Typically, Japanese people spend the new year eating soba (buckwheat noodles) for good luck and fortune in the coming year, while cleaning the bejeezus out of their homes and workplaces. However, there is a secret you may not know about. The wonderful magic that is Japanese New Year’s TV. There are two main choices, and these are very important choices. Much like wedding china, or honeymoon destinations. Screw up, and you will have to hear about it for eternity.
There are two main groups, the red group and the white group.
The white group features male singers and groups, such as Arashi (fun and funky), Exile (arguably the most popular), and Go Hiromi (gets on my last nerve, but many love him).
The red group features female singers and groups, such as AKB48, Seiko Masuda ( a cultural legend ), and other popular female artists and groups.
In the end, they compete for points, and the white or red team is declared the winner at the end of the evening. While this show is a great example of Japanese culture at its finest, in my opinion, it is a bit of a bore. You should totally record it on the HDD, and watch it at your leisure. Skip the boring ones and watch who you like.
Amazing acts, yes. Great competition, sure. Overall, not interesting enough to give up your New Years Eve plans.
You can check out the English Wikipedia website for this year’s contestants and see who you would like to watch!
You can also check out a video of the famous and fabulous Sachiko Kobayashi. She is a legend for her costumes and performances but sadly no longer takes part in the competition due to management issues. Enjoy her singing!
The far superior option for New Year TV is…
Basically a mishmash of Japanese manzai comedy, practical jokes, and stunts, this is the cream of the Japanese New Year TV crop.
The show has been on the air since 1989, and as such is a staple of comedy programming. The show features both main comedians and guest appearances by up and coming comedians. The main members are, as shown below, Hosei Tsukitei, Hitoshi Matsumoto, Masatoshi Hamada, Shozo Endo, and Naoki Tanaka. Endo rocks, and Tanaka is hilarious as can be.
There are several challenges, such as being locked in a room with drawers and boxes to be open filled with nasty surprises, challenges on road trips, and challenges not to laugh in the face of outrageous impressions and comedians. The main punishment for laughing is to have your name called, followed by the word OUT, and then to be beaten with rubber bats. Brutal, yes. But it is absolutely hilarious.
Speaking of the mysterious and nasty surprise room, two years ago featured my favourite prank of all. In one of the drawers in the mystery room, the comedians found simple Japanese treats – manjyu (steamed buns with bean filling) . Needless to say, they were happy to be not pranked and chowed down on the delicious treats. Later, they found out via video that the manjyu were made with special salt – made from the gathered up sweat of a fat man having spent considerable time in a very hot sauna. I admit, I laughed until I cried, and couldn’t really move my abs the next day.
Check out the clip here.
Whichever your preference, check out one of the above programs if you have a chance. You can catch them on Japanese channels shown on international cable, or even on YouTube. You won’t regret it. Get cultured!