The Annual New Year's Eve music show called Kōhaku Uta Gassen by Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) intrigued many because of the performance of a previously blacklisted song by Akihiro Miwa. His song Yoitomake no Uta (Song for the Yoitomake) [ja], has been banned from broadcasting in Japan for decades.
The word “Yoitomake” [ja] was originally yelled by construction workers as they leveled the ground with a heavy hammer. Later the same word was used to describe construction workers, miners and all blue-collar laborers.
It was while keeping coal miners in mind that Akihiro Maruyama (now named Akihiro Miwa) composed the music and wrote the lyrics back in 1964. However, after the release of the record, this popular song was banned because back then calling construction workers “Yoitomake” or “Dokata” [ja ](which is also in the lyrics) was considered prejudicial and discriminatory.
The Japan Commercial Broadcasters Association (JBA) added the song to a blacklist so that broadcasters would not put it on air. The blacklisting system [ja] was formally abolished in 1983, but it has been virtually maintained through self-censorship [ja].
The lyrics are in narrative form and tell the story of a young man brought up in an underprivileged environment. The man gets bullied in elementary school for being poor but patiently continues to study with gratitude to his mother who works her fingers to the bone for her family. At last he became an engineer, with a successful career and wistfully recalls the song which his mother used to sing while she was alive. The following video captured the performance of “Yoitomake no Uta” by Akihiro Miwa uploaded in 2006 by user ganbaganba.
As soon as Miwa sang it on the last day of 2012, many commented on Twitter with thanks and applause for his performance.
@manbouyashiro On Akihiko Miwa's “Yoitomake no uta”, I've been waiting for a song like this! Thank you. This is the very day Japanese spirit was shown.
@genishi “Yoitomake no Uta” rocked me and I'm now still dazed. What an idiot The Japan commercial broadcasters had been, who blacklisted the song just of the word “Dokata”.
@takinamiyukari “Yoitomake no Uta” struck my guts heavily. I was about to see 2012 end as I stayed spineless, but was saved by Miwa.
@mundburg's illustrates the six minutes that she shared the song with the people around at a pub.
@mundburg Kōhaku Uta Gassen. At a pub on my way home, [THE television broadcast] Akihiro Miwa's “Yoitomake no Uta”. The pub owner maximized the TV volume. Conversations stopped. Our breaths were taken away. Sigh, cheers, claps and toasts with glasses filled with Hoppy [mixed with Shōchū, a popular substitute drink for rather expensive beer.] The owner treated us all. The old man next to me with his pajamas underneath his leather jacket couldn't help but cry. A great night.
At the same time, some called for a cautious view on its interpretation.
@crazy45age Modern versions of late-night Yoitomake labor continues while many Japanese viewers moved by Kōhaku Uta Gassen do not have slightest idea of them.
@tomoyukix The evaluation of “Yotimake no Uta” depends on whether one listens to this song as a glamorization of self-sacrificial mother, or as a protest song against Japanese society (that discriminates against such families) where people can't raise children without many self-sacrifices.
@nishiharamanabu To sing “Yoitomake no Uta” involves taking risks. Japanese companies take advantages of the song to justify their exploitation of workers under the name of fulfillment of labor. So he shouldn't have performed the song. #Song of Yoitomake #Kōhaku Uta Gassen [translated hashtag]
When this song was composed, about half a century ago, engineering were regarded as a symbol of a successful career, but tweets of @atkamano looked to the word “engineer” and refered to the system engineers of today who are busy blue collar workers. Engineers today are sometimes called “IT Dokata [ja], like the construction worker but instead they are laying the foundation for an information highway.
@atkamano I wonder if a song for “IT Dokata” will appear in half a century.
A blogger named Yankee minister [ja] raised the fact that a singer named Miwa had been discriminated after he came out of the closet and revealed that he was not hetro-sexual. The blogger stressed [ja] that the power of this song is that it attracts many people and inspires discussions [ja]:
I think “Yoitomake no Uta” is a song produced by a singer who understands the pain of discrimination, and produced for the poor workers at the bottom of society, to talk about an underpriviledged mother and child. I would say this is a song by the discriminated, for the discriminated, of the discriminated. I'm convinced that this song is a valuable piece worth of handing down to our children with its stories behind.