Japanese Music: The Cutest Sound

by Aine Moriarty

In America, famous music artists often include pop stars such as Taylor Swift, Halsey, and Bruno Mars. Rap artists such as Eminem or Drake also pop up pretty often. Most, if not all, songs played on the radio are in English. However, as not many Americans travel outside the country, they’ll rarely have a chance to hear anything else. For those searching for something strikingly different, Japanese music is a good place to start.

Obviously, cultural differences affect music. While America tends to prefer maturity or “awesomeness” in its aesthetics, Japan loves all things cute and lovable. Hence, the Japanese go crazy over what they call “pop idols.” The term is typically used to refer to young performers, both male and female, who are marketed with a good public image, wholesomeness, and a dose of cuteness. They tend to sing sweet, sentimental pop songs. Unfortunately, as a result of their popularity, numerous idols often come out over the course of a single year (usually 40 to 50); popularity for each idol tends to come and go.

One idol is Seiko Matsuda, who has been active in her career since 1980 (that makes a whopping 37 years), a rare feat for idols. “きっと、また逢える” (Romaji: Kitto, Mata Aeru, translated as Surely, We’ll Meet Again) is just one of her many songs.

Some music labels decide to take this idea above and beyond, constructing large groups of pop idols, contrasting the usual 3-6 members in western bands. The largest idol group (holder of the Guinness World Record) is AKB48, which consists of 116 members as of now. “桜の花びらたち” (Romaji: Sakura no Hanabiratachi, translated as Cherry Blossom Petals) was their first independent-label single.


Further still, idols have continued to evolve in recent years with the rise of virtual idols. These stars aren’t really people, but characters created to fill in the same role as idols. While such a concept is almost unheard of in America, it’s becoming increasingly popular in Japan. The first instance of this would be Kyoko Date from 1996, a 3D CG character. However, a much more popular virtual idol came about in 2007 with the rise of Hatsune Miku, a synthetic voice program. Miku enjoys internet fame, products, merchandise, and even concerts to this day. One song using her voice, “千本桜” (Romaji: Senbonzakura, translated as Thousand Cherry Trees) became a colossal hit, with over 15 million views as of today.

Obviously, Japan is quite different from the U.S. However, that’s what makes it fantastic!



Japanese idol – Wikipedia

AKB48 – Wikipedia

AKB48 Official Site (Member count retrieved 1/17/2018)

Kyoko Date – Japan Gallery – W. Dire Wolff


Image credit:

Shinoda Mariko (right) of AKB48 next to Yuuta Nakano at TIME film premier.

TIME’ Premiere In Japan.” UPI Photo Collection, 2012. General OneFile

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