Music is often called the universal language. It bridges cultures and reaches all, with melodies and harmonies that can both soothe and excite the soul without understanding a single word of what is being sung!
There are various different musical genres in Japan, with traditional sounds, dance, J-Pop, indie, and all other types of music, listened to regularly.
Japan is home to many great songs, with lots of talented artists, so it is tricky to compile a top 10 list! You may have different personal favorites, but the following ten should certainly feature somewhere within a list of top Japanese songs:
1. First Love – Utada Hikaru
This song’s album was a huge bestseller, becoming one of the most popular albums in Japanese music history and selling millions of copies all over the world. First Love is an emotional ballad by a Japanese American singer.
2. Please Stay With Me – YUI
A simple yet moving song, Please Stay With Me has captured the hearts of many people in Japan. It was on the independent singer and songwriter’s fourth album, Holidays in the Sun. The album was released in 2010, reached the number one spot on the Oricon weekly chart list, and has sold over 180,000 copies. Please Stay With Me often features in polls of favourite songs.
3. Love So Sweet – Arashi
Love So Sweet is a catchy, merry, and upbeat song that inspires joy and happiness. It is also accompanied by an adorable dance routine! Get your groove on whilst listening to this popular song! The popular boy band actually released two versions of the song – a regular track and a karaoke version, making it easy to both listen to and sing along to! And karaoke is immensely popular in Japan! As well as being used as a feature song for the group’s variety show, G no Arashi, it was also the theme song for Japanese drama Hana Yori Dango 2. Love So Sweet was on the list of The Best 10 Singles of 2008 at the Japan Gold Disc Awards.
4. Matsuri – Kitaro
An exciting blend of Asian and electro music creates a wonderfully unique sound as heard in this song. The New Age composer achieved fame in other Asian countries as well as in Japan. Kitaro has won both Grammy Awards and Golden Globe Awards, and the album that Matsuri is from, Kojiki, was nominated for a Grammy Award and reached number one on the Billboard Top New Age Albums Chart. This song is a particular favourite amongst Japanese people and the international new age following.
5. Say Yes – Change & Aska
This is the most popular single from one of Japan’s best-loved groups. It is within the top ten best selling singles in Japan.
6. Unfinished – Kotoko
Inspiring and thought provoking, many people can relate to the lyrics of this song. It gained popularity by being used as the end theme song for anime movie Accel World. On reviews, the lyrics are often described as unique and the instrumentals are said to be astounding – it continues to receive glowing recommendations.
7. Aishiteru – Ken Hirai
Lovely lyrics and an amazing voice help to make this a favourite musical choice for many. It was the theme tune for the movie Ghost: In Your Arms Again. It started at number ten on the Oricon Daily Singles Chart, before climbing to position seven only two days later. It also reached number nine on the Oricon Weekly Singles Chart.
8. Shima Uta – The Boom
Reaching a worldwide audience, this song melds rock and folk sounds to create a captivating piece of music. It was especially popular in Argentina, as well as the band’s native Japan. As well as being the group’s most popular song to date it was also used for an advertising campaign; Awamori, an alcoholic drink by Xi, liked the song enough to use it in promotional materials. It is easy to listen to, and easy to like!
9. Wo Ai Ni – Asobotto Senki Goku
A cheerful and lively dance tune that is great for bopping away to! It was also a theme tune for anime Monkey Typhoon.
10. Hikizuri Beat – Masu Dore
The full title of the group is Mass of the Fermenting Dregs, but they are usually known by the easier and catchier name of Masu Dore. The group is considered one of Japan’s best rock groups, and this is one of their best songs. They combine excellent guitar sounds with soulful pop lyrics, and a vivacious personality!
Imagine, though, being able to actually understand the lyrics to your favorite songs? Songs are a great way to learn more about a culture, often including messages about people, life, love, sorrow, humor, tragedy, history, and more. Click here if you’re interested in starting to understand the words, messages, and meanings in the top Japanese songs!
When practising your Japanese, listen to a wide range of songs to find your own top ten! What’s your favorite Japanese song?