J-Pop

What makes “Love Live!” so mega popular? We asked one passionate super fan

If you’re into anime and you haven’t been living under a rock for the past two years, you should have at least heard of the unstoppable, indomitable multimedia force known as Love Live! School Idol Project, which first aired in early 2013. The show took off and captured the hearts of Japanese and foreign viewers alike seemingly in the blink of an eye.

In fact, fans of the series are known for being so incredibly dedicated to the teenage troupe that we wanted to find out firsthand what attracted them to the series. Consequently, we had our Japanese reporter ask one enthusiastic fan, whom we’ll call Mr. K, for his personal opinion. What do you think he had to say about the draw of the series?

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Kyary Pamyu Pamyu goes to Tokyo DisneySea dressed like a total creeper

Perhaps it’s not to the extent that celebrities have it in the United States, but Japanese celebs – especially pop idols of the female persuasion – are regularly accosted in public if they’re recognized. And while most stereotypically meek Japanese might be content with taking surreptitious photos from afar in the event of an idol sighting, the possibility of running across an unhinged fan or aggressive paparazzi on the streets means most Japanese pop stars will conceal their faces somehow when strolling around in public on their own.

For the typical celeb, this generally means wearing dark shades or even just wearing a fashion they’re not normally seen wearing on TV, while others still will walk around with their faces totally uncovered like the rest of the unwashed masses. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, on the other hand, wasn’t taking chances on a recent trip to Tokyo DisneySea, choosing to conceal her face entirely and looking like a total creeper in doing so.

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Is AK48’s Chinese sister group even cuter than the original? Our reporter thinks so!

Ever heard of SNH48, AKB48’s second sister group outside of Japan? Based in Shanghai, China, the idol unit has been active since 2012, releasing a total of eight singles to date. These singles are all Chinese-language covers of previous AKB48 singles, including their latest release on May 15–the Chinese version of “Manatsu no Sounds Good!” (盛夏好声音).

Now, I’m not someone easily swayed by the cutesy “charms” of idol singers, but a female writer on our Japanese sister site recently wrote a piece expressing her opinion that SNH48 could possibly be–dare I write it–even cuter than the veritable goddesses of the original AKB48.

Take a moment to watch their latest music video and decide who you think is the cutest!

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Smiles optional-New talent agency accepting applications for idols suffering emotional distress

It’s pretty widely accepted that in the Japanese pop idol world, legitimate musical talent takes a back seat to the ability to project an image. So while you might not need perfect pitch or flawless rhythm, if you want to be an idol, you will need to radiate a constantly upbeat aura, right?

Well, maybe not. A new idol talent agency has just opened its doors, and the company is specifically looking for performers with a gloomy outlook, and is now accepting applications, with no experience required.

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Get your geek on! Artwork for the Momoiro Clover Z/Dragon Ball CDs revealed

While Momoiro Clover Z’s transformation into Frieza clones earlier this month simply turned out to be an April Fool’s Day joke, their collaboration with Dragon Ball Z is the real deal! In fact, the group is responsible for the theme song for the new movie, Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F. Which is pretty cool, and if you’re a fan of Momoiro Clover Z and Dragon Ball Z you’ll probably also love the covers for the movie’s maxi singles being released on April 29.

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J-pop unit Perfume’s innovative projection mapping at US performance creates worldwide buzz

Perfume, the three-member electro-pop group from Hiroshima, Japan, took to the stage for a special performance at the 2015 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas. The annual event, held this year from March 13-22, always includes a unique lineup of musical artists, independent films, conference panels, and technological exhibitions, all carefully selected to showcase the highest levels of creativity in the current industry.

Even in that environment, Perfume’s musical and dance performance seems to have blown away the crowd with its ground-breaking use of projected visuals. Is their performance really happening in the physical world? Folks from around the world who’ve seen the video online say it’s enough to give them goosebumps!

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Japanese female electro-rap duo Charisma.com: Office workers by day, musicians by night 【Videos】

If you’re looking for a new musical act to blow your mind, look no further than Charisma.com (カリスマドットコム).

The electro-rap duo (yes, you read that right!) is composed of two Japanese women–MC Itsuka and DJ Gonchi–who will without a doubt knock your socks off with their genre-defying sound. Once you’ve listened to some of their work, you can say goodbye to peace and quiet because you’ll never get Gonchi’s catchy melodies or Itsuka’s fast and furious rapping out of your head. Impressively, over the past two years, their music has been steadily attracting attention from all corners of the world. Would you say that they’re on the path to complete global domination?

