Japan has long been home to many ex-pat musicians and groups of all genres. From the blues and jazz that was so popular in the post-war period, to the EDM craze of the last decade, there have always been non-native musicians living and making music here. With its combination of old European influences with modern technology, Japan has always had a soft spot for Country music. In recent years seeing a rise in popularity among young people for Western culture, including country music artists as well as other subcultures such as Hillbilly Gothic (Okitan). Today there are many successful and established Country Music artists who live in Japan. In this guide, we’ll introduce you to some of them, their history and some of the opportunities available if you’re interested in getting involved with Japanese Country Music!
A Brief History of Country Music in Japan
The history of Country Music in Japan goes back to before the Second World War. The American Occupation brought with it new records and new radio programs, and in the post-war period, country music became very popular. Artists like Hank Williams, the Tex Ritter and the Roy Rogers were extremely popular and their music was played on the radio frequently. It was also around this time that Japanese artists started to record country music; the most notable of these was the Hawaiian band The King Brothers. In the 70s and 80s, the popularity of country music in Japan declined with the rise of rock and other new musical genres. However, during this time, many country music artists from Australia and New Zealand started to migrate to Japan and the genre began to regain some popularity. In the 90s, country music started to gain more popularity again in Japan with the arrival of more artists and the release of new and more modern-sounding music. In the 2000s, the popularity of country music in Japan rose even further. The release of several big-budget country music compilation albums featuring Japanese artists and the release of non-Japanese artists' albums in Japan helped to increase the popularity of country music in Japan. Today, the popularity of country music in Japan continues to rise, and with it, an increased interest in the genre among Japanese listeners and artists.
Why is Country Music so popular in Japan?
There are several reasons why it may be that country music has become so popular in Japan in recent years. Firstly, the welcoming and diverse culture of Japan has always been able to embrace and appreciate a wide range of music genres. Secondly, the simplicity of country music, with its focus on lyrics about love, heartbreak and everyday life, is easy to connect with and enjoy for anyone, regardless of their language skills. A lot of country music is also very easy to dance to, which is another aspect that helps to increase its popularity in Japan. Another reason for the growing popularity of country music in Japan may be related to the growing popularity of American and Western subcultures in general, such as the “hillbilly gothic” and “yano yarou” (country bumpkin) subcultures.
Who are the most successful Country Music Artists in Japan?
Some of the most successful and well-known Country Music artists in Japan include Yamamoto Miso, who has had a number one hit in the Japanese charts with her song “Detour”, Ohta Sumika, who has released several hit songs, including “Omoidasan” and “Nagisa no Yume”, and Niu Yu, who has also had two number one hits, with her songs “Tobashite yatte kite” and “Furisosogu shigarami”. Other notable artists who have released country music in Japan include Australian artists such as Mark Shonan, who has released three country albums in Japan, and Deborah Conway, who has also released two albums. Other foreign artists who have released country music in Japan include Canadian artist Carolyn Mark, American artist Willie Nelson, and British artist Paul Cashmere.
Opportunities to perform as a Foreign Artist in Japan
If you are interested in performing in Japan as a country music artist, you should check out events and venues in Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya to see if any country music events are being held near you. Many country music events are held in these cities, and there are many country music bars and pubs where you can perform in these cities. You can also check out upcoming events and opportunities to perform in Japan online at sites like Alta, where you can find information about upcoming events and opportunities to perform across Japan. Most opportunities to perform in Japan do not typically involve payment, although there are usually a few exceptions to this. You may be able to find paid opportunities to perform in bars or clubs in larger cities like Tokyo, where there are several bars that host country music events.
Opportunities to Record and Produce as a Musician in Japan
You may be able to record and produce your own music in Japan as a foreign musician. There are many small studios that you can use to record your music in Japan and many of these studios will be willing to work with you, especially if you have a large following. There are also opportunities to work with major studios in Japan and major record labels in Japan, such as Sony and Universal.