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, February 11, 2016

The Drifters -- Chotto dake yo! Zen'in Shuugo (ちょっとだけョ!全員集合)/ Michiya Mihashi -- Hokkai Bon Uta (北海盆唄)

Yup, my whole family were regular fans of the old long-running Saturday-night TBS show "Hachi-ji da yo! Zen'in Shuugo"(8時だョ!全員集合...It's 8 O'Clock! Everyone Assemble)starring the comedy group, The Drifters(ザ・ドリフターズ). I didn't know though that the show had 2 incarnations: the first one lasted from October 1969-March 1971, and after a brief absence, the second incarnation had its long run from October 1971-September 1985. Of course, for my brother and I, it was all about the zany skits, and for me later personally, the singers who guested in the intervals between skits and segments. Of course, there was the memorable ending theme "Ii Yu da na"(いい湯だな)performed by The Drifters themselves and the catchy "Hige Dance"(ヒゲダンス)which always accompanied Ken Shimura and Cha Kato(志村けん・加藤茶)when they did their own tuxedoed shtick.

So I think it is time that I also talk about the opening of "Hachi-ji da yo!" Leader Chosuke Ikariya(いかりや長介)would be on stage, make a few quick greetings to the audience before heartily launching "Itte mi yo!"(いってみよー!...Let's go!)to get the rest of the cast running down the aisle stairs and the various guests and players out on the stage to a jaunty marching beat before everyone in a single line starts with the opening theme song. Hearing that, we knew that we were about to get into the hour of nutty comedy.

Before I decided to write this article, I had assumed that the song was just something that some songwriter concocted on the fly for the producers. However the truth was a bit more involving. For one thing, I had a bit of a problem trying to read through the dense explanation for the opening sequence on the J-Wiki piece on "Hachi-ji da yo!" I wasn't quite sure for one thing what the title was since there were a couple of titles bandied about. However after checking both of them out on YouTube, I am pretty sure that the official title for the jaunty opener is "Chotto dake yo! Zen'in Shuugo" (Just a Little! Everyone Assemble).

The second thing is that unlike the ending theme of "Ii Yu da na" which was a straight adoption of the Duke Aces hit from 1966, "Chotto dake yo! Zen'in Shuugo" was actually a parodic riff on an old Hokkaido minyo titled "Hokkai Bon Uta" (North Seas Bon Song). Although I couldn't find out exactly when the song was created, it was apparently born in the coal mines in Mikasa City in western Hokkaido and spread across to other regions to be used in the various Bon dances. It is still performed annually at the Bon dance in Mikasa in August.

Originally known as "Beccho Bushi"(べっちょ節...Coal Mine Melody)with obscene lyrics, the miners used the song to perform Bon dances. However early during the war years, lyricist Kouzan Imai(今井篁山)who was known as the father of Hokkai minyo cleaned up the lyrics and adjusted the melody. Then many years later, it was released as a record performed by Michiya Mihashi(三橋美智也) in February 1959 which became a huge hit, selling 2.6 million records and coming in at No. 5 among his 12 minyo million sellers (got that information from the comments for the above YouTube video). Listening to the original version, I could tell that the Drifters' take on it was much more sped up.

In 2001, the Drifters had their first and final official appearance on NHK's Kohaku Utagassen performing a medley of their tunes including the opener. During that time, I wasn't paying too much attention to the Kohaku so it was too bad that I missed this performance which must have been very poignant for many in the audience and at home.


As for the meaning behind part of the title, "Chotto dake yo" was one of the popular catchphrases from "Hachi-ji da yo!" that caught fire due to Cha Kato's famous schtick of pretending to be an erotic dancer.

Just to finish off this article, since I'm talking about the opening here, I might as well relate to you about one episode which I caught on rental video. The 1984 show was about to start when the hall suddenly suffered a power outage and the entire place was plunged into darkness. But as the saying goes "The show must go on", and it did with the help of good humour and some battery-operated lights.


  1. Hi J-Canuck.

    Thanks for the explaination of "Hokkai Bon Uta". I never would've thought it was a miner song. My impression was that it's another sea shanty.

    I don't watch much of "Hachi-ji da yo" - I'm more for "Daibakusho" - but I heard Kato Cha singing an excerpt of "Hokkai Bon Uta" in a Drifters song medley with the rest of the guests on an older episode of "Nippon no Uta", and I thought it was quite a fun little ditty.

    I figured it was a minyo judging by the title and I wasn't too surprised that the Drifters did their own take of it since they are known to do zany versions of old minyo. What came as more of a surprise was seeing Michi's version - I had assumed he was singing the same lyrics as the Drifters... That isn't the case though, thankfully, or maybe it'd be funny if Michi were to sing the words from the Drifters' version. :)

    By the way, that picture you posted at the end of the article... Isn't that from one of those practice books where you have to write the word over and over again?

    1. Hi, Noelle.

      Actually, the book is my old kanji dictionary that I had to purchase for my first-year Japanese class in university all the way back in 1984. It's been a good companion all these years. :)

    2. Man, it reminds me of what I had to do throughout primary school for Chinese class. It was quite fun though, and I'd rather that than doing workbook activities that were a pain.


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