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:
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.
The incoming and outgoing presidents of Johnny & Associates, Noriyuki Higashiyama and Julie Keiko Fujishima, bow at a press conference on Sept. 7.
PODCAST / deep dive
Sep 14, 2023
Johnny’s talent agency has admitted to a past of abuse. What next?
Karin Kaneko joins the show to update us on how the story is unfolding.
Johnny & Associates President Julie Keiko Fujishima (second from right) acknowledged that company founder Johnny Kitagawa had sexually abused agency employees for decades during a press conference in Tokyo on Sept. 7.
CULTURE / Music / Sound Off
Sep 9, 2023
What’s in a name? A lot of baggage and trauma, unfortunately.
Johnny and Associates' recognition of abuse is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to move forward.
Crowds packed the Mountain Stage at Summer Sonic for Yoasobi’s set on Saturday and went wild when the J-pop duo played the opening notes of “Idol.”
Aug 25, 2023
Summer Sonic closes out the season with one hot party
Asian artists NewJeans, Gen Hoshino, Awich and Babymetal drew impressive crowds at the summer festival despite the overbearing heat.
Creativeman President Naoki Shimizu says Summer Sonic has been featuring an increasing number of Asian acts in recent years, a change that reflects the growing number of Asian visitors attending the music festival. This year’s standouts include K-pop group NewJeans, whose Summer Sonic performance will be its first Japan show ever.
Aug 18, 2023
NewJeans, Blur and Kendrick Lamar head to Summer Sonic
While Summer Sonic’s reputation as an international showcase holds strong, the event has become an important launchpad for homegrown performers.
The Gacha Pop playlist on Spotify offers a wonderfully scattered collection of J-pop chart-toppers, long-running favorites and next-generation names, reflecting the global ambitions of homegrown artists.
CULTURE / Music / Sound Off
Aug 11, 2023
The summer of Gacha Pop
Spotify’s curated playlist encapsulates J-pop’s diverse range, but more than that, it shows how Japanese music travels in the world today.
This year’s Fuji Rock Festival, which took place last weekend and featured The Strokes, Foo Fighters and Lizzo as headliners, brought a cumulative total of 114,000 attendees to the mountains of Niigata Prefecture.
Aug 4, 2023
Fuji Rock’s diversity is back — and it feels great
Millennial rock, Gen Z rap and a Sinead O’Connor tribute fill a stellar weekend of music.
Cameron Lew, the 27-year-old behind the California-based music project Ginger Root, crafted a detailed city-pop-inspired universe with a 1980s idol storyline for last year’s “Nisemono” album.
Jul 28, 2023
Ginger Root's modern spin on Showa nostalgia
The California-based project is set to bring its distinct interpretation of city pop to Fuji Rock Festival this weekend.
Photo: Mount Fuji is shot from above so that you can see the trails leading to its summit.
PODCAST / deep dive
Jul 26, 2023
A tale of two Fujis: Bullet climbs, crowds and Lizzo
With the borders fully open, Mount Fuji is all booked up and Fuji Rock is back in full force. Drew Damron and Patrick St. Michel join us on the podcast to discuss Japan’s two favorite Fujis.
At this year’s Fuji Rock Festival, big-name acts The Strokes, Foo Fighters and Lizzo will serve as headliners at the main Green Stage.
Jul 25, 2023
Rap acts stand out in Fuji Rock’s diverse lineup
Kanagawa rap crew Bad Hop’s final hurrah and Lizzo’s Sunday night swagger are set to deliver some of the most memorable moments of the three-day music extravaganza.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Entertainment news
Jul 12, 2023
TV personality and LGBTQ advocate ryuchell dies at 27
Harajuku fashion influencer Ryuji Higa, better known as ryuchell, was found unconscious in Tokyo on Wednesday.
Japan Times
Jun 30, 2023
With ‘Idol,’ Yoasobi pens a new chapter in J-pop's story
In creating the theme song to the popular anime "Oshi no Ko," one of Japan’s most interesting groups wins new fans overseas.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music / Sound Off
Jun 24, 2023
A Japanese song on the South Korean charts is more than just a viral moment
As Japan’s imase celebrates the success of his track “Night Dancer” in South Korea, it could be a further sign that relations between the two countries are getting better.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink
Jun 18, 2023
Meet the YouTubers and streamers revamping Japan’s online culinary scene
A new crop of post-pandemic channels and streams are being helmed by innovative creators hoping to offer a fresh take on the country’s culinary content.
Japan Times
Jun 9, 2023
Summer music festivals aim to bring the good times back
The return of summer festivals means live music is back, with events featuring overseas acts alongside K-pop and pool parties.


Yoshiko Koide sits in a classroom at Nagoya College where she teaches a Japanese-language observation seminar.
How a dictionary came to spark outrage among the web’s otaku