Get ready for the J-Pop jam!

Korean pop has taken the world by storm, but Japan’s pop music is fun, energetic and some of the artistes can make your music system go completely bonkers. Here are some t2 favourites!

  • Published 24.01.18

Korean pop has taken the world by storm, but Japan’s pop music is fun, energetic and some of the artistes can make your music system go completely bonkers. Here are some t2 favourites!


AKB stands for Adorable, Kind and Beautiful…awh! This band has over 130 members (originally 48; they don’t perform together). From early teens to mid-20s, these girls have their own theatre and perform every day. Their producer said it was so that their fans could “always see them live”. The girl gang has sold over 50 million records. There are many sister groups for this band all over Asia, and one of them — MUM48 — is coming to India this year. Keep your eyes peeled, folks.


Despite being deaf in one ear, Ayumi has established herself as one of Japan’s bestselling solo artistes. Considered the Empress of J-pop, she is a fashion icon and trendsetter, with her own brand, MTRLG (Material Girl). She has donated around $269,000 to relief efforts in the aftermath of the tsunami and earthquakes that rocked Japan back in 2011.


Famed for her R&B style, Koda Kumi is referred to as the Britney Spears of Japan by many. Her early music was fantastic and really paved the way for what J-pop is today. British TV presenter Jonathan Ross has called her “Japan’s Christina Aguilera”. Kumi is famous for her extravagant nails.


An amalgamation of energetic performances, action, ballet and gymnastics, this group (also called Momoiro Clover Z) is famous worldwide for providing theme songs for animes like Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z and Pokemon. You know these girls are a big deal when they collab with the band KISS. They’ve performed in New York, LA and Hawaii and are one of the main reasons why J-pop is taking off overseas.


J-pop combined with techno sounds amazing, and it’s a reality, thanks to this band. The group has been going for a number of years but it wasn’t until 2008, when one of their tracks, Polyrhythm, was picked up for a recycling campaign, that they started to get noticed. Alongside Kyary, they were one of the first J-pop bands to go global, having been signed up by Universal Music back in 2012. Their style  uses vocoders, which can make human voices sound robotic.


The artiste behind some of Japan’s bestselling albums of all time is mostly known in the West for creating the theme songs for the video games Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II. Her music is more synth-based and is considerably more Western than other J-pop artistes, mainly originating from her Japanese-American upbringing. Utada, who has sold over 52 million records worldwide, had a smash hit in the US in the form of the single Devil Inside in 2005.


Kiriko Takemura, known by her stage name Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, is arguably the most famous J-pop artiste at the moment. She shot to fame when the music video for her single PONPONPON went viral. At only 24, she is worth a staggering $10 million. Her music is mostly associated with Japan’s kawaii culture. Essentially, it’s a culture of cuteness — it’s similar in style to Hello Kitty. Kyary has been hailed as the “J-Pop Princess” by the Western media and is also often referred to as Japan’s Lady Gaga.

K vs J

K-pop is edgy and considered way cooler by many because of the Western influences. J-pop is sexy too but there is also a cutsey image, stemming from the kawaii style. Most acts in Japan, no matter how conceptually different, have cute elements to them. For example, Babymetal are a heavy metal girl band that couldn’t be more different from Kyary Pamyu Pamyu singing a song about candy, but they all are aesthetically similar.

K-pop bands like BTS supersede J-pop due to their Western nature and Westerners prefer this music as it’s sonically similar to what’s released on both sides of the Atlantic. You don’t need to be a genius to work out that Psy is more popular and successful abroad than the Japanese rock band L’Arc-en-Ciel.

However, if you like pop, J-pop has something new to offer. Tune in!

Benjamin Wodecki
(A journalism graduate from University of Gloucestershire, currently interning with t2)

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