11 Most Famous Japanese Singers and Groups for 2024

How many times a day do you hear music when you’re out and about in Japan?

From store and train jingles to karaoke, music is a huge part of Japanese life and culture.

Listening to Japanese music—whether it’s live, contemporary artists or anime songs with lyrics—can help improve both your Japanese vocabulary and pronunciation.

In this post, I’m going to share with you nine famous Japanese singers and groups you simply must check out, as well as recommended songs to help boost your Japanese skills.


1. 宇多田 ヒカル (うただ ひかる) / Utada Hikaru

Genre: Contemporary pop/country

Level: Beginner and up

Popular and well-known worldwide, Utada Hikaru has dominated the Japanese music charts since 1997. Many of her songs are slow-paced and clearly sung, so they’re excellent for beginner learners.

Check out a few of her songs:

  • “Heart Station” (はーと すてーしょん). “Heart Station” tells the story of two people separated, but still able to communicate by a forbidden radio signal… Utada hopes. Even if you don’t fall in love with the tune, the lyrics are sung clearly, making them easier for you to understand than those in some faster-paced songs.
  • “First Love” (ふぁーすと らぶ) (mostly in Japanese, a few lines in English). This was one of Utada Hikaru’s first popular songs, and is still played in restaurants and shops 17 years after its initial release. It’s an emotional classic that can teach you lots of romantic vocabulary.
  • “Sakura Drops” (さくら どろっぷす). A sad song about heartbreak. This one is slightly harder to understand, but why not challenge yourself?

2. きゃりー ぱみゅ ぱみゅ/ Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

Genre: J-pop

Level: Intermediate and up

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is a classic example of J-pop, and her fashion style rivals even that of Lady Gaga.

Her fast-paced songs can sound like a jumbled mess at first, but if you’d like a challenge, have a listen to her most popular songs:

  • “PONPONPON” (ぽん ぽん ぽん) (besides the Japanese, there are some “nonsense” lyrics in there, too). “PONPONPON” is Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s most well-known song, and has appeared on taiko and karaoke as well as the radio stations. Give it a listen; it’s catchy!
  • “Ninja Re Bang Bang” (にんじゃり ばんばん). If you like more electronic-sounding J-pop, this song might be up your street. It has a nostalgic feel to it; if you’ve seen the anime series “Monogatari,” you may have heard “Ninja Re Bang Bang” before. It’s a real toe-tapper.
  • Love fake eyelashes? Kyary Pamyu Pamyu also sang a song all about 睫 (まつげ) or… eyelashes. The music video of this song, which is called “Tsukematsukeru” (つけま つける), is also something to behold.

3. 初音ミク (はつね みく) / Hatsune Miku

Genre: J-pop

Level: Intermediate and up

What makes Hatsune Miku special? Only the fact that she isn’t real. Not in our world, anyway. Hatsune Miku is best described by Wikipedia as a “humanoid persona voiced by a singing synthesizer application developed by Crypton Future Media.”

In other words, Miku is a 16-year-old, turquoise-haired cartoon with a voice created by a computer. And the good people of Japan love her for it. 

  • “World Is Mine” (わーるど いず まいん) is one of her classics; it’s a song by Supercell where Hatsune Miku provided the vocals. Or the software producer guy, if you want to split hairs. It’s a good one to start out with.
  • Another popular Hatsune Miku song is “Yellow” (いえろー), though it’s a bit more autotune-esque than “World Is Mine.”

4. エー ケー ビー フォーティエイト(えー けー びー ふぉーてぃえいと) / AKB48

Genre: Pop / J-pop

Level: Beginner and up

AKB48 is a massive Japanese girl band. AKB stands for Akihabara, a district in Tokyo, and 48 stands for the 48 members of the band. AKB48 is an example of pop culture gone wild; there was even a news story detailing how a member shaved her head in shame after being caught dating a man (here’s the story in English). AKB48 has churned out some great songs over the years.

Here are a couple of their best:

  • “Heavy Rotation” (へびー ろーてーしょん) (Japanese with a few lines in English). This is probably the group’s most well-known song due to its catchy tune… and perhaps its music video. Typical fast-paced, high-pitched J-pop.
  • “Let’s Become Cherry Blossom Trees” (さくらの きに なろう) is much more slow-paced and relaxing.

5. バンプ オブ チキン (ばんぷ おぶ ちきん) / Bump of Chicken

Genre: Alternative rock

Level: Upper-intermediate and up

Bump of Chicken is a very popular alternative rock band consisting of four men from Chiba. Their easily recognizable songs have been influencing the Japanese music charts since 1994.

Check out these differently-paced ones:

  • “Colony” (ころにー) This song is almost opposite to “Karma.” It’s relaxing, slow-paced and the lyrics are a poetic description of sadness and loss. It also has a pretty amazing music video.
  • “Star Gazing” (てんたい かんそく) This is a song about stargazing as a child. It’s a tune of nostalgia and friendship.
  • There’s also Bump of Chicken’s song “Aria” (ありあ) which also happens to be the theme song for the drama “Aogeba Toutoshi.” As always, BOC’s lyrics are poetic and metaphorical, making them a fun challenge for Japanese learners.

