Even though enka star Saburo Kitajima announced his retirement from NHK’s annual “Kohaku Uta Gassen” music program last year, and U.S. singer Jero has seemingly moved into R&B, don’t count enka out of the zeitgeist just yet.

You won’t see them at this year’s “Kohaku,” but Keisuke Yamauchi and Hiroshi Miyama are two young stars that have been able to bring new life to the genre in the past few years.

Known as the ikemen (handsome guy) enka singer, 31-year-old Yamauchi has been successful at cultivating a fan base through meet-and-greet events. According to the Oricon Style music news site, Yamauchi spends nearly 120 days a year on handshake events with his fans — he broadcast one such event live via video-streaming website Nico Nico Douga, and even dabbled in film this year with “Yamauchi Keisuke: The Kayo Movie — Showa Kayo Kiki Ippatsu!” The result? A successful nationwide tour. The sales for his most recent single, “Koi no Tehon” (“Model of Love”) managed to nab him ninth place on the weekly Oricon chart, the highest rank he has seen so far.

This year, Miyama rode a wave of increased interest in kendama (a traditional toy similar to a cup-and-ball game). The singer holds a second degree in kendama, which is licensed by the Japan Kendama Association. The degree is held by roughly 600 players nationwide. Miyama grabbed attention overseas with his “Enka × Kendama Exercise Diet” video posted on YouTube in August, which featured him singing his track “Ayameujyou” (translated loosely as “An Iris in the Rain”) while playing with the toy. His first best-of album, “First Best,” was released in November, and included online distribution to 108 countries.

Both Yamauchi and Miyama are set to feature as guests on Hiroshi Itsuki’s 50th anniversary “Kabuso Special” tour, which starts at Osaka’s Shinkabuki-za in March.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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