite lenghty music show anymore. Let's say FNS is shining on neon lights inside my head right now. Nevertheless, I'll happily seat to watch Kouhaku on January 1st, as I always do.

    Sorry for this very long comment! :)

    1. Hello, Marcos.

      No problems on the long comment...always enjoy it. Despite my misgivings about the length of the program, I think it will still continue to be aired for the foreseeable future; I'm pretty sure that there is a dedicated chunk of yen in NHK's budget for the Kohaku so as long as it is there, it should be coming on every year.

      "-AKB48: They had a pretty good single called "Bokutachi wa Tatakawanai" this year. "Halloween Night" was not so bad, either;"

      I would probably prefer "Halloween Night" myself but I've got a sneaking suspicion that AKB48 will sing "365-nichi no Kami Hikouki" since that is the theme song for the currently running NHK morning drama serial "Asa ga Kita".

      "-Rebecca: I'm just curious to see what they're going to perform. I'd love to see them perform "MOON", but it wasn't a hit back then. They're probably going to sing "Friends";"

      Yep, agreed on that. I don't think that there is any way that they WON'T sing "Friends".

      By the way, I have no idea who Sexy Zone is. Is that a new aidoru group? I think they may be the ones who replaced Kouhei Fukuda.

    2. I totally forgot about AKB48's "365-nichi noKami Hikouki". Actually, you've worried me, because I find thagt song utterly boring. That made me remember they're releasing a -bad- new single, "Kuchibiru ni Be My Baby", in December, and it's Minami Takahashi's (known as "general manager of the 48 Groups") final single. There's a chance they'll perform it as a way of paying tribute to Takamina's history in the group...... as for me, I still wanted "Bokutachi wa Tatakawanai" and "Halloween Night", though. Lets see what happens!

      You don't know Sexy Zone? They're a horrid Johnny's group created three or four years ago, but this isn't their first Kouhaku, so I don't think they replaced anyone.

      Funny thing about this group is that if you just type Sexy Zone on google, you'll only get porn stuff. I don't know where Johnny or his staff were with their heads when coming up with a name for the group. Actually, Johnny said it had something to do with Michael Jackson's sexiness, which makes things even worse. Needless to say, their music is dreadful, probably the worst of Johnny's groups (and that's not little, considering Johnny's groups are what we know they are)... and the boys are not sexy whatsoever.

    3. I think NHK will be releasing which songs all of the acts will be singing, so my suspicion that AKB48 will be singing "365-nichi" is getting stronger. Perhaps if we're lucky, it'll be part of a whole medley. I just can't imagine that all 48 members will get on stage just to do a ballad.

      OK, I'm duly warned on Sexy Zone then, haha. My Dad will probably be yelling at the screen for the two of us.

  2. Hi J-Canuck.

    Well this article kinda cheered me up. I've practically been put out of commission by a really bad flu bug that has plagued me for the whole week, but I think I'm beginning to feel slightly better (I can breathe through my nose again!).

    Anyway, the line up to this year's Kohaku is pretty much what I had expected. It's nice to know that the enka oldies like Hiroshi Itsuki, Takashi Hosokawa, Sayuri Ishikawa, Yoshimi Tendo and the 4 "Enka Hime" are still at it, and I'm curious to know what they are going to sing - a classic or their new releases. Either way, I'm holding out hope that Hosokawa sings "Bokyo Jonkara", though I don't mind "Kita Dake" or "Oenka, Ikimasu" again.

    I see that Hiroshi Miyama and Keisuke Yamauchi finally get their debut on the Kohaku; they've been doing well this year, so it's not that big of a surprise. What I'm disappointed to note was that Kouhei Fukuda was not invited to the show; I thought he'd be a regular guest on the show due to his incredible voice. Oh well, at least there's Aya Shimazu, whom I equate to Fukuda in terms of their vocals.

    I'm also looking forward to see Kiyoshi Hikawa perform as he usually brightens up the show with his exuberance - his "Choitto Kimagure Wataridori" on last year's Kohaku really snapped me out of hibernation mode. I have a strong feeling that he's going to sing "Otoko Bana" this time, as it seems to be a fan favourite, as you could probably already tell from the fans during a couple of "Kayo Concert" episodes.

    I'm mostly in for the enka, but I'm keen on seeing what Hideaki Tokunaga and Matchy have in store too - I'm kinda hoping that Matchy would sing some of his old hits from the early 80's, like "Sneaker Blues".

    About retiring the Kohaku all together, I don't think that would happen unless it gets really low ratings consecutively, which I doubt NHK would allow. As you've said, they're trying hard to get more viewership by inviting all those Pop stars who were once at the top. I wonder if it's working though. To be frank, I don't really want to see it go yet as I only just started to watch it. Yes, gets boring, but the novelty of seeing a few of my favourite singers on the show that had been known to be rather prestigious and only showcased the best at the end of each year still hasn't worn off yet. And of course, being able to say that I've seen so-and-so on the Kohaku Uta Gassen is pretty cool. :) So I can tolerate a couple more Kohakus as long as fellas like Itsuki and Hosokawa are still around.

    1. Hi Noelle.

      Glad you're back on the mend. The flu bug is probably already affecting some people here, too.

      One of the things about writing some of the articles in the blog is that afterwards, I start wondering whether I should have taken other views into consideration. This article is no different. I may have been a bit unduly harsh when I said that perhaps the Kohaku ought to be retired although I still think it is way too long (2.5 hours is my max). I have a feeling that even the producers for the show are most likely assuming that the special is approaching more of a niche program than something that can still bring in the masses, And I guess as long as the NHK has the budget and there is a certain ratings threshold that is met, the Kohaku will probably go on. I have become more jaded over the years but I realize that there are new viewers who have been quite excited about the show. It's probably the same with me when I first started watching in the early 80s; it had already been on for around 25 years by that point and I'm sure that there were older viewers who were grumbling about how the quality of the show was dropping back then while I was marveling at the spectacle of Seiko, Matchy and the others.

      Although I am happy to see Miyama and Yamauchi make their debuts on the show, I was also surprised to find out that Fukuda will not be making it. He is one of the better enka singers and my parents like him (considering how tough they can be on singers, that's quite the revelation); I'm sure, though, that he will make a reappearance.

      Considering the theme of the show, I wouldn't be surprised if the veteran enka singers especially will be going to their classic songs. Perhaps the show might bring back the group singalong segments in which even the younger pop stars will croon some of the oldies.


Feel free to provide any comments (pro or con). Just be civil about it.