Five Japanese Bands That Aren’t Your Typical J-Pop

10 November 2015 by 4 Comments

I recently returned to the good ol’ US of A after spending the last seven years of my life in Japan. I’m still trying to get used to American living and hearing so much English. (How do you people deal with this?) Even though I’m back home, I try to keep up on my limited Japanese; the way I do it is by listening to Japanese bands, which is the best way to learn if your main linguistic aim is saying cheesy romantic lines to beautiful women.

I even forgot how to English for a while.

I even forgot how to English for a while.

When most people think of Japanese music, the first thing that comes to mind is Japanese idol pop. It’s been popular in Japan for a very long time, most comparable to the American music that was popular around the turn of the millennium: e.g. Brittany Spears, Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, and any other band whose material was created and is owned by giant corporations. There are some really great Japanese bands, though, and fortunately, my friends were able to introduce me to some of it. Bonus: Some of them sing in English, too.

Go! Go! 7188

If you dig punk rock and surf rock, then Go! Go! 7188 is the band for you. With mostly female vocals by Yumi Nakashima and Akiko Hamada Noma, these ladies and their drummer, Turkey (Takayuki Hosokawa), rock in a way that will sound pleasantly retro to the American ear.

Sadly, this band broke up in 2012, but their existing body of music will probably be new to you, so check them out.


Mongol 800

Mongol 800, known to their Japanese fans as “Monpachi”, also has a great punk sound. Their 2001 album Message is my favorite. These guys are still rocking at their place of origin and my longtime home, Okinawa prefecture.



Monkey Majik

Take two Canadians and two Japanese, give them guitars, a bass, and a drum set, and you get this awesome alternative band. They are especially palatable for English speakers because there is a lot of English mixed in, so you can sing along to the verses. That, and they are pretty awesome.



Def Tech

This pair, Shen (Shenan Brown) and Micro (Yuki Nishimiya) also sing in a mix of English and Japanese. They call their sound Jawaiian Reggae, whatever that is. I’d call it alternative-ish pop. It’s good, though, so don’t miss out. Unfortunately, their official channel doesn’t have any of their music available to the USA on YouTube. :( I highly recommend their songs “Bolero” and “One Day” featuring Jake Shimabukuro.


This punk band features female lead singer and guitarist Misaki, and mostly sings in Engrish. That is to say, don’t even try to understand what they are saying and just appreciate Misaki’s voice for the amazing instrument that it is. And the rest of the band can really rock too.



So there you have it: Japanese bands that are good alternatives to Japanese idol music and/or Babymetal. I honestly wasn’t sure if I should write this post, so if you decide to check any of these bands out, I’d really love to hear if you love or hate them.


Divorcé, proud father of four, blogger, black coffee drinker, ukulele enthusiast, and Tech Sergeant in the United States Air Force

4 thoughts on “Five Japanese Bands That Aren’t Your Typical J-Pop

  1. Thanks for posting this. As somebody who likes some Japanese culture and music, but is repelled by most of the people who fetishize it and the kind of stuff they gravitate to, it’s hard to find something like this.

    • That’s kinda how I feel too. I want to practice the language and enjoy the culture while listening to music that I actually enjoy. A lot of the Japanese stuff that becomes popular with the Otaku culture in the USA is seen as lame and kitschy over there. Most of my Japanese friends don’t have the same kinds of pop culture obsessions that we do over here. They just want to hang out and eat and drink.

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