What You Need to Know about J-POP

For any language learner, listening comprehension is one of the most important aspects. This is also the case for me. When I first started learning Japanese, the Japanese songs that I had heard only once by chance often stayed in my memory. All the words sung by the singer helped me to expand my vocabulary.

One of my favorite things to do in Japan is, listen to J-pop songs. I love listening to J-pop. Listening to Japanese pop music is very entertaining. It helps me memorize Japanese words and pronounce them correctly as the locals do as well. I have many J-pop favorite songs, like Arashi or AKB48, and many more. Most of them are typically motivational and entertainment songs. What about you? Tell me what’s your favorite one!

In addition, if you are looking for a comprehensive source to Learn Japanese, our media is the best place for you. Please find them here. Okay, now lets we discuss J-Pop together here.

1. What is J-Pop?

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J-pop or Japanese pop (Japanese pop music) is a term used for popular Japanese music that entered the mainstream of Japanese music in the 90s. The term J-pop was first used by J-Wave, an FM radio in Tokyo. Before J-pop appeared, in the 80s this type of music was called city pop, this term refers to music with the theme of big cities in Japan such as Tokyo. Because the term city pop was not very popular at that time, people were more familiar with it as New Music. The term J-pop was coined by the Japanese mass media to distinguish it from foreign music and now refers to almost all popular music in Japan.

2. A brief history

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The term J-pop was coined by J-Wave Director Hideo Saito, the term J-pop was later raised by the mass media as a genre that has its own characteristics, different from glam rock, punk rock, grunge, alternative rock, or hip-hop.  Among the wider community in Japan, the term J-pop was only popular from around 1993 to 1996.

The existence of Japanese Pop was due to the desire of Japanese musicians to compete with western musicians. In fact, Japanese Pop had become the second-largest music industry in the world after American music. The history of Japanese music begins with the two pioneers Ichiro Fujiyama and Ryukoka who launched songs with tenor voices. Then, Ryoichi Hattori followed with his jazz song entitled wakare no blues (farewell blues).

The following is history from time to time, starting from the following year;

The 1990s,

The introduction of CDs for digital recording media in 1982, along with the sales of its player equipment, caused the Japanese music industry to grow rapidly. In 1991, total record sales in Japan reached a record high. The digital recording technique caused a revolution in the recording industry. With digital techniques, costs, time, and labor can be drastically reduced, and records can be mass-produced.

Since around 1992, the Japanese record industry has experienced the million-seller phenomenon (sold more than 1 million copies). Recording artists can continuously score a million hits. The highest award for certification of record sales in Japan is not platinum discs, but million.

The 2000s

In the second half of the 2000s, singles that reached million-seller status dwindled. The changing consumer trend from buying physical records to buying music downloads led to a decline in physical record sales in the 2000s. this year sales of music downloads are expected to be even greater if it is not reduced by illegal uploads and file-sharing software.

The 2010s

Before entering the 2010s, basically, the progress of Japanese Pop was more striking in the 1980s, where Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto won a Grammy Award. Since then, Japanese Pop has become more global and many rock bands in Japan have sprung up. In the newer era, Japanese Pop shifted to female solo singers who had melodious voices.

For example, namely Utada Hikaru and Ayumi Hamasaki whose singing abilities have been recognized overseas. Now Japanese Pop is popular for filling the soundtrack of Japanese anime and dramas. However, there are also idol groups, singers, and bands from Japan who can survive in the music world, such as AKB48, One Ok Rock, SCANDAL, Baby Metal, Yui, and so on.

3. Popular J-Pop Artist

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Although Japanese Pop is better known in the Japanese domestic market itself, it does not mean that there are no Japanese Pop artists worldwide. There are many Japanese Pop Artists who are known throughout the country and even their works are still enjoyed today. The following are some of the legendary Japanese Pop artists who still exist today.


