And with that, another year has gone by. 2015 was an interesting year for me; it had it's peaks and dips, and I got to experience a number of new things like taking boat ride in a dinghy in southern China during a study trip, seeing enka-yo stuff in stores for the very first time since I took a liking to the genres while on vacation in Taiwan recently, and... learning why beer is a popular drink and how low my tolerance for alcohol is... Yup, this is the year where I'm of the legal age to consume the hard stuff, or at least in Singapore I am.
Moving back to the topic at hand, I ended off the year with the 66th Kohaku Utagassen. It was my 2nd viewing of this annual musical affair, and having sat through 2014's edition I was actually a little worried about what was in store for this year. Thankfully, it was so much better than I had anticipated, with the selection of songs being more invigorating and the different segments being a lot more fun. I shall share my highlights of the show, and I apologize beforehand if this article is very lengthy, especially with it containing my fantasy Kohaku teams later. I'll try to run over it briefly.
Let's get started, shall we?
First off, I'd like to mention a few pop acts encountered that impressed me - the songs they sang I found surprisingly good. These acts were Gen Hoshino's (星野源) "SUN", AAA's "Koioto to Amazora" (恋音と雨空) and Ikimono-gakari's (いきものがかり) "Arigatou" (ありがとう). I thought EXILE... well, more like ATSUSHI, was cool too when "Rising Sun" came on.
Next on the list would be the "Anime Kohaku" segment where theme songs of animes new and old were featured, including that of Sailor Moon, Chibi Maruko-chan, Yokai Watch and my personal favourite, Pokemon. Hiromi Go (郷ひろみ) had a go (haha) at one of the Pokemon theme songs (I wasn't sure which season it came from as I didn't watch much of the anime. I'm more a fan of the games), backed up by Ash Ketchum and a number of Pokemon... it was so cute.
Now for the funny moments. Comedic duo Banana Man were one (two) of the emcees on board, and when it came to young singer-songwriter miwa's appearance, the pudgy mushroom-haired Yuki Himura (日村勇紀) joined her backup dancers. This meant that he too wore the pink Takashimaya-female-service-staff-like suits (according to Mom), and boy, he was adorable and rocking it! Then about mid-way through the second half of the show - when I was beginning to get bored - rock band Golden Bomber showed up with their nutso performance that included the guy with the painted face being stripped of his (female) kimono and being randomly (supposedly, but I think it's rigged) pitted against one of the celebrity guests in a sumo wrestling match. The band member won, but had his head smashed against a large temple bell at the end of the song. That was probably one of the weirder things I've seen on the Kohaku too.
For the enka-yo portions of the show (most in the first half), I'd say all of them did a fine job with their songs, and I was glad Hiroshi Miyama (三山ひろし) managed to hold back his tears as he belted out the very song that got him his first ticket to the annual competition, "Oiwaki Yama" (お岩木山). As expected, Kiyoshi Hikawa (氷川きよし) performed his crowd-pleaser "Otoko Bana" (男花) - just saying that I couldn't resist the temptation and finally gave in and bought the single... A-type... - but I wasn't expecting him to appear with a hoard of rugby players and in a sapphire-blue, flamboyant outfit that made him look like a pirate captain. Akiko Wada (和田アキ子) did look like one too during her turn where she sang "Waratte Yurushite" (笑って許して), just that she had no cape and was in bright red. Yoshimi Tendo (天童よしみ) also did a wonderful job with Hibari Misora's (美空ひばり) "Jinsei Ichiro" (人生一路), and at times, I felt that Tendo sounded a little like the Queen of Kayo.
Sayuri Ishikawa (石川さゆり) and Hiroshi Itsuki (五木ひろし) only came on much later during the second half. There is only that much Kohaku one can take, so my brain was quite exhausted by then, but at least they chose some familiar tunes. I was kind of hoping Ishikawa would've sung her dramatic and fierce signature "Amagi Goe" (天城越え), but she went with "Tsugaru Kaikyo Fuya Geshiki" (津軽海峡・冬景色) instead, which was fine too and just as dramatic with an army of shamisen players strumming away behind the demure-looking singer. The dapper Itsuki was up next with "Chikumagawa" (千曲川); I only got acquainted with it recently, but it is a beautiful song. I had my fingers crossed that Itsuki would join Sandaime (三代目) J Soul Brothers and strut his awesome moves as he did on a number of "Kayo Concert" episodes, but alas it never came to be. He's really good.
My favourite part came when it was Takashi Hosokawa's (細川たかし) turn. Dressed regally in his white kimono and haori, the song he chose was none other than his debut hit, "Kokoro Nokori" (心のこり). Witnessing the enka veteran who ranks just below Kiyoshi Maekawa (前川清) in my list of favourites perform, it gave me the good type of goosebumps. Needless to say, I was extremely happy that he sang it. And then halfway through a couple of other comedians came on to dance with him, including some rotund bloke in just his underwear... Man, have the Kohaku standards changed! I was unnerved, to put it nicely, but not Mom. No. She was not unnerved. She was fuming, seeing her beloved Hosokawa (yes, he's also her favourite, besides Misora) being upstaged by an almost-nude fellow who's not a sight to behold.
To wrap up this portion of the article, I'd like to mention that this edition of the Kohaku Utagassen was where Shinichi Mori (森進一) had his 48th and final appearance. He sang his most well known single, "Ofukuro-san" (おふくろさん). Though I'm not a big fan of his, I still found it a little sad to see another Kohaku staple retire, and it makes me wonder who will take his place next year. I hope they'll bring in another enka veteran. Ah yes, and Seiko-chan DID NOT CRY this time. I wonder if that's what finally brought the White team's reign to an end and led the Red team to victory. I wasn't expecting that; I was so sure the White team would win again, but I'm glad they didn't as it would have been boring.
