15 Of The Greatest And Most Famous Japanese Singers Of All Time

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Japan is a country that has long been associated with music. From the traditional sounds of the koto and taiko drums to the more modern pop and rock of today, Japanese music has something for everyone.

And when it comes to singers, Japan has produced some truly talented and famous performers over the years. Its musical heritage is extensive and diverse, ranging from traditional folk music to J-Pop’s global ascension to stardom.

In this post, we’re going to take a brief look at the lives and careers of 15 of the greatest and most famous Japanese singers of all time. Let’s get started.

1. Yoko Ono

Born in Tokyo, Japan, in 1933, Yoko Ono is a Japanese singer-songwriter and peace activist

She is probably the most famous of all Japanese singers as she married John Lennon, a member of The Beatles. 

Ono has been somewhat of a polarizing figure despite being an accomplished singer and artist. Still, she’s also highly criticized for her undeniable influence on John Lennon and his music.

She is also frequently held responsible for the dissolution of the Beatles. However, these criticisms haven’t deterred Ono from living a life full of creativity and art. 

2. Suzuka Nakamoto

Next, we have Suzuka Nakamoto who was born in 1997 in Hiroshima, Japan and is best known for forming the Japanese kawaii metal band Babymetal, where she goes by the stage name SU-METAL.

She has also been a member of idol groups Karen Girl’s and Sakura Gakuin.

Nakamoto made her debut in the entertainment industry at a very young age as a child model.  When Nakamoto graduated from middle school, she also had to leave Sakura Gakuin because she reached the group’s age limit.

She then went on to form Babymetal, whose first album was released in 2014. 

3. Hikaru Utada

Born in New York City to Japanese parents, Hikaru Utada is another singer with deep roots in music, as her father is a record producer and her mother is a singer.

Utada must have felt a strong draw from her Japanese roots, as she has lived in Japan extensively. 

Since her debut album First Love, released in 1999, she has been adored by the Japanese public.

In the years that followed, she rose to become one of the country’s most beloved pop sensations, fusing R&B with dance-pop and rock to create a signature sound that became an effective formula that other J-pop musicians have emulated. 

Utada is well-known among video game enthusiasts as the voice behind each famous theme from Square Enix and Disney’s popular collaboration series Kingdom Hearts.

In addition, dubstep music fans have been made aware of Hikaru’s singing prowess through the song “Face My Fears,” which features Utada’s vocals and was produced by Skrillex. 

4. Kōji Tamaki

The Japanese singer-songwriter and actor Koji Tamaki was born in 1958.

A well-known rock musician, he is best known as the leader of the rock band Anzen Chitai, which was formed in 1982 and experienced considerable success, notably during the 1980s.

He began his solo career in 1993, and he has received a great deal of critical acclaim and commercial success since then.

In addition, he is generally considered to be one of the best Japanese vocalists of all time. His solo career has resulted in the publication of 23 singles and more than a dozen studio albums to date.

Den-En, a song he released as a single in 1996, became a big hit, reaching number two on the Japanese music charts and selling more than 900,000 copies in total.

5. Hiroshi Kamayatsu

Hiroshi Kamayatsu, also known as “Monsieur,” became a member of the Spiders in the early 1960s, serving as both a guitarist and a vocalist.

The group, which included fellow musicians Masaaki Sakai and Jun Inoue, went on to record singles like “Ban Ban Ban” and “Anotoki Kimiwa Wakakatta” (“You Were Young Back Then”). 

After the band disbanded, Kamayatsu moved on to pursue a solo career. He wrote the song “Waga Yoki Tomoyo” (“My Good Acquaintance”), which tells the story of a rough and unrefined college friend, and it became a big hit.

6. Miyavi

Takamasa Ishihara, better known by his stage name Miyavi, is a Japanese singer-songwriter, guitarist, record producer, and actor.

Born in Osaka in 1981, Takamasa began his professional guitar career at 17 under the stage name ‘Mayabi.’ He is known for his finger-slapping playing style.

In the beginning, he worked as a guitarist with the band Dué le Quartz, which is now defunct. The group split three years after joining, so he started a solo career, releasing his first album, ‘Gagaku.’

Miyavi is his new stage name, which he adopted recently. While he continued to record singles and albums, he altered his musical style to more of an acoustic/pop style. This disappointed many of his original fans but greatly enlarged his popularity.

At the age of 25, he decided to travel to the United States for six months to learn English to reach a bigger audience. He embarked on his first world tour a year after that.

