Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Red And White New Year

So far, 2009 is proving to be a little more Sushi in flava than Watermelon.

On New Year's Eve, while munching on homemade osenbe, I watched Red and White with my mother and her husband. A Japanese tradition that spans several decades, Kohaku Utagassen
(or Red and White) is a singing contest between two groups of professional singers. Broadcast on NHK, it's an unbelievable 4 1/2 hours long!

Featuring women singers representing Red, or Ko, and men as the White or Haku, this year's show featured a plethora of talent. Although the J-pop groups mostly annoyed me, I was very moved by the enka singers--especially a woman named Tendo Yoshimi. I like her a lot because she's also one of the chubbiest Japanese people I've ever seen. Rarely are Japanese nationals overweight, and I was initially surprised upon first laying eyes on this popular singer. Tendo is very stylish and and her voice is a powerhouse.

One interesting aspect of Red and White was the nonchalant way in which drag queens were presented as just another part of the show. Performing songs sung in their normal male voices, these gay men were dressed to the nines--sashaying it up for the screen. You'd think with their reputation as an extremely formal people, the Japanese would be the last to show openly gay male singers mixed in with the straight on a well-known national television show. I have to give them props for their inclusion of everyone because I can't imagine it happening here in the supposedly liberal West. But then again, Japan has kabuki which, although created by a woman, features only men playing all of the roles--male or female.

Another Red and White treat for me was the appearance of Jero--the young brother from Philly whose mother is hapa (Japanese/black). Jero's mother was in the audience tearfully congratulating her son for being invited to the show which is a great honor. Her crying caused Jero to cry. In fact, most of the audience was sniffling as Jero showed off his half black/half white jacket featuring a drawing of his late grandmother who taught him to speak Japanese and who turned him on to enka.

Tears also ran down the faces of some of the singers who had poems, written by loved ones, read to them by the hosts. I tell you, in spite of their reputation to the contrary, the Japanese are an emotional lot.

On to some Watermelon stories--sort of. Here's a link Marion sent from Maryland. If you recall, several years ago, an interracial couple had twins each of whom turned out to look fully white and fully black. Well, they did it again. So much for Hapa-dom!

And, finally, some news about both Watermelon and Sushi. It looks like the film production is on again as our producers have issued a national casting call. Email me if you'd like a copy of the casting notice. Although we're not certain yet where we'll be shooting, we're gathering our talent now. If you've purchased a Hapa*Teez t-shirt, please let us know so we can add you to the credits.

Hopefully, you and yours enjoyed a HAPA New Year!

Your Hip Hapa,

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