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TokyoTreat Japanese Snacks BlogKohaku Uta Gassen: The Ultimate New Year Singing Contest!

Kohaku Uta Gassen: The Ultimate New Year Singing Contest!

Thalia HarrisThalia Harris
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November 22, 2023
The ending of Kohaku Uta Gassen.

Hey, music lovers! Ever heard of the Kohaku Uta Gassen singing contest? It’s like the ultimate showdown of Japan’s most remarkable singers, and it happens every New Year’s Eve. But what’s the big deal? Let’s dive into the world of this epic musical battle and find out why it’s so awesome!

What is the Kohaku Uta Gassen singing contest?

It all began in 1951 when NHK, a public broadcaster, decided to create an outstanding year-end broadcast with the nation’s most popular singers. The singers were gathered and split into two teams: red (kou) and white (haku), comprising female and male artists and vocalists.

People standing for the opening ceremony at the Kohaku Uta Gassen.
This singing contest first started in 1959. mage via Anime Pilipinas

Getting invited to the Kohaku Uta Gassen is like getting VIP access to the most fantastic party in town. Only the cream of the crop, the chart-toppers, and the crowd-pleasers cut.

They mix it up with pop, rock, and those tear-jerker ballads – a musical buffet for your ears. On New Year’s Eve, families across Japan transform their living rooms into karaoke arenas. They enthusiastically sing the tunes from the contest, making it more than just a show. It’s a full-on celebration of music, unity, and a spirited way to welcome the new year!

Why is it so popular?

The Kohaku Uta Gassen is super popular because it’s like a big, fun party every New Year’s Eve in Japan. Families all over the country get together to celebrate, and it’s become a vital tradition. The contest features extraordinary singers from various music styles, creating a diverse and enjoyable music party for everyone.

What’s remarkable is they split the singers into two teams, the Red Team and the White Team, and they have a friendly competition that gets everyone excited and feeling like they’re part of something special.

Members of the red team and the year end singing contest.
Female performers make up most of the red team. Image via Japan Times

But it’s not just about famous singers; the show also takes us down memory lane with old-school songs, making it a fantastic mix of the past and present. This helps bring people of all ages together and makes them feel connected. Plus, the Kohaku Uta Gassen is like a launchpad for new talent, giving new singers a chance to shine. 

People love the Kohaku Uta Gassen so much because of this mix of old and new, traditional and modern tunes, and the excitement of discovering fresh talent. It’s not just a music show; it’s a big, incredible celebration everyone can enjoy!

Are you interested in some delicious snacks to ring in the New Year? Check out TokyoTreat! TokyoTreat delivers the best Japanese snacks, drinks, sweets, and noodles straight from Japan to your door so that you can have a fun summer party at home!

What were some notable performances in the series?

With an epic event like Kohaku Gassen Uta, standout performances are bound to be! Here are some notable ones:

2018 Yoshiki vs Yoshiki

Yoshiki and Sarah Brightman performing at the 2018 Kohaku Uta Gassen.
Yoshiki is a rock musician, and Sarah Brightman is a classical crossover soprano. Image via J-Generation

During the 69th Kohaku Uta Gassen, legendary rock star Yoshiki (of X Japan fame) performed in supporting roles for the red and white teams! For the white team, he played drums for HYDE and SUGIZO’s performance of the Attack on Titan theme, “Red Swan,” while for the red team, he played piano for Sarah Brightman’s performance of “Miracle,” which he wrote.

2020 Babymetal’s Only Performance

Babymetal performing at the 2020 Kohaku Uta Gassen.
Babymetal is a heavy metal idol band! Image via Nikkan Sports

For the 71st Kohaku Uta Gassen, kawaii metal band Babymetal performed their hit 2013 single “Ijime, Dame, Zettai” (Absolutely No Bullying). This anti-bullying anthem gained global acclaim, and their performance on Kohaku Uta Gassen received a positive reception! They’ve gone on hiatus since then, but many people still listen to their awesome music!

2022 K-Pop Wave

JO1 performing at the 2022 Kohaku Uta Gassen.
JO1 is a J-pop group with K-pop influence. Image via Nikkan Sports

The 73rd Kohaku Uta Gassen was one of the first events featuring Korean and Japanese pop groups performing in the K-pop style! Acts included NiziU, JO1, and Twice, who gave electrifying performances! Their appearance is a fun example of NHK’s recent inclusion of international acts! It’s even further proof of how popular this event is worldwide!

Why should I watch the Kohaku Uta Gassen?

Watching the Kohaku Uta Gassen is more than just enjoying awesome music; it’s like stepping into a lively tradition. This yearly contest brings together super-talented performers from different music styles, promising a musical adventure for everyone. What makes the Kohaku Uta Gassen special is how they split the singers into Red Team and White Team, making it a friendly competition that adds an extra dose of fun. 

Members of the all-male white team at the year-end singing contest
Does your country have a famous singing contest? Image via Reddit

Besides the thrilling contest, they throw in some classic Enka songs, creating a mix of old-school vibes that connect different generations and make everyone feel united. And here’s the cool part – it’s not just about the famous names. The show gives a stage to new artists, letting them shine and grab the audience’s attention. Have you ever watched Kohaku Uta Gassen before? Let us know in the comments below! 

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Thalia Harris

Writer living in Tokyo who likes stories, music and video games. <3

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