Konishiki performs Jero’s Umiyuki.

December 7, 2008

The show is held every once in a while, your favorite tv personalities, comedians, and even singers (wtf!) compete in a singing contest. It’s one of those classic Japanese tv show type shows with the famous people watching from the stands, singing along, acting amazed at how well the singers sing.

Although I don’t really find the show interesting, it’s usually just a harmless although self-indulgent 3 hours of tv personalities singing and stroking each others’ egos. Sometimes some slightly forgotten comedians have a chance to resurrect their careers for a short time, but there’s not usually much commentary necessary.

This time however, they decided to have the former Sumo wrestler Konishiki sing “Umiyuki”, a song recently remade and popularized by the African-American enka singer, Jero.

This decision is a little bit hard to swallow, mostly because Konishiki is an American of Samoan decent born and raised in Hawaii. Basically it’s the American connection, or even the person-of-color connection that seems to have primarily influenced the choice of song.

A non-Japanese did the remake and popularized it, so when the song is done karaoke style on tv, this particular song is given to a non-Japanese to sing.

Having Konishiki do the song that Jero brought back is the kind of thoughtless generalization of foreigners that keeps Japan from just being normal about non-Japanese people in their midst.

Here’s the video to Jero’s version so people who have no idea what I’m talking about can get a sense of who Jero is.

Konishiki’s version was broadcast a few weeks ago.


1 Dave December 9, 2008 at 1:29 am

Took me a couple of reads of this to get your actual point, but I see it now. They do seem to give certain roles to foreigners in these shows. On a Jero front, have you seen the animated cartoon on NHK just before 7pm that’s been showing recently that Jero has done the music behind? If not then I strongly recommend you keep channel 12 on constantly until you see it – believe me it will give you some more things to write about!

2 jay December 10, 2008 at 7:09 am

I actually originally wrote this in Japanese for a different blog but thought it would fit here so this is basically me translating my own Japanese back into English.

I’ll check out the NHK show you mentioned. Jero is on Mina no
Uta? Then on the Kohaku Song Battle this New Year’s so that’s pretty good.