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Sport, sex, thrills: It was back in 1945 that radio producer Tsumoru Kondo declared that these were the three essential ingredients for successful entertainment. He called them the “three S’s,” even though they were two S’s and a T. The producer obviously knew more about entertainment than he did about English. With this three-part recipe he cooked up a radio show that in 1953 spawned a television program that 56 years later is still one of the most popular in Japan: “Kohaku Uta Gassen” (“Red and White Song Battle”).

Broadcast live by NHK for up to four hours each New Year’s Eve, “Kohaku,” as it is generally known, routinely tops Japan’s annual ratings rankings, having achieved an average of 40.2 percent over the last decade.

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