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New Year Holidays in Japan: Kōhaku Uta Gassen

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/19 Entertainment ,

As the year ends, it is great to go back and reminisce the events that happened in the outgoing year. Just like in other countries, TV shows in Japan during this time of the year will be of special episodes, year-ender features, and others. In this post, we will introduce to you, our dear readers, one of the shows that are popular this holiday season especially the New Year’s Eve: the Kōhaku Uta Gassen.


The logo of the 61st Kōhaku Uta Gassen. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

The Annual Kōhaku Uta Gassen

Kōhaku Uta Gassen (紅白歌合戦) is an annual music show that is shown every New Year’s Eve. Kōhaku Uta Gassen which is commonly known as Kōhaku is produced by Japanese public broadcaster NHK and the show is broadcast both on television and radio. It is shown nationally by the NHK Network and internationally by some overseas broadcasters who buy the program. The show runs for more than 4 hours and ends before midnight.

Broadcasted on TV since 1953, Kōhaku Uta Gassen which literally means “Red and White Song Battle”, divides the most popular music artists of the year into rival teams of “red” and “white”. The red team, called the akagumi (赤組・紅組) is composed of all female artists (groups with female vocals also belong here). On the other hand, the white team, called the shirogumi (白組) is all male acts (including groups with male vocals).

Artists who perform appears in Kōhaku strictly by invitation. That’s why in Japan, artists take it as an honor to perform in the show. Usually, only the most successful singing acts in the history of Japanese entertainment industry can perform. It is considered to be a big highlight in a singer’s career to perform because of the show’s wide reach.


The band Ikimonogakari during the 2011 Kōhaku Uta Gassen. Lyrics of the songs performed are shown on screen making the viewers sing along to their performances. (Photo from Bert Kimura on Flickr)

Kōhaku Uta Gassen 2014

This year’s Kōhaku will feature a total of 51 artists: 27 for red team and 24 for the white team. First-time performers for this year for the red team are HKT48 and May J who will sing the Japanese version of the hit song “Let it Go” (Ari no Mama de) from the movie Ana toYuki no Joou (アナと雪の女王, the Japanese title of Disney’s Frozen). From the white team, new performers are V6 and SEKAI NO OWARI. This year’s program will also have a special tie-up with the recently hit game and anime Youkai Watch. The theme of this year’s program is “Utaou. Oomisoka wa Zenin Saka de!” which translates to “Let’s sing. Everyone participate on New Year’s Eve!” Actress Yoshitaka Yuriko and popular group Arashi will be the hosts for the red and white teams respectively.


1. Kōhaku Uta Gassen. Wikipedia.

2. NHK announces lineup for ‘Kohaku Uta Gassen’ on New Year’s Eve. Japan Today.

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