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.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hachidai Nakamura -- Theme from Shoten (笑点)

I decided to include the theme from "Shoten" (Laughing Points) since it's one of the most well-known TV theme songs in Japan. The above is the full version of the theme which isn't currently used for the show itself, but the opening phrase is enough for just about anyone in the country to recognize the song instantly, whether they watch it or not. It has that comedic sense in the form of those off-tune car horns, the muted trumpets and the blustery trombones. The theme was composed by Hachidai Nakamura(中村八大), who was also responsible for Kyu Sakamoto's(坂本九) "Sukiyaki" (already profiled) back in 1961. And it was released in November 1969 as the second theme song for the show.

Probably not even a lot of Japanese now are aware of this, but the theme from "Shoten" actually has lyrics written by Takehiko Maeda(前田武彦). And for the first little while, it had been sung by Maeda and the actual comedians appearing on the program, but with the change in cast, it switched over to the current instrumental version. I couldn't find the original version but with the help of special guest star, Miku Hatsune(初音ミク), I can give you the sung version.

Now, what is this "Shoten" all about? Well, it's (according to Wikipedia) the 2nd-longest running Japanese TV variety program, starting in 1967 and continuing every Sunday in Japan at 5:30 p.m. on NTV. So, before the anime hour on Fuji-TV (Chibi Maruko-chan/Sazae-san), I often caught this show. Basically the format is this: six rakugo storytellers in front of their head honcho, himself a rakugo veteran, are given situations for which they have to instantly come up with a funny pun or witticism. There is one more storyteller at the other end by the name of Yamada who seems to just cheerfully give out and take away the zabuton...which brings me to my final point. A storyteller who makes an especially funny joke will earn a sitting cushion, but if he gives a lousy punchline, then the opposite happens. Earning ten zabuton will get that storyteller a prize.

To have a gripping command of the Japanese language to fully appreciate the jokes is a foregone conclusion, and a lot of the time even I can't really understand what's going on. However, I can just enjoy the obvious camaraderie that the rakugo-ka have for each other. And even back here in Toronto, I can still watch the show via TV Japan on Sunday nights at 9:15.

Monday July 2 2018: I was watching last night's edition of "Shoten" and rather remarked to myself that the episode wasn't exactly a ring-dinger (the episodes come to TV Japan about 3 months late) in terms of amusement. I've been reading that some viewers have been missing the time when host Utamaru Katsura(桂歌丸)had been running things until his retirement in May 2016.

Well, sad to say, but Katsura passed away earlier today at the age of 81. He had been a member of the row of rakugo-ka right from the first episode of "Shoten" in May 1966 right up to 2006 when he became the 5th official host of the program. Even after his retirement, his face was still included in the opening credits. His fellow rakugo-ka had often razzed him about his baldness and age and even his death, but I think for the next little while, there will be a lot of tears shed along with reminiscing laughter.

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