I hope you guys are still tuning in and are not too bored like I was by the tail end of the show. Now it's time for me to share my fantasy Kohaku line-up. I had read J-Canuck's articles on his dream teams, which got me thinking of my own. I did list down who I'd pick for the Red team in the comments for his Red team article, so he suggested that I do my own list on an official article. You can take a look at my original Red team line-up here, but a couple of changes have been made.
Anyway, I took up the suggestion and here it is. Just so you know, I did add pop and aidoru acts too; pure enka and kayokyoku would be bland. Oh, and I'm listing them according to genre in this order: aidoru, pop, Mood Kayo, enka.
Akina Nakamori - Jikai (1984) (十戒 (1984))
Momoe Yamaguchi - Yumesaki Annainin (夢先案内人)
Yumi Matsutoya - Haru yo, Koi (春よ、来い)
Miyuki Nakajima - Sora to Kimi no Aida ni (空と君のあいだに)
Rimi Natsukawa - Nada Sou Sou (涙そうそう)
Akiko Wada - Waratte Yurushite (笑って許して)
Naomi Chiaki - Tasogare no Beguine (黄昏のビギン)
Kazuko Matsuda - One Rainy Night in Tokyo (ワン・レイニー・ナイト・イン・トーキョー)
Pinky and Killers - Koi no Kisetsu (恋の季節)
Aya Shimazu - Meigetsu Akagiyama (名月赤城山)
Sayuri Ishikawa - Amagi Goe (天城越え)
Fuyumi Sakamoto - Otoko no Hi Matsuri (男の火祭り)
Masako Mori - Oiran (花魁); with Ryudo Uzaki (宇崎竜童) as a guest playing the electric guitar.
Kiyoko Suizenji - Ippon Doko no Uta (いっぽんどっこの唄)
Yoshimi Tendo - Dotonbori Ninjo (道頓堀人情)
Hibari Misora - Ai San San (愛燦燦); with Kei Ogura (小椋佳) as a guest.
Masahiko Kondo - Sneaker Blues (スニーカーぶるーす); oops, I just realised what I've done...
Hideki Saijo - Jounetsu no Arashi (情熱の嵐)
Anzen Chitai - Kanashimi ni Sayonara (悲しみにさよなら)
Southern All Stars - Erotica Seven (エロティカ・セブン)
Chage and Aska - On Your Mark
Yuzo Kayama - Aoi Hoshikuzu (蒼い星くず)
Hiroshi Uchiyamada and Cool Five - Soshite Kobe (そして、神戸)
Yujiro Ishihara - Yogiri yo Konya mo Arigatou (夜霧よ今夜も有難う)
Ikuzo Yoshi - NDA! (んだ!)
Takashi Hosokawa - Bokyo jon Kara (望郷じょんから)
Hiroshi Itsuki - Yozora (夜空)
Hachiro Kasuga - Otomi-san (お富さん)
Hideo Murata - Mina no Shu (皆の衆)
Haruo Minami - Omanta Bayashi (おまんた囃子)
Michiya Mihashi - Hoshikuzu no Machi (星屑の町); the Yon'nin Shu will perform together.
Saburo Kitajima - Matsuri (まつり)
Though not listed in exact order - if I did that I might lose it - Kitajima and Misora get the coveted last spots for their respective teams. There were a couple of things that took me some time to consider. One being, who will wrap things up for the White team? I was contemplating on whether to have Sabu-chan or Minami do so as both songs I've chosen are very festive. Eventually, I went with ol' Sab's (my new nickname for him), to fulfill my desire to see the guy perform "Matsuri" in a blizzard of confetti (on the competition) - he retired just a year before I began watching the Kohaku, so I only just missed his "Matsuri"... So close and I'm still feeling annoyed about it!
The other problem was who to put as the final act. I was tempted to go with Sabu-chan as it would mean ending off with a bang, but then I felt that Misora's "Ai San San" was also a good way to end things off too, not with a bang, but with reflection. What helped me with my decision was watching a talk show on NHK Premium that featured the Kohaku with Beat Takeshi (ビートたけし) and the retired Sab's. While they were showing Kohakus from different years with different guests and methods of counting votes in the studio, there was one thing they all had in common: a still of a temple shrouded in darkness and a moment of peace and quiet immediately after the rowdy show. If my memory serves, they were saying something on the line of the new year should be greeted quietly and introspectively (I THINK, I'm not fully sure). With that in mind, I decided the best way was to finish with Madame Misora.
Well, that about does it for my Kohaku article and thank you for sticking through despite its length (or at least reading some of it). I've been writing on this blog for quite a while now (mostly the enka stuff), and I hope that you guys enjoy what I've written and really hope that I didn't disappoint anyone. But on a lighter note, I wish you guys (readers and bloggers alike) a good year ahead of you. Happy New Year!
One more thing (sorry), if you've read my article on Itsuki's "Hakata a la mode" (博多ア・ラ・モード), then you might remember that I had been contemplating on getting the gentleman's 2016 calendar. Guess what? I got it (reimbursed by Dad). It's a wall calendar and it's bigger than I thought.
I now have 13 huge pictures of Itsuki (1 for each month, 1 bonus one on the cover).
I love it.
I can now flip it open. If I remember, I'll post the pictures of him for each month. Since it is now the first month of the year, here's January's.