Japan for the Uninvited

Japanese culture from a bemused foreign perspective

Tetsuya Komuro

Tetsuya Komuro (aka TK) - songwriter, producer, and talent scout extraordinaire - has revolutionised the Japanese music industry. A precocious talent, Komuro started studying violin at the age of 3. In 1986, he formed a popular rock group, TM Network, with university friends, but found more success producing and writing songs ...

Dragon Ash

Dragon Ash, started in 1995 by school friends, headed a major shift in Japanese chart music. They are led by Kenji Furuya, the son of actor Ikko Furuya. Their blend of melody, punishing punk riffs, and hip hop turntablism stood out from the crowd, earning them immediate chart success. Impossible to categorise, ...

BoA

BoA (real name Kwon Boa) is the ultimate manufactured pop product. She was recruited by Korean promotion giant SM Entertainment when she was 11, with the explicit intention of creating an internationally-recognisable Korean pop idol. This painstaking process included intensive English and Japanese lessons (she's fluent in both) as well as ...

Namie Amuro

Under the expert eye of legendary producer Tetsuya Komuro, Okinawan singer Namie Amuro burst onto the music scene in 1996. Her distinctive look (long auburn hair, thin eyebrows, short skirts and knee high boots) spawned a generation of "Amuraas" (identically-dressed teenage girls). One-quarter Italian, her husky complexion was an inspiration for the ...

hitomi

hitomi was discovered, like so many Japanese pop stars, by music mogul Tetsuya Komuro in 1993. To distinguish herself from all the other pop idols called Hitomi, she cast off her surname and that tedious capital 'H'. As with everything else in her early career, this was probably Komuro's decision. Like many ...

YMO (Yellow Magic Orchestra)

Japan's answer to the Sex Pistols, YMO married innovative electronica with kitsch performance art. The group was formed in 1978 by a trio of experienced musicians: Haruoni Hosono (bass), Ryuichi Sakamoto (keyboard), and Yukihiro Takahashi (drums). Having achieved worldwide popularity and acclaim with a number of ground-breaking albums, YMO disbanded in 1984. Of ...

Hikaru Utada

Hikaru Utada, "Hikki", stands out in a music industry packed with cute, talentless people. Born in New York, she showed talent from an early age and released her first US single (under the name "Cubic U") before she was 12. Before she was 20, she married Kazuaki Kiritani, a photographer 15 years ...

SMAP

SMAP (Sports Music Assemble People) are not so much a pop group as a multimedia marketing wet dream. Starting in 1988, SMAP (Takuya Kimura, Shingo Katori, Masahiro Nakai, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, and Goro Inagaki) were lucky enough to be based in a market which never gets tired of bland pop acts, and ...

Puffy AmiYumi

Puffy are a Japanese duo who are starting to make waves in the US, where they must call themselves Puffy AmiYumi to avoid offending P.Diddy's lawyers. Ami Ohnuki and Yuki Yoshimura were discovered and put together in 1995, since when their derivative, eccentric pop has sold over 14 million records. In the ...

Morning Musume

Morning Musume ("Momusu"), a 15-strong group of pre-pubescent girls, are the ultimate triumph of marketing over common sense. Operating on a revolving door basis since 1997, the line-up frequently changes as "older" members are retired and even fresher faces are brought in. As you'd expect, their fanbase consists mostly of young girls, ...

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