We all know that Japanese pop culture has a strong influence on the world – be it J-pop, anime, manga, and whatnot. When it comes to Japanese music, we tend to only remember J-pop as it appears the most on TV and radio. However, there are a few genres which are not mainstream but are equally amazing. These music genres originated in Japan and are considered unique from an outsider’s perspective. Here are two of them!
Akiba-kei is an otaku music and fashion subculture that originated from the otaku capital, Akihabara (秋葉原) in Tokyo. Otakus are known for their fascination with the fantasy world and are heavily obsessed with anime, manga, video games, etc. Akihabara is considered the birthplace of this unique style which has actually remained intact even after the many changes that took place in the music market and the subtle rise of contemporary pop culture.
In fact, otaku lifestyle has influenced mainstream music and fashion so much that you might not even notice it when watching a J-pop video or walking the streets of Tokyo. Many people do not even know what otaku music is all about. Some may think it’s strange or awkward with no specific style, while some may think otherwise. Otaku music is usually referred to as “Denpa music” as it is weirdly entertaining and incoherent and is often featured in anime.
Usually, you can find Akiba-kei songs or Denpa music online or at a shop in Akihabara. Akiba-kei used to be really popular in the ’80s and ’90s, but now can be seen merging with other music genres such as J-pop and Shibuya-kei which we are going to discuss next.
Shibuya (渋谷) is one of the most popular and busiest districts in Tokyo which has become a symbol of Japanese pop culture. In the ’80s and ’90s, Shibuya was not just a shopping district, but a center of fashion, fusion, and music. Started as a subculture of J-pop with a lot of jazz and funk influence, Shibuya-kei became really big in the ’90s.
Some people call it “lounge music” or “retail music” as it used to be played in retail stores rather than in clubs. It used to be an everyday fix for hipsters back in the day. There are many artists under this genre who became successful such as Cornelius or Oyamada Keigo (小山田圭吾), a sensational Shibuya-kei musician.
Some people tried to draw a parallel for Shibuya-kei which was not really mainstream compared to that of J-pop. Its influence comes from the Western indie pop music between the ’60s and ’80s when terms like “chamber pop,” “bar music,” “cocktail jazz,” and “orchestral music” were really well known among music lovers. Many foreign musicians such as Louis Philippe, a French lounge artist, produced music in Shibuya sound.
Although the genre saw a rise in the ’90s, it has recently been declared dead with very few artists remaining. However, there is a trend called the “neo-Shibuya-kei” which is becoming popular, but critics say it is no different from regular electronic music.
These are two out of many unique music genres that originated from Japan. New genres in fields of gaming, manga, anime, J-pop, television, and so on are also being born. There are some amazing artists who produced evergreen hits in the aforementioned music genres that are worth a listen. Do Google some of their songs and see for yourself how unique they really are.
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