Patrick St. Michel
Patrick St. Michel is a Tokyo-based writer with a focus on Japanese music. He runs the blog Make Believe Melodies, which has focused on Japanese independent music since 2009. Besides The Japan Times, he also contributes to MTV 81 and The Atlantic.
For Patrick St. Michel's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Zazen Boys (from left: So Yoshikane, Shutoku Mukai, Miya and Atsushi Matsushita) released “Rando,” its first original album in 12 years, last month. The 13-song collection features the sonic hallmarks of the band while also reflecting a new focus on the everyday, informed by frontman Mukai’s bike rides through Tokyo’s residential areas and sleepy side streets.
Feb 23, 2024
Character studies of city folk reinvigorate Zazen Boys
Frontman Shutoku Mukai brings a newfound focus on ordinary life and youth to his rock project's first original album in 12 years.
During a time in which Western acts have seen their place of prominence in the Japanese market drop in favor of K-pop, Swift is a notable exception.
Feb 22, 2024
What makes a Taylor Swift show worth flying in for?
Swifties say the pop star's concerts provide camaraderie and a sense of validation.
Fans of virtual YouTuber Selen Tatsuki and VTubers in general took to social media to express their outrage over major agency Nijisanji terminating Tatsuki’s contract.
LIFE / Digital / Japan Pulse
Feb 16, 2024
High-profile shakeups prompt scrutiny of virtual YouTuber industry
As VTubers enter a new era defined by prestige, Selen Tatsuki and Mikeneko's recent dramas demonstrate how complicated getting famous can be.
Singer Crystal Kay reunites with producer Taku Takahashi for her single “That Girl,” which dips into the sounds of the 2000s as well as the modern thump of Jersey Club, a high-energy American style of dance music.
Feb 16, 2024
Crystal Kay's star sparkles anew with Gen Z fans
The singer marks the 25th anniversary of her debut in J-pop with new single, "That Girl."
Tokyo is filled to the brim with anime-related activities and attractions, but the best require a little digging to enjoy to the fullest.
LIFE / Travel
Feb 10, 2024
An anime otaku's blueprint to nerding out in Tokyo — and beyond
The first step to taking anime otaku-dom to the next level is to educate yourself on the history and evolution of the medium.
German band Kraftwerk performs at a music festival in Wiesen in May 2009.
Feb 9, 2024
German techno pioneers Kraftwerk set to headline Fuji Rock 2024
The popular festival's first line-up announcement also boasts girl in red, Ride and The Last Dinner Party.
Around 55,000 fans showed up for Taylor Swift's first show on the Tokyo leg of her world tour.
Feb 8, 2024
Fans share love for Taylor Swift at sold-out Tokyo shows
Swifties from all over the world flew into Japan to see the pop superstar perform at The Eras Tour’s only stops in East Asia.
Girl group Atarashii Gakko! will be joined by two other Japanese acts, Yoasobi and Hatsune Miku, at this year's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California.
Jan 25, 2024
Pack your bags, J-pop acts. There's a whole world of fans to meet!
Expect Ado, King Gnu and Lamp to revel in the spotlight abroad with overseas tours, while the sounds of Shibuya-kei look to make a welcome return.
J-pop duo Yoasobi performed its 2023-defining hit, “Idol," during the 74th edition of NHK’s “Kohaku Uta Gassen,” giving the show its best moment — and drawing anger from netizens.
CULTURE / Sound Off
Jan 12, 2024
Yoasobi delivered the standout moment of ‘Kohaku.’ Why did some music fans hate it?
The J-pop duo brought artists from J-pop and K-pop together on stage for the night's best performance, but it didn’t take long for negative voices to emerge on social media.
As Japan’s borders opened back up and tourists eager to document their long-awaited trips to the country streamed back in, 2023 saw a handful of prominent content creators stir up trouble with local residents to grab attention online.
LIFE / Digital / 2023 in Review
Dec 29, 2023
Social media binged on bad behavior in 2023
Mischief makers like Johnny Somali and "sushi terrorism" instigators gained attention online amid a deluge of Japan-related content this year.
Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Boy and the Heron” received Golden Globes nominations for best animated motion picture and best original score for a motion picture this week.
CULTURE / Entertainment news
Dec 12, 2023
'The Boy and the Heron' and 'Godzilla Minus One' win over U.S.
While both Japanese films broke records at the North American box office, Hayao Miyazaki's latest also received two Golden Globes nominations.
Fans in Osaka take photos as the company formerly known as Johnny & Associates removes references to its founder. The agency announced its new name, Starto Entertainment, on Friday.
CULTURE / Entertainment news
Dec 8, 2023
Johnny’s changes name to Starto Entertainment
The announcement signals a new chapter in the talent agency’s history as it scrubs references to its disgraced founder from its current structure.
After becoming a TikTok trend in Japan in 2022, artist imase’s song “Night Dancer” found popularity abroad in 2023, particularly in South Korea, where it became the first Japanese song to ever enter the nation’s Melon Top 100 Song Chart.
CULTURE / Music / 2023 in Review
Dec 8, 2023
J-pop's global ambitions came closer to reality in 2023
Duo Yoasobi's "Idol" was a true international breakout, while a viral trend turned imase into a pop ambassador between Japan and South Korea.
The talent agency formerly known as Johnny & Associates announced it would change its name after acknowledging the long history of abuse company founder Johnny Kitagawa inflicted on young men. The news was followed by the removal of company signage bearing Kitagawa’s name.
CULTURE / Music / Sound Off
Dec 2, 2023
The entertainment story of the year is long overdue
As entertainment heavyweights Johnny & Associates and Takarazuka Revue are hit by scandals, hope for reform emerges with changing attitudes toward abuse.
An official shot for this year’s lineup for NHK’s annual “Kohaku Uta Gassen.”
PODCAST / deep dive
Nov 22, 2023
Things get warmer with Xi; Johnny’s get the cold shoulder
While Japan and China look to ease tensions, NHK makes things tense with a Johnny’s-less “Kohaku” announcement.
Milk Talk members Yuqi Shinohara (left), who goes by the moniker Q.i, and Miles Ungar officially started their electro-boogie project in 2019.
Nov 17, 2023
Milk Talk's deliciously funky mix of sweet and sour
The duo turns bottled-up feelings into electro-boogie delights on their debut album.
Acts represented by the talent agency formerly known as Johnny & Associates have not been included in this year’s lineup for “Kohaku Uta Gassen,” public broadcaster NHK’s annual New Year’s Eve musical show.
CULTURE / Entertainment news
Nov 13, 2023
NHK ditches Johnny's acts for year-end musical bonanza
For the first time in 44 years, performers represented by the beleaguered talent agency will not appear on "Kohaku Uta Gassen."
From left: Yusuke Nagai, Taiyo Someya and Kaori Sakakibara formed their band Lamp in 2000, developing a cult following over the years with their own blend of 1960s pop harmonies, ’70s folk craft and ’80s bossa nova brightness.
Nov 3, 2023
The slow and steady rise of Lamp, a cult favorite
With new album 'Dusk to Dawn,' the folk rockers bring light to the new Japanese music canon.
Inagaki, now 90, says a pivotal trip to the United States in 1969 changed not only his fashion sense from preppy to hippie but also his approach to music.
Oct 27, 2023
Saxophonist Jiro Inagaki’s golden age of jazz rock
“WaJazz Legends: Jiro Inagaki” highlights the musician’s eclectic oeuvre, which has transformed a sidetrack artist into a pillar of Japanese jazz.
(From left) G.R.D.V., Marao and Ryuseigun Saionji make up BBBBBBB (seven Bs pronounced one letter at a time), an Aichi Prefecture-based project whose brand of digital hardcore has made it one of the up-and-coming figures in Japan’s contemporary underground scene.
Sep 28, 2023
BBBBBBB's sense of humor cuts through the noise
The Aichi Prefecture-based digital hardcore project finds inspiration in the loud chaos of Hollywood blockbusters from the 1990s.


Hideo Shimoju points to a possible site that his fellow neighbors may relocate to. Such relocations have happened before, but not preemptively.
In disaster-prone Japan, some communities consider major moves