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January 2006 Archives

Here's the colorful view I was greeted with this morning. I thought it was worth sharing.


[NHK's Annual Red/White Song Competition]

Every year for the past 56 years, Japan has broadcast a national music competition entitled Kouhaku Uta Gessen (????? / "Red and White Song Battle"). For the first three years the program was transmitted via radio, but in 1954 Japan's first TV broadcast capabilities went online, marking the start of the Nippon Housou Kyoukai (NHK / ??????), the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation. Thus from the very advent of television broadcast in Japan Kouhaku Uta Gessen has been a favorite televised national event.

The program runs annually on New Year's Eve from 7:20pm to 11:45pm, during which time the nation's top musicians perform in what amount to a "boys against the girls" competition. Appointed judges and segments of the population are invited to vote for either team, and at the program's end, the tally is counted.

Below you will find photos and info on this year's competition. Due to the time zone difference between Chicago and Tokyo (we are 16 hours behind Tokyo), the live broadcast is recorded in Japan and then distributed on DVD through Japanese stores here in the States in time to be watched here on New Years Eve (!!). For those in the USA, if you can imagine "Dick Clark's New Years Eve" multiplied by 100, you'll get a notion of the importance of this annual event.

Kinkaku-Ji Temple, also known as the Temple of the Golden Pavillion, is perhaps the most well-known temple in Japan due its truly brilliant appearance. The official name of this temple is Rokuon-Ji. For about a decade starting in 1220 this immediate region was the villa of Kitsune Saionji. Around 1397 AD, Yoshimitsu, the 3rd Shogun of Ashikaga developed Kinkaku into its current design. After Yoshimitsu's death, Kinkaku was made into a Zen temple according to his will. The Kinkaku building and the gardens remain exactly as they were then.

Kinkaku-Ji Temple consists of three types of architecture. The 1st floor is Shinden-zukuri, the palace style. The 2nd floor is Buke-zukuri, the style of samurai houses. The 3rd floor is Karayo, the style of Zen temples. Both the 2nd and 3rd floors are covered with gold-leaf on Japanese lacquer. On the roof sits a golden Chinese phoenix. The temple complex contains two large ponds and several islands, as well as several shrines, including Fudodo shrine wherein the stone sculpture of Fudo-myoo is enshrined as a guardian.

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