Every Sunday I watch a terebi bangumi from the public tv station in Japan called NHK. I have been watching it on and off since 1976 when I was introduced to it by my homestay kazoku.
Back then if it was noon on nichiyōbi, almost everyone was watching it. It’s an amateur singing contest. Each week they go to a different locale in Japan and introduce the town and show what is special about it, followed by the introduction of two guest judges who are professional singers. And then the participants come on stage to sing and get judged with one chime, two chimes or a series of chimes telling them they’ve scored high enough to be in the final round of judging. At the end one tokubetsu shō is given and then the grand champion is announced from the six or seven who’ve gotten top marks. Simple, but addictive! I don’t think there is any better way to get a taste of real Japan.
Of course the format has changed some over the years. And during COVID it was cancelled entirely for a while. So it reflects genjitsu Japan as well. A few weeks ago there was an jishin just as the show was about to begin (it is broadcast live). And news pre-empted it.
I could probably write a book about Nodo Jiman, but for now I’ll stick with yesterday’s broadcast.
Everyone is always properly attentive when an otoshiyori comes on stage to sing, often accompanied by a mago. It isn’t unusual to have participants in their eighties and even nineties. But yesterday was very special because a gentleman who is 100 years old came on to sing. He wasn’t half bad. The announcer asked his usual questions.
"To what do you attribute your longevity?" "I sing everyday!" "And what goals do you have in your life right now?" "I want to reach hyakutōban!"
And everyone laughed. Let me explain. 110 is the number that one calls for the police or in an emergency. It’s sort of Japan’s 911. So he made a great pun by saying that he wants to call the police or–in this case he wants to reach age 110. That’s probably possible in Japan.
And of course he was awarded the special prize. Nobody could top that one! Sasuga!
- Nodo Jiman – のど自慢 song show. Please read the wikipedia entry here. I can’t explain it in a few sentences and do it justice.
- terebi bangumi – テレビ番組 television + program
- kazoku – 家族 family. Note that if you are asking someone about their family you want to put an honorific in front of it and say gokazoku
- nichiyōbi – 日曜日 Sunday
- tokubetsu shō – 特別賞 special + award
- genjitsu – 現実 reality, actualities
- jishin – 地震 earthquake
- otoshiyori – お年寄り the elderly. Honorific o of course!
- mago – 孫 grandchild
- hyakutōban １１０番- Number 110 – the police number you call in an emergency in Japan
- sasuga – さすが “indeed!” or as you might have expected