Miyavi is also an actor. Unbroken was released in 2014, serving as his debut as an actor in a major motion picture.

7. Ayumi Hamasaki

Since her debut in 1998, Ayumi Hamasaki has attained the highest levels of success as a singer, songwriter, and pop sensation.

She is the best-selling solo artist in Japan, having sold millions of CDs and racking up a slew of top-tier chart records along the way.

Hamasaki has a considerable presence in Japanese pop culture and the entertainment industry. In addition to being a pop star, she also has her own fashion brand, is a T.V. and radio show host, and even opened a restaurant for a short time.

8. Sakura Miyawaki

Born in 1998 in Tokyo, Sakura Miyawaki is a Japanese singer and former member of the Japanese idol girl group HKT48.

Miyawaki was a previous member of IZ*ONE and competed in Produce 48 where she finished second, earning her a spot in the project’s working group.

Also, Miyawaki was previously a co-captain of the HKT48’s Team KIV and once performed with AKB48’s Team A. She had her graduation concert from the group in June 2021.

9. Hyde

Born in Wakayama in 1964, Hideto Takarai more commonly known by his stage name Hyde is the lead singer of the Japanese rock band L’Arc-en-Ciel.

He rose to international prominence as a singer and guitarist as well as being a member of the duet Vamp. He has released solo music, including the singles Evergreen and Shallow Sleep.

As a member of L’Arc-en-Ciel, Hyde has sold more than 40 million records worldwide.

10. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

Born in Tokyo in 1993, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is a Tokyo-based pop artist who uses an eclectic combination of sweetness and shock in her songs and visuals.

Pamyu attributes a lot of her success to the popularity of her music videos on the internet.

In her early years, Pamyu’s primary interest was fashion which is evident from her eye-catching ensembles including Harajuku streetwear and a blonde wig.

In addition to being an accomplished singer, she’s also a fashion blogger and model.

11. Kyu Sakamoto

Kyu Sakamoto was born in 1941 in Kawasaki, Japan where he grew up in a family of restaurateurs.

He began singing in jazz bars when he was a youngster, and in 1959, he landed a record deal with Toshiba Records.

He had several Japanese pop singles and starred in films and on television and radio shows.

Sadly, he was killed in a plane crash in Japan in 1985. The crash left 519 dead and was the deadliest plane crash in Japanese history.

12. Takahiro Moriuchi

Born in 1988 in Tokyo, Japan, Takahiro Moriuchi is a Japanese singer known by his stage name Taka.

He is the lead singer of One Ok Rock, a Japanese rock band where he is the primary songwriter and composer.

He was also a member of the boyband NEWS from 2003 until he was released from the band.

13. Damo Suzuki

Most known for his involvement with the German experimental rock band Can, where he served as the band’s lead singer from 1970 until 1973 Damo Suzuki was born in 1950 in Tokyo, Japan.

Suzuki has been based in Germany since the 1970s.

He has been a part of the Krautrock movement, which emerged in West Germany during the 1960s and 1970s and is known for its experimental rock sound.

14. Kōji Wada

Japanese pop singer who rose to fame in the 1980s, Kōji Wada was born in the Kyoto neighborhood of Fukuchiyama, Japan, in 1974. 

He was best known for singing the theme songs for numerous installments of the Digimon anime television series.

Wada’s recording debut was in 1999 with the song “Butter-Fly,” the theme song for the Digimon Adventure anime television series, which became his first and most popular single.

Wada had a recording contract with the Lantis record company. He has the nickname “Immortal Butterfly Anisong Singer.”

15. Kumi Koda

Born in 1982 in Kyoto, Japan, Kumi Koda is a Japanese pop artist. She has gone on to become a prolific seller and well-known artist in the Japanese pop music industry.

She started out in the music industry when she came in second place in a talent search sponsored by the record label Avenue.

The album Affection was released in March of 2002. 

Although her singles weren’t the hits she and her label had hoped for, she eventually established herself as a regular hitmaker.

Summing Up Our List Of Great Singers From Japan

The list above features some of the greatest Japanese singers of all time. They have each contributed their own unique style to the world of music and Japanese culture.

Music is one of the many things that unite us. It helps define our cultures while creating new ones.

If you’re looking to expand your musical horizons, hopefully, some of these singers fit your tastes.

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Written by Dan Farrant
Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 10 years helping thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. Since then he's been working to make music theory easy for over 1 million students in over 80 countries around the world.