How Much Do You Know About Japanese Music?



9 Questions

What is the traditional Japanese instrument played by itinerant performers known as biwa hōshi?

Which Japanese music genre is characterized by its use of the sanshin as the main instrument and scales with half-steps?

What is Wadaiko?

Which musical genre entered the mainstream of Japan in the 1990s and replaced kayōkyoku?

What is the name of the Japanese movement in the 1980s and 1990s, represented by bands like X Japan, Buck-Tick, and Luna Sea?

Which Japanese metal band emerged in the late 1970s and was one of the pioneers of Japanese metal?

Which Japanese music genre is a subgenre of Future Bass and heavily inspired by Japanese culture?

Which Japanese musician composed for various anime and TV shows, including Cyborg 009 and a feature film of Godzilla vs. Biollante?

What is the name of the Japanese movement in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with different 'families' of rappers performing on stage at nightclubs?


Overview of Music Traditions in Japan

  • Japan is the world's largest market for music on physical media and the second-largest overall music market, with a retail value of US$2.7 billion in 2017.

  • Traditional Japanese music includes Gagaku and Hougaku, which date back to the Nara and Heian periods, and indigenous repertoires such as Kagura-uta, Azuma-asobi, and Yamato-uta.

  • Biwa hōshi, Heike biwa, and goze are itinerant performers who played traditional Japanese instruments such as the biwa, lap drum, and koto.

  • Wadaiko, a Japanese drum, comes in various sizes and is used in a variety of musical genres, with its origins tracing back to the 7th century.

  • Japanese folk songs (min'yō) can be grouped into five main categories, with the shamisen, taiko drums, and shakuhachi accompanying the singers.

  • Okinawan folk music differs from mainland Japanese folk music in several ways, including the use of the sanshin as the main instrument and the use of scales with half-steps.

  • Western classical music established a strong presence in Japan, making the country one of the most important markets for this music tradition.

  • Jazz maintained a strong presence in Japan from the 1930s on, and the country is an important market for the music.

  • J-pop, an abbreviation for Japanese pop, entered the musical mainstream of Japan in the 1990s and is a loosely defined musical genre that replaced kayōkyoku.

  • Japanese idol musical artists are a significant part of the market, with girl groups and boy bands regularly topping the singles chart.

  • Dance and disco music became popular in Japan in the 1990s, and Avex's artists such as Every Little Thing and Ayumi Hamasaki became popular.

  • In the 1960s, many Japanese rock bands were influenced by Western rock, along with Appalachian folk music, psychedelic rock, mod, and similar genres: a phenomenon called Group Sounds (G.S.).

  • Famous Japanese musicians include Hibari Misora, Kosaku Yamada, Yoshinao Nakada, Toru Takemitsu, Hikaru Utada, Ayumi Hamasaki, and Morning Musume.Overview of Japanese Music Genres

  • Group Sounds and folk singer-songwriters followed the popularity of Mops in the late 1960s.

  • Tigers was the most popular Group Sounds band, and some of its members formed the first Japanese supergroup Pyg.

  • Kenji Sawada and Kenichi Hagiwara started their solo careers in the early 1970s, along with rock bands such as Blues Creation and Bow Wow.

  • Electronic rock emerged in the 1970s, with Isao Tomita's Electric Samurai, Inoue Yousui's Ice World, and Osamu Kitajima's Benzaiten.

  • In the 1980s, pop rock groups like C-C-B, Tokyo JAP, and Red Warriors gained hit songs, while Boøwy inspired alternative rock bands.

  • Visual kei was a movement in the 1980s and 1990s, represented by bands like X Japan, Buck-Tick, and Luna Sea.

  • B'z is the #1 best selling act in Japanese music since Oricon started to count, followed by Mr. Children.

  • Japanese rock has a vibrant underground rock scene, including noise rock, stoner rock, psychedelic rock, and alternative acts.

  • Early punk rock bands include SS, the Star Club, and the Blue Hearts.

  • Japanese metal emerged in the late 1970s, pioneered by bands like Bow Wow and Loudness, and glam metal bands like Seikima-II and X Japan were formed in the 1980s.

  • Japanese extreme metal bands formed in the 1990s, including Sabbat, Sigh, Abigail, and Gallhammer.

  • Japanese metalcore bands such as Crystal Lake, Coldrain, and Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas formed in the 2000s.

  • Hip-hop came to Japan in the late 1980s and continues to thrive, with different "families" of rappers performing on stage at nightclubs.

  • Grime emerged in Japan in 2004, with MCs primarily from Osaka and Tokyo regions of Shibuya.

  • Synth-pop in Japan was influenced by German electronic and techno artists such as Kraftwerk, and Denki Groove became mainstays of the Japanese electronica scene in the 1990s.

  • Kawaii Future Bass is a subgenre of Future Bass, with a generally upbeat sound and heavily inspired by Japanese culture.Music in Japan: from roots and country to noise and game music

  • Roots bands like Shang Shang Typhoon and the Boom became popular in the late 1980s.

  • Okinawan roots bands like Nenes and Kina were also commercially and critically successful.

  • J-country is a form of J-pop that originated in the 1960s.

  • Latin, reggae, and ska music from Indonesia, Jamaica, and elsewhere were assimilated.

  • Noise music, also called Japanoise, is a recognized music form from Japan.

  • Theme music for films, anime, tokusatsu, and dorama are considered a separate music genre.

  • Several artists and groups have spent most of their careers performing theme songs and composing soundtracks for visual media.

  • The first game to take credit for its music was Xevious.

  • Koichi Sugiyama composed for various anime and TV shows, including Cyborg 009 and a feature film of Godzilla vs. Biollante.

  • Nobuo Uematsu, Yasunori Mitsuda, Koji Kondo, Jun Senoue, and Motoi Sakuraba are well-known authors of game music.

  • Pop singers such as Hikaru Utada, Nana Mizuki, and BoA sometimes sing for games.


Test your knowledge of Japanese music traditions and genres with our quiz! From traditional forms such as Gagaku and Hougaku, to modern genres like J-pop and hip-hop, explore the rich and diverse musical landscape of Japan. Learn about famous Japanese musicians, underground rock scenes, and even game music. Impress your friends with your newfound knowledge of Japanese music!

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