Tenamonya Sanbikasa てなもんや三度笠 has won the top prize at the annual Satellite Broadcasting Association awards ceremony, which was held at Yomiuri Hall in Otemachi, Tokyo on September 1st.

The historical drama received the award for Best Organization Planning. This is no small feat for a TV series that was first broadcast in the early 1960s. In 2019, several episodes of the long-running series were broadcast for the first time in half a century on Nihon Eiga Broadcasting’s historical drama channel.

Tenamonya Sanbikasa was a legendary TV comedy series that made stars of its two leading actors, Kansai comics Makoto Fujita and Minoru Shiraki. They play gangsters who get into various scrapes while travelling the highways and byways of Edo-era Japan. Their witty banter won them the affection of a generation of fans.

Tenamonya Sanbikasa was recorded in front of a live audience at the ABC Hall and was basically a single-shot production. The set was centred on a tsujidō 辻堂 - a roadside Buddhist temple. The show was groundbreaking for its day, wowing audiences with attention-grabbing stunts such as using real gunpowder to fire a cannon on stage.

It was also one of the first TV shows to be recorded on Sony's open-reel videotape recorder. A total of 309 episodes were broadcast between 1962 and 1968 and, while hardly cutting edge in terms of editing, they were a big hit with viewers. They achieved an average audience rating of 37%, hitting a maximum audience rating of 65% in 1968. Tenamonya Sanbikasa is remembered for spawning the catchphrase, ‘Atari Maeda no Kurakkā’ あたり前田のクラッカー (a play on words on Maeda, a brand of crackers, and the expression atarimae da 当たり前だ meaning "it's obvious") which is still in use half a century later.

Many big names from show business performed cameo roles in the show, including movie stars, singers, and comedians. Among them were the Crazy Cats, Linda Yamamoto, The Tigers, Comte 55, Kazuo Funaki, Yukio Hashi, Yasushi Yokoyama, and Kiyoshi Nishikawa. For last year’s special screening, Linda Yamamoto and The Tigers reminisced about the show.

The creator and director of Tenamon ya Sanbikasa, Takaharu Sawada, was at the awards gala to accept the award for Best Organization Planning. Takaharu Sawada is the creator of well-known TV programmes like Welcome the Newlyweds, Kao Meijin Theater, and Zoom in! Morning!. But he is best known for his work on Tenamon ya Sanbikasa.

Mr. Sawada talked about some of the obstacles the production team faced in mounting such an ambitious historical drama. “I'm 87 years old now and I'm glad I was alive to make Tenamon ya Sanbikasa. I am grateful to the staff of the historical drama channel for their enthusiasm,” he said.

The Satellite Broadcasting Association Original Program Awards were established in 2011 to celebrate the variety of quality original programmes produced for Japan’s satellite TV channels and to raise the profile of specialty channels.

Fans who missed the commemorative broadcast will have a chance to watch a second broadcast, which is due to go out on Sunday evenings at 9 pm on Nihon Eiga’s historical drama channel for five weeks from October 4th. The commemorative broadcast includes running commentary from some of those involved in the original production, recalling the passion that went into the production and the affection it won from viewers.

By - George Lloyd.