Japanese television marks a milestone this New Year’s Eve as public broadcaster NHK celebrates the 70th anniversary of its annual music show, “Kohaku Uta Gassen” (“Red and White Song Battle”).

The program, which takes the form of a battle between musical artists separated into a red team and a white team, is set to welcome some of the year’s biggest artists to its stage, alongside some veterans of the industry such as enka singer Hiroshi Itsuki, who will make his 49th appearance,

Da Pump is set to appear again, after making waves last year on the back of its giant hit, “U.S.A.” It will be the group’s seventh appearance. Meanwhile, the pop quota will be boosted by appearances from AKB48 and Perfume, both marking their 12th time to be involved with the show.

Act performing for the first time include Kis-My-Ft2, a big seller from the Johnny & Associates stable of acts, and four-piece band King Gnu.

One new act this year is Foorin, a group consisting of five elementary and junior high school students, known for performing the inescapable “Paprika.” The song, seemingly a favorite of young children across the nation, was composed by singer-songwriter Kenshi Yonezu, who performed his hit song “Lemon” at last year’s “Kohaku.” The dance video for “Paprika,” which has been named the official support song for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, has been viewed more than 139 million times on YouTube.

Embracing the international spirit of the Olympics, this year’s show will also feature Foorin Team E, made up of five children from overseas performing an English version of “Paprika.”

Another newcomer to the “Kohaku” contest is singer Lisa, an artist famous for having her songs featured in the opening and ending credits of popular anime, such as “Sword Art Online,” “Fate/Zero,” and “My Hero Academia.” The announcement of Lisa’s participation in “Kohaku Uta Gassen” saw her trending on Twitter, with more than 315,000 mentions on the social media service.

Despite the current tensions between Japan and South Korea, and last year’s controversy surrounding the omission of BTS, K-pop group Twice will be making its third appearance on the show.

And an honorable mention must go to pop perennials, Arashi. The group is planning an indefinite hiatus from the end of 2020, so this could be one of their last appearances together as a band. For the past 10 years, either the group as a whole or one of its members has hosted the event and participated in the competition itself, making the group’s appearance this year a touch bittersweet.

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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