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Natsume Mito’s debut music video, “Maegami Kiri Sugita” isn’t just crazy, it’s kind of insane

The music video for “Maegami Kiri Sugita” (produced by Yasutaka Nakata of CAPSULE) is an animation video directed by Katsuyuki Iseda. Picked up by the media and reaching over 10,000 views in just one day, the video has been causing a lot of commotion amongst J-pop fans this week, with content that apparently surprised even Natsume herself.

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Grammy winner Sam Smith comes to Japan, meets Kyary Pamyu Pamyu in clash of mundane, crazy names

It’s been a couple of days since we’ve had any Keanu Reeves sightings in Tokyo, so we’re going to assume the Hollywood actor has left Japan (and sadly without taking us up on our offer for a free bowl of ramen). That doesn’t mean the country is suddenly devoid of famous visitors, though, as the movie star’s presence has been swiftly replaced by that of recording star Sam Smith.

The 22-year-old English singing sensation recently arrived in Japan, where he got fans of J-pop talking by posing for a photo with Japanese songstress Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.

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New plus-sized idol group hopes to broaden the image of beauty in Japan 【Video】

In the never-ending battle to be the next big thing, a new idol group made their debut on January 15–with “big” being the operative word. Featuring the same singing and dancing you’ve seen from the hundreds of idol groups before them, these five girls are trying to prove that even those who aren’t paper-thin can make it in the idol world.

What separates this group from the “marshmallow girls” before them? For one, they actually are plus-sized, and they are OK with that! Please welcome to the stage: Pottya.

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Why are young Japanese women going crazy for this 100-yen Daiso wristwatch?

Even with one of the most outspokenly pessimistic presidents in the business world, Japan’s Daiso 100-yen shops are one of the most successful chains in the country. Walk into any branch, and you’ll see a huge mix of demographics among the customer base, including starving students, newlyweds setting up their own household, and thrifty families.

But while Daiso’s huge product selection gives it a wide appeal, it’s usually not the first stop for fashionable young ladies who’re looking for trendy accessories. So it’s been a surprise for the chain’s managers that since November, women have been snapping up Daiso-brand wristwatches like they’re designer timepieces, even though they’re dirt-cheap at just 108 yen (US $0.92) after tax.

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Hugh Jackman stars, sings J-pop cover, and speaks Japanese in ads for Toyota【Videos】

When you get to be as big a company as Toyota, you can afford to go out and get A-list talent for your commercials. Over the last few years, the automaker’s created a series of ads starring boy band SMAP’s Takuya Kimura and film icon Beat Takeshi.

In the commercials, collectively known as ReBORN, Kimura and Takeshi play historical figures Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, reincarnated in modern Japan. The latest installment even has a special guest star as Hugh Jackman, Wolverine himself, shows up to help spread the word about Toyota’s newest eco-friendly cars.

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16 years after his death, new song by X Japan guitarist hide released with vocals by…hide?!

The Japanese music scene doesn’t have quite the lengthy list of young deaths that its Western counterpart does, but that doesn’t mean J-pop hasn’t lost some of its biggest stars while still in their prime. In 1998, 33-year-old hide, who rose to fame as guitarist for the band X Japan and had also established a successful solo career, was found dead in his apartment, hung by a towel attached to a doorknob.

Ruled a suicide, his death came as a shock to his legions of fans, and while he left behind a large body of work, it seemed they would never get to hear the song “Ko Gyaru,” which hide had been putting the finishing touches on before his passing. So it’s come as a surprise that a video for the song was recently released on YouTube, with vocals that sound as if they’re being provided by the deceased musician himself.

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Stand back, kids! 64-year-old enka singer Aki Yashiro completely nails cover of Evangelion theme

The musical style enka usually gets referred to as Japan’s equivalent of country western music. The two do have a lot in common thematically, as the biggest hits of both genres are often centered on blue-collar hardships, melancholy nostalgia, and heavy drinking (one famous enka hit is “Sake Wo,” or, “Bring Me Booze”).

