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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.
Atarashii Gakko! released its third album, “AG! Calling,” on June 7. The group is currently touring Asia with songs from the new release featured in its set
CULTURE / Music
Jun 21, 2024
Atarashii Gakko! schools crowds overseas on just how bananas J-pop can get
With appearances at major festivals, on U.S. television and new album "AG! Calling," this sailor-suited rapping four-piece is on quite a roll.
Mrs. Green Apple has posted an apology on its official website after backlash over a music video that portrayed explorer Christopher Columbus in a charming way.
CULTURE / Entertainment news
Jun 13, 2024
J-pop act Mrs. Green Apple spikes ‘Columbus’ video after viewer backlash
A video in which band members portray Italian explorer Christopher Columbus "teaching" ape-like beings about culture? Japanese viewers are not on board with this one.
People wait for the main act to begin at Summer Sonic, which holds simultaneous music festivals for those in Tokyo and Osaka.
CULTURE / Music / Longform
Jun 9, 2024
Can Japan's summer music festivals adapt to a post-pandemic reality?
Soaring temperatures, the cheap yen and a dearth of headline options may require reshaping the outdoor concert formula.
Pop project Kirinji was featured on the second episode of Tiny Desk Concerts Japan, an offshoot of NPR’s long-running web series that features artists performing stripped-down sets inside the cozy offices of the organization’s music department.
CULTURE / Music / Sound Off
Jun 1, 2024
The best-case scenario for Tiny Desk Concerts Japan
NHK's new project, an offshoot of NPR's web series that shows artists performing stripped-down sets, could become a place for the full spectrum of Japanese music to shine.
Junichiro “John” Imaeda (middle row center) decided to start Ajate, a band that infuses traditional Japanese festival music with Afrobeat, after spending three months traveling around Ghana and Burkina Faso to absorb the music of West Africa.
CULTURE / Music
May 31, 2024
Ajate's joyous blend of Afrobeat and Japanese festival music
The nine-piece project brings together sounds from disparate lands to celebrate connectivity and community.
Kendrick Lamar has long been cast as the authentic and artistic representative of modern rap.
CULTURE / Music / Sound Off
May 10, 2024
Japanese MCs jump in on the Kendrick Lamar-Drake rap beef — and pick a favorite
The way artists here have joined the feud between two of rap's biggest names says more about hip-hop beefs in Japan than you realize.
Canadian singer Avril Lavigne attends the opening ceremony of Gap Flagship Ginza in Tokyo in 2011, three years before releasing her music video for the Japan-inspired track “Hello Kitty.”
CULTURE / Music / Sound Off
Apr 26, 2024
Avril Lavigne walked so today's influencer tourists could Mario Kart
Ten years ago, the pop star’s ‘Hello Kitty’ video drew outrage from the West, but she wouldn’t be the last visitor to use Tokyo as a backdrop for content.
Japanese project Serani Poji, founded and operated by musician Tomoko Sasaki, was a relatively under-the-radar group during the early 2000s. Thanks to short-form video platforms such as TikTok and YouTube Shorts, however, it has suddenly become one of the most successful Shibuya-kei groups in terms of streaming numbers.
CULTURE / Music
Apr 25, 2024
Serani Poji’s retro Shibuya-kei sounds find viral fame
The video game-related pop project gets a second life after online listeners rediscover chipper cuts from a 2002 album.
Four-piece Atarashii Gakko! and Okinawan rapper Awich (center) shared the Mojave Stage at 88Risings’s “Futures” showcase at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival last weekend.
CULTURE / Music
Apr 19, 2024
Japanese acts seize Coachella's spotlight — and this ain't your typical J-pop
Yoasobi, Awich and Atarashii Gakko! shine at the California festival, proving just how much J-pop has made strides in reaching international audiences.
Yoasobi vocalist Lilas Ikuta, who goes by “Ikura,” and bandmate Ayase performed a solo set Friday night and appeared a second time as part of the American company 88Rising’s showcase Sunday at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California.
CULTURE / Music
Apr 17, 2024
A White House dinner, a slot at Coachella — Yoasobi is having a great week
J-pop's Ikura and Ayase say they had to cut their hair and learn English for a string of stateside engagements.
Yoasobi member Ayase (far left) joins U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in a toast during a state dinner at the White House on Wednesday.
CULTURE / Music
Apr 12, 2024
A brief history of J-pop stars meeting U.S. presidents
Yoasobi's presence at the White House state dinner catapults the duo to a new strata. It also says a lot about what sound currently rules Japanese music.
Tokyo-based artist valknee has stood out as part of a wave of underground acts eager to tear down genre walls.
CULTURE / Music
Apr 12, 2024
Four up-and-coming music acts to start spring off right
Give your algorithms a nudge to put you in the mood for warmer weather with acts such as valknee, Uilou, Cho Co Pa Co Cho Co Quin Quin and kinoue64.
“Extremely Inappropriate!” centers on Ichiro Ogawa (played by Sadao Abe), a crude high school teacher who is chain-smoking his way through 1986. He accidentally ends up on a bus that turns out to be a time machine, which drives him to 2024.
CULTURE / TV & Streaming / Wide Angle
Apr 5, 2024
‘Extremely Inappropriate!’ took a big swing. TV is better for it.
The drama — which features a fish-out-of-water protagonist and satirizes social issues — is the most divisive Japanese TV show of the year so far.
Rock quartet Chai gained attention from fans and media in the late 2010s for its “neo kawaii” concept, which focused on self-confidence and celebrated individuality.
CULTURE
Mar 17, 2024
Champion of 'neo kawaii' Chai takes a final bow
The upbeat and eclectic rock quartet, which announced it would disband after its Japan tour, redefined what it meant to be cute.
A statue of "Dragon Ball" character Goku stands outside the offices of Bandai Namco in Tokyo. The figure is now as recognizable as such characters as Mickey Mouse and Spider-Man.
CULTURE / TV & Streaming / Longform
Mar 15, 2024
Akira Toriyama's gift to the world
The artist's impact was such that he should be considered alongside greats such as Walt Disney and Stan Lee when it comes to cultural contributions.
American rapper and noted anime fan Megan Thee Stallion presented the award for anime of the year to director Shota Goshozono for “Jujutsu Kaisen: Hidden Inventory/Premature Death” at the Anime Awards on March 2
CULTURE / Film
Mar 8, 2024
Crunchyroll's Anime Awards build on star power
The streamer's event upped the glamor with celebrity attendees such as Megan Thee Stallion and Rashmika Mandanna, and "Jujutsu Kaisen" won 11 prizes.
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.
CULTURE / Music
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.
CULTURE / Music
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.
CULTURE / 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."

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Tokashiki Beach acts as a sanctuary for sea turtles and offers ideal snorkeling waters. It was also the site of the U.S. Army’s preliminary invasion that led to the 1945 Battle of Okinawa, which resulted in the deaths of nearly 150,000 people.
On Okinawa's Tokashiki Island, life's a beach — one of the best in the world