Kiyoshiro Imawano


OK, so the lineup’s almost identical every year, the festivities kick off at lunchtime and are (mostly) all over in time for dinner and it’s held in a hall that’s more akin to an aircraft hanger than a music venue. But Countdown Japan is the only way for die-hard fans of Japanese music to ring in the new year, which is why tickets sell out faster than you can bawl out “Auld Lang Syne.”

From Dec. 28 to New Year’s Eve, Chiba’s Makurahi Messe (and Dec. 29-31 at Osaka’s Intex) will rock to an eclectic mix of local artists. Headlining the Kanto leg is Kiyoshiro Imawano, formerly of influential 1970s rockers RC Succession, playing only his second major concert since recently recovering from throat cancer. J-pop fans will be treated to sets by Yui, pop pixie Kaela Kimura and pop-hop duo HalCali; those of a rock bent can head for the candy-fixated Shonen Knife, the Jim O’Rourke-produced Quruli and the Group Sounds/enka-inspired Go!Go!7188 instead.

Dance kicks come courtesy of Boom Boom Satellites and m-flo, while for those who like their electronica more cerebral, The Cornelius Group’s dazzling live show is a must-see.

Imawano, Your Song Is Good, The 50 Kaitenz and Lunkhead will play through midnight on New Year’s Eve at the Chiba venue; in Osaka, the new year will be seen in by Quruli and hardcore Kyoto three-piece 10-Feet. It’s gotta be better than watching NHK’s annual song contest “Kohaku Utagasen” on TV in your pyjamas over a bottle of shochu, right?

Countdown Japan 07/08 takes place at Makuhari Messe, Chiba City on Dec. 28-30 (tickets are ¥9,000 per day), Dec. 31 (¥9,500); at Intex Osaka, Dec. 29-31 (¥9,000 per day). The lineup differs at each leg. Visit www.rock-net.jp for tickets/schedule information.