Jamming with J-pop Music and Artists

Western music was introduced to Japan during the Meiji Restoration (1868-1912). The Japanese initially experienced Westernized pop music, kayōkyoku, in a dramatization of the Tolstoy classic Resurrection.  Shinpei Nakayama’s 1914 song Sumako Matsui was a best-selling record in Japan. The pre-war period saw the ryūkōka genre as a popular form of music from the 1920s through the 1960s; it developed from Western classical music.  The progression of music genres in Japan mostly follows Western influences from rock ’n’ roll in the 60s (which contributed to the Rokabirī and Wasei pop genre), folk music in the 70s, and city pop in the 80s. It was only in the 1990s that the term J-pop came to refer to all Japanese popular songs except for traditional Japanese music (enka).


J-pop (ジェイポップ jeipoppu), Japanese pop or pops, was coined by the Japanese media to differentiate foreign music from Japanese music.  The J-pop musical genre has gained such immense popularity among other neighboring regions that other countries are borrowing the style. Some popular J-pop artists include:

B’z (ビーズ Bīzu) – one of the best-selling music artists in Japan (and the world) with  75 million or more in record sales.

B’z RockWalk. | Jmaeshawn

B’z is a rock duo with members Koshi Inaba as lyricist and vocalist and Takahiro “Tak” Matsumoto as guitarist, producer, and composer. They were the first Japanese band to have their handprints and signatures in Hollywood’s RockWalk.


Glay – composed of members Teru, Takuro, Hisashi, and Jiro. The band formed in 1988, and their songs are arranged with a wide variety of genres such as punk, R&B, electronica, and ska. As of 2010, the band has sold around 37.5 million copies in Japan alone.

Glay at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards Japan. | Norio NAKAYAMA

Sekai no Owari (世界の終わり, aka “End of the World”) – band members include Satoshi Fukase, Saori Fujisaki, Shinichi “Nakajin” Nakajima, and DJ Love.  They initially performed a live concert at a club with only 15 people in the audience.  Their styles are mostly indie pop, pop rock, and alternative rock.  Their song “Dragon Night” is number 2 in the Japan Hot 100 Billboard Chart as of November 2014.

 Ayumi Hamasaki (浜崎あゆみ) – known as the “Empress of J-pop,” Ayumi Hamasaki  is popular across Asia. Her musical styles are varied and include progressive rock, classical, pop, metal, dance, and R&B.

Ayumi Hamasaki Asia Tour 2008. | Uma machi

She uses her own lyrics and uses different types of instruments such as Japanese traditional string music boxes, piano, and guitar. She also incorporates techniques such as clapping and scratching into some of her songs.