6. 嵐 (あらし) / Arashi

Genre: J-pop

Level: Beginner and up

If we’re going to talk about Japanese all-male bands, then it would be a sin to not mention Arashi. This pop boy band has been active since 1999 and still releases albums today.

Individual members of the band often do things besides singing with the group, as they’re considered “idols” in Japan. For example, Satoshi Ohno, nicknamed “Leader,” often appears on television as a solo act. Jun Matsumoto is also a talented actor, probably best known for his role in the J-drama “Hana Yori Dango.”

Here are some great songs by Arashi. They’re family-friendly, catchy and great for a car ride.

  • “Monster” (もんすたー) is a popular song that’s very easy to understand for Japanese learners. Imagine Halloween, but throw in a bunch of J-pop cuteness and handsome men.
  • “Power of the Paradise” (ぱわー おぶ ざ ぱらだいす) (Japanese, a few lines in English), a newer song. Arashi really moves with the times, and this new catchy tune is still in their style, but sounds modern and attractive.

7. 倖田來未 (こうだ くみ) / Koda Kumi

Genre: Pop

Level: Lower-intermediate and up

Koda Kumi is well-known for her unusually deep and husky voice. If you’re a fan of the “Final Fantasy” games, these songs may sound familiar:

  • “Real Emotion” (りある えもーしょん) (mostly Japanese with a few lines in English; mid-paced). Featured in “Final Fantasy X-2,” this song describes a bond between her and an unnamed man. Perhaps it’s a reference to the previous game.
  • If you haven’t played “Final Fantasy,” there’s still plenty of Koda Kumi for you to sink your teeth into, such as “You” (ゆー) (a song about meeting her lover in the snow) and “Moon Crying” (むーん くらいんぐ) (slow-paced).

8. 大塚愛 (おおつか あい) / Ai Otsuka

Genre: J-pop / pop

Level: Lower-intermediate and up

Pop princess and accomplished pianist Ai Otsuka hails from Osaka. Her song “Sakuranbo” (さくらんぼ) was on the top 200 singles chart for 103 weeks in a row, a Japanese record. 

Other songs of hers include:

  • “Planetarium” (ぷらねたりうむ). If you loved “Hana Yori Dango,” mentioned earlier, you might recognize this song.
  • “Love Is Born” (もも の はなびら). With the use of shamisen, this song is upbeat and has an Okinawan, beach-esque feel to it. Both of these songs have a steady pace that’s easy to listen to.

9. ナイトメア (ないとめあ) / Nightmare

Genre: J-rock / J-metal

Level: Intermediate and up

If you love rock and metal, then you’ll love Nightmare. They’re a unique J-metal band most well-known for their contribution to the anime “Death Note,” with songs like:

  • “Alumina” (あるみな) is another fantastic song from the anime, arguably more emotional than “the WORLD.”
  • “Quints” (くいんとす) (Japanese with the chorus in English) also has some great guitar riffs that you should check out if you love rock. Not to mention the catchy-as-heck chorus and lyrics, which talk about the curse of fame.

10. フラットラインクラシックス (ふらっと らいん くらしっくす) / Flat Line Classics 

Genre: Hip hop/rap

Level: Intermediate and up

With a nod to hip hop classics and a moody urban edge, Flat Line Classics prove that the Japanese musical scene can do any type of music well. Their debut record puts hip hop over doo wap, making for a groovy vibe that’s fun to dance to. Check out these songs:

  • “Golden Age” (黄金時代) shows off the group’s urban street style and superb rapping skills.
  • “Do Ya” (やりますか) incorporates a piano melody that eventually turns toward Middle Eastern influences, with signature rapping hovering over the beats.

11. パチパチ コズミック コンピュータ (ぱちぱち こずみっく こんぴゅーた) / Pachipachi Cosmic Computer

Genre: Hyper-pop

Level: Beginner and up

This Osaka duo thrives in Japan’s unique hyper-pop scene, which features extremely fast beats and childlike vocals with dreamy lyrics. They excel because of their artistic restraint in a genre that rarely has any, and their production skills are second to none. Check out these songs:

  • “Internet Gal” (インターネットギャル) tells the story of high tech girlhood, accompanied by high temp electronic beats above a soaring synthesizer background.
  • “Cyber Future” (サイバーの未来) is a track that could definitely convince you that Japan is living in the future. Impossibly fast beats, excellent production and childlike vocals merge to create pure ecstasy.


Japan continues to produce A-class pop, rock, hip hip and rap artists.

Why not spice up your Japanese study with some music? One resource in particular that might help you with learning through Japanese music is FluentU.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

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And One More Thing...

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