This Japanese idol group is very popular not only in Japan but also overseas. The reason is, Arashi has debuted in 1999 and still exists today. At the beginning of its appearance, Arashi’s song was able to become the theme song for the 1999 Volleyball World Cup. The song, entitled Love So Sweet, was also able to occupy the best single in Japan throughout 2007.

Arashi released their top hits compilation album in 2019 which became the best-selling album in the world at that time. They even beat Taylor Swift and K-Pop BTS! Even though they announced their retirement at the end of 2020, their fans will still be loyal to always listen to their music and look forward to releasing a new single or album from Arashi.

Ayumi Hamasaki

Ayumi Hamasaki was born in Fukuoka, Japan, on October 2, 1978, otherwise known as “Ayu” by her fans, is the most famous female singer in Japan. Ayu is dubbed the “queen of Japanese pop” because of her success. Known as the Madonna of Japan. With her limitless ability to compose lyrics based on her personal experience coupled with her constantly changing image.

it’s no surprise that this petite woman has reached the status she is today. Hamasaki has a reputation as the only female pop artist to have placed seven albums on the chart. In 2007, with his 41st single glitter / fated, Hamasaki made a new milestone by recording her single at No. 1 every year for the past nine years (1999-2007).

Hikaru Utada

Hikaru Utada quickly became one of the biggest names in J-Pop. Her music is inspired by Western pop and R&B, and she still holds the record for the highest-selling album in Japan for First Love.

Utada Hikaru is one of Japan’s biggest stars and has now sold over 40 million CDs. She is also known to the public as a musician who can speak two languages fluently because he grew up in two countries, Japan, and the United States. In just one month Utada released her album, First Love, which sold 9.86 million copies worldwide. Making it the highest-selling album in the history of music in Japan and until now it seems this record will not be broken.


Kamui Gakuto, also known as Gackt, has been in the Japanese entertainment industry since 1994. Previously, Gackt was a member of the Visual Kei Band Malice Mizer. Until now, Gackt has released 8 albums and dozens of singles. Because of his success in the world of singing, Gackt is now spreading his wings to become an actor in Japan. His music has been used for dozens of TV shows, video games, and anime shows, and he’s been doing it since the early 1990s.

L’arc en Ciel

This Japanese rock band, founded in 1991, has a worldwide name. The reason is, L’arc en Ciel can produce songs that are in great demand by people and even total sales of more than 15 million copies. L’arc en Ciel, which consists of 4 members, became the first band from Japan to successfully perform at Madison Square Garden, New York.


Who does not know AKB48?

Which is an idol group from Japan whose members are all women. AKB48 was created by Yasushi Akimoto in 2005. The number of members is up to hundreds of people. The songs tell the story of a teenager’s life in a colorful and colorful way. Wota or AKB48 fans can come to the theater and watch their idol in action live.

AKB48 released their debut single in February 2006 with “Sakura no Hanabiratachi”. The song successfully penetrated TOP 10 of the Oricon Weekly charts. With a unique concept, AKB48’s popularity skyrockets every year and makes it the biggest idol group in Japan. Even the Guinness World Record was awarded as the record for the world’s largest pop group.


Last but not least, I would like to wrap up this article with the following points:

  • J-pop or Japanese pop (Japanese pop music) is a term used for popular Japanese music that entered the mainstream of Japanese music in the 90s.
  • Among the wider community in Japan, the term J-pop was only popular from around 1993 to 1996.
  • There are many Japanese Pop artists who are known throughout the country and even their works are still enjoyed today.

What do you think? Who is your favorite J-Pop Artist? Please leave your comments below. I am looking forward to hearing your feedback. Thank you! See you in the next article!


Representative Director of Reboot Japan Co., Ltd., which operates EDOPEN JAPAN. Founded the company in 2018, which provides Japanese language education and assistance for studying in Japan. Started the company after living with international students at a Japanese language school. He enjoys learning about new people and cultures and has lived in Australia and Malaysia. Graduated from the Faculty of Economics, Sophia University.