|Above: Saburo Kitajima singing "Yama" at the 2001 Kouhaku Uta Gassen|
Saburo Kitajima has an enormous prestige in Japan and is widely admired. The reasons for his admiration might not be obvious. His gravely voice has a tendency to sometimes arrive on a musical phrase a quarter note low and slide up, or when he is accenting a phrase, arrive slightly off the beat. At least, see what you think by listening to his rendition of this song, "Yama". The mp3 and the video are both the same selection.
Perhaps his musicality is not perfect, but his heart is seen by the Japanese as being exactly right. Kitajima-san sings typical "Manly man" songs, songs which affirm the singer's sense of duty and emotional strength, songs in which even pain can be praised as a way to gain strength to bear up. Combining his song selection with his attire and appearence, he projects what seems to be a vision of a common laborer or fisherman or farmer, the prototype Japanese man. His selection to perform one of the final songs in the Kouhaku Uta Gassen confirms this, because this spot is reserved for those singers who can allegorically "sum up" the evening on behalf of their gender. The selection he sang in 2001 is not so much a song as an anthem, in praise of the best qualities of the Japanese man. In it, the singer expresses his desire to acquire the qualities he admires in a mountain.
Kitajima-san also is an actor, famous for his role in the long running period drama "Abarenbo Shogun". In addition he is a "talento" - available as a game show contestant, panelist, contest judge, or similar role in daytime TV. His many hit records, successful movies and TV episodes have made him a wealthy man, and he continues to produce records which sometimes still go to the top of the Japanese charts.
He played a part in one of the "illusions" which were part of "DJ-OZMA's" dance number in the 2006 Kouhaku Uta Gassen. This was a raucous dance number in which performers did some fast-changes of attire, or appeared as a double. Kitajima-san simply disappeared one place and appeared elsewhere during the routine, and that was not a problem. The real problem was the 3 dozen dance girls who pulled off their clothes right on stage - or, at least they appeared to.
They were wearing skin-tight leotards underneath, with painted breasts on the chest. For the audience it was easy to see the illusion, but on TV it looked shockingly real. This was the Japanese analog to the US Superbowl "wardrobe malfunction" incident which got a US network in trouble for showing a flash of a bare breast (Janet Jackson's). At any rate, Kitajima and NHK both got quite a lot of criticism for the incident.
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This page last modified: 11/30/2008 23:40:04