21 Famous Japanese Songs

Japanese music spans countless genres, with influences from outside nations having become just as widespread as traditional Japanese music.

If you’re looking to build a related playlist, here’s some famous Japanese songs to get you started.

1. “Soba ni Iru ne” by Thelma Aoyama

Song Year: 2008

First on our list of famous Japanese songs is “Soba ni Iru ne”, which translates roughly to “I’m By Your Side”. This popular song broke records as the most downloaded song in Japanese history. Thelma Aoyama released this song as her second official single in early 2008. The track features SoulJa and responds to their previous collaboration, “Koko ni Iru yo.”

“Soba ni Iru ne” reached the top of Japan’s Oricon charts in its second week. The song sold almost half a million CDs and seven million downloads by July 2008.

In September of the same year, the song was certified by Guinness World Records as the best-selling download single in Japan, but Aoyama held this award for less than a year.

For 2008, finding a song that made more of an impact was challenging. Thelma Aoyama’s anthem remains one of Japan’s most famous tracks.

2. “Oyege! Taiyaki-kun” by Masato Shimon

Song Year: 2003

Technically a children’s song, few songs in Japan are more recognizable than “Oyege! Taiyaki-kun.” Released by Pony Canyon (formerly Canyon Records), the song was performed by Masato Shimon in 1975 and earned its name as a “children’s song” for appearing in the Japanese children’s show Hirake Ponikki.

“Oyege! Taiyaki-kun” was the first song to debut at number one on the Oricon Albums Chart (the Japanese music industry’s version of the Billboard Chart). The song remained on the chart from January 5th, 1976, until late March. After selling more than 4.5 million copies, it surpassed “Onna no Michi” as the best-selling song in Japanese music history.

3. “Sukiyaki” by Kyu Sakamoto

Song Year: 1961

Originally titled “Ue o Muite Aruko,” “Sukiyaki” was released in 1961. Topping the charts in several countries, “Sukiyaki” also reached the United States Billboard Hot 100 in 1963 and eventually sold over 13 million copies.

The song tells the story of a man who keeps his head up as he walks to stop his tears from falling. Sakamoto’s inspiration struck while walking home from the 1960 Anpo protests. The artist kept the lyrics generic so that they could fit any heartbreak.

Interestingly, the song’s global popularity comes at the cost of changing the song. The English translation lyrics are unrelated to the original Japanese lyrics.

4. “Love So Sweet” by Arashi

Song Year: 2007

Released as the 18th single by the Japanese boy band Arashi, “Love So Sweet” was released in two separate editions. The first contains a secret bonus track and a karaoke version of both songs, while the second is a limited edition containing an exclusive track titled “Fight Song.”

Some of the track’s fame comes from its popularity as the theme song for the second season of the hit Japanese television series Hana Yori Dango 2. Listed on Japan’s Gold Disc Award’s list of the Best 10 Singles of 2008, “Love So Sweet” is one of the nation’s most famous pop songs.

5. “Gimmie Chocolate!!” by Babymetal

Song Year: 2013

Next on the list of famous Japanese songs is a more curious track. “Gimmie Chocolate!!” sits in the kawaii metal genre. Still, while some feel the song's instrumentation doesn’t fit the Jpop idol aesthetic and vocal style, Babymetal manages to make the genre their own.

Lyrically, the song focuses on a girl who enjoys chocolate and sweets, but worries about weight gain and the challenges of maintaining a figure in a world focused on physical appearance. Eventually, the lyrics decide it’s better to be happy than conform to societal expectations.

6. “Plastic Love” by Mariya Takeuchi

Song Year: 1985

Japanese pop singer Mariya Takeuchi’s “Plastic Love” is an iconic track that follows a woman making up for a break-up with retail therapy. The narrator accepts that materialistic notions may not be the healthiest, but clothes won’t break her heart. Living life day by day, it’s a melancholy celebration of finding happiness wherever you can.

The song surged again in 2017 when a lengthy video was uploaded to YouTube and remixed into several new genres.

“Aishiteru” by Ken Hirai

Song Year: 2010

Ken Hirai wrote and composed his 33rd single, “Aishiteru,” released in November of 2010 and landed on his eighth studio album, Japanese Singer. “Aishiteru” debuted at tenth on the Oricon Daily Singles Chart, making it one of the year's most popular songs.

The song became the theme song to Ghost: In Your Arms Again, the Japanese remake of the famous American film Ghost.

8. “Jupiter” by Ayaka Hirahara

Song Year: 2003

Released as part of the 2012 album Doki!, Ayaka Hirahara’s “Jupiter” is one of this list’s most emotional tracks. Based on a melody similar to the famous “Thaxted,” “Jupiter” was released in December 2003 and became an instant hit. The song sold nearly a million copies by landing in second on the Oricon charts.

In 2004, the single “Jupiter” was the third best-selling song in Japanese pop music. It maintained its position in the charts for over three years, solidifying its status as one of the most iconic tracks in Japan.

9. “Futatsu no Kuchibiru” by Exile

Song Year: 2004

With over three million sales, Exile’s “Futatsu no Kuchibiru” remains one of Japan’s best-selling multi-format singles. This love song tells a touching story brought to life in an action-packed music video.

The romantic pop track blends pianos and quiet vocals to help perfectly blend genres. Whether you’re looking for heartbreak or soft instrumentation, this song is flawless. If you’re making a playlist with a theme toward love, leaving this stunning track out is a mistake!

10. “Please Stay With Me” by Yui

Song Year: 2010

Japanese singer-songwriter Yui’s 2010 album Holidays in the Sun features the single “Please Stay With Me,” a quiet acoustic track that tugs at your heartstrings. Much of the song is melancholy acoustic guitar instrumentation but quickly climbs up. The acoustic guitar then meets with a piano, electric guitar, and a string section.

11. “Forever Love” by X Japan

Song Year: 1996

Heavy metal Japanese band X Japan is known for pushing boundaries. One of the pioneers of Visual Kei, X Japan helped bring metal and glam prog to the Land of the Rising Sun. For “Forever Love,” the band dropped their heavier tones for a somber track.

Much of “Forever Love” is a love ballad with a piano, vocals, and soft instrumentals accompanied by drums and a distant, reverb-heavy electric guitar. This single offers a profound and emotionally charged listening experience.

Since 1996, the band X Japan group broke up, but the song has been covered by several other artists, including Eric Martin, and used in commercials for the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party.

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One Comment

  1. Recommendations:
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