But while there are young country listeners, it’s a lot harder to find fresh-faced enka fans, since the lyrics of many enka ballads are so world-weary it’s hard to appreciate them without a few decades of failed romances and stalled career paths under your belt. So to reach out to a new demographic, one enka legend is recording her version of the theme song of hit anime Evangelion.

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Rain? No Problem! Not even impending typhoon can keep away fans of J-POP singer Nicholas Edwards

This past Monday was a holiday in Japan, Sports Day to be specific, which meant many of us had a three-day weekend. Unfortunately, it was also the second weekend in a row that Japan was hit by a huge typhoon, causing torrential rain, flooding and disrupted air and land transportation throughout large parts of the country. And while the Tokyo area was by no means the worst affected part of Japan, we still had huge amounts of rain and our share of canceled flights as the typhoon made its way across Japan.

So, Monday, October 13 really wasn’t ideal timing for a certain J-POP singer to be giving a live mini concert outdoors. Well, the singer scheduled to perform that day just happened to be Nicholas Edwards, the American singer who moved to Japan from Oregon, whom we introduced on our site last year. Apparently, his fans were in no way deterred by the approaching typhoon — they weren’t about to miss a chance to see him perform up-close. And we wanted to share with you just how loyal Japanese fans can be!

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Sleeping next to your celebrity crush hug pillow not enough? Now you can peel his clothes off

We recently looked at the physical and psychological benefits of sleeping with hug pillows, or dakimakura as they’re known in Japan. But while that discussion was limited to plain, undecorated dakimakura, it’s no secret that a large number of jumbo-size pillows in Japan are adorned with drawings or photos of the owner’s anime or celebrity crush.

Sometimes these dakimakura end up being used for relatively chaste purposes, like a romantic train ride. We don’t think it’s going too far, though, to speculate they’re also put to more lascivious means as stand-ins for obsessive fans’ lust towards their unattainable objects of desire. As a result, one new dakimakura allows you to tear the clothes off a rock star.

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J-pop group “Chubbiness” releases first music video, possibly look even less chubby than before

Back in January this year, we brought you news of an emerging J-pop group going by the name of Chubbiness. The idea behind the outfit was that, as well as being accomplished singers, the members were all “puniko“, or slightly chubby girls. Compared to most J-pop groups, which are very often populated with girls who are all pointy elbows and shoulder blades, Chubbiness just about lived up to their name, but few Westerners especially would ever think to call them “chubby”.

Eight months later, Chubbiness have launched their first official song, complete with an accompanying music video which shows them tucking in to a table full of sugary treats while singing about how there’s nothing wrong with being a bit on the big side.

The only thing is, after watching the video a handful of times, we can’t help thinking that if anything the Chubbiness girls actually look even slimmer now than when they were first introduced to us…

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AKB48 recruits new part-time idols – for US$10 an hour

The popular idol group AKB48 announced at the AKB48 Group Summer Festival on Sunday that they are recruiting new “part-time” members — for 1,000 yen (about US$10) an hour. Typically, potential AKB48 candidates must first undergo audition and become trainees before being promoted to regular members. However the “Part-Time AKB” campaign will bypass this long process, similar to Glico’s campaign to recruit a member over 30 years old earlier this year.

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Talented and beautiful singer covers Western pop hits in Japanese

Japanese audiences love to hear their favourite foreign tunes in their own language, as evidenced by the huge popularity of the Japanese version of Let It Go. But it’s not only Disney songs that are getting Japan-ized. One up-and-c0ming singer has been gaining popularity on YouTube thanks to her self-penned interpretations of English pop hits from the likes of Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and more.

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Math, art, and music: Sputniko! reimagines J-pop【J-Tunes】

J-pop usually brings to mind images of teenage girls dancing in unison while singing songs about…something resembling love. It’s about as saccharine as you can get without actually pouring a sachet of sugar directly into your ear. But there’s an exception to every rule, and we today we have for you some of the most fascinating pop music–and videos–you’ll likely ever see.

Even if you’re not a J-pop fan, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Sputniko!, the artist name of Hiromi Ozaki, and her delightful take on popular music. One of the recipients of Vogue Japan’s 2013 Women of the Year award, this mathematician-turned-artist is not at all what you would call an idol–in fact she’s almost an anti-idol! Her music, voice, and videos, though, are just as enjoyable as anything you’ll find on the radio and far, far more thoughtful. Oh, and did we mention that she’s a professor at MIT?

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