The Kohaku Utagassen - popularly known as Kohaku - is a New Year's Eve NHK TV program that has been an institution in Japan since its radio beginnings in 1951. A red (ko) and white (haku) team, each made up of invited famous entertainment personalities battles for top overall honors, judged by a panel also made up of celebrities from all walks of life.
I got together with a friend for an institution of our own: a nabe (pot luck) dinner, followed by a midnight visit to the Toyokawa Inari Shrine in Tokyo's Akasaka district.
We finished the meal with a large bottle of sake, which my friend warmed up for us, making it extra drinkable. Kohaku seems to get more and more spectacular every year. The most over the top act was, unsurprisingly, the cross-dressing Kenichi Mikawa: a staple character on Kohaku every year. See photo above!
By the time we left for the shrine, I was rolling, and only made it out with great difficulty. I gradually sobered up slightly during the visit to the shrine. My friend is in the music industry, so therefore visits this particular shrine as it is dedicated to the god of music.
Toyokawa Inari Shrine was packed with supplicants, but the turnover is fast, so there was no queuing to get in. There is a restaurant on the premises where we ordered the trademark New Year specialty of o-mochi rice cake and tea, which helped sober me up just a little more.
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Friday, January 02, 2009