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The Original Music of J-Pop

Are you a fan of Japanese pop culture and want to know more about modern Japanese music. J-Pop is a modern type of Japanese music and is something of a global phenomenon, despite most of the lyrics being primarily in Japanese.

Artists such as Ayumi Hamasaki have been embraced by music lovers around the world for their uniquely Japanese qualities. Japan’s music industry is now the second-largest on the planet. Let’s take a look at a couple of the iconic J-Pop artists popular today!

Ayumi Hamasaki

This is one girl who is truly well known as a major success in Japanese music today. Ayumi Hamasaki is essentially like a young Japanese Madonna. She is an amazingly successful artist and businesswoman who has carefully sculpted both herself and her commercially successful brand.

She is truly iconic in Japan and is known as the “Empress of Pop”. Her popular logo can be seen in various places around Japan and her music is heard in commercials and movies. She is from Fukuoka prefecture, which is a relatively remote city in Japan, but she moved to Tokyo at 14 to pursue a career in entertainment.

Her debut album in 1999 topped the charts and she was on her way to stardom. She has gone on to release countless top-selling singles and her albums are almost always hits. Ayu, as her fans call her, is known and respected particularly well for having written all of her own lyrics.

Her lyrical honesty about her feelings regarding individuality in Japanese society and other such challenges has apparently resonated rather accurately with the population. Ayumi has extended her reach far beyond her albums, stadium tours, music videos, and elaborate stage shows.

She opened a chain of clothing shops featuring her own trademark line of fashion and even had a line of Ayu toys featuring her persona dressed in various outfits and costumes. Ms. Hamasaki even had her own television show, from 2002 to 2004, where she often performed music with guests.

Truly a J-Pop success, Ayumi is adored by fans throughout Asia and the world.


The corporately engineered boy band known as SMAP, a name which is supposedly an acronym for “Sports Music Assemble People”, is often a rather shockingly common sight in Japanese media for newcomers to Japan.

Debuting in 1991 with their first album and not being an immediate commercial success in J-Pop music, their management got them a variety show on television. This proved a wise commercial choice and the group gained popularity, later releasing a successful single in 1993.

In 1996 the group started a new television show called SMAPxSMAP, which is still running as of 2009. Considering it is a variety show which largely features a boy band cooking gourmet meals for celebrities, more than ten years on the air is rather phenomenal.

The members of the group also appear almost ridiculously often in commercials, television dramas, movies, print advertising, and more. It is a wonder that other Japanese actors ever get the chance to have a leading role. It also makes one wonder if SMAP is a salaried group employed by a major media conglomerate with frugal business habits.

While these are only a couple of a vast number of J-Pop artists today, they are icons of modern Japanese media culture and do exemplify much of what J-Pop is in the world of music.