"I hope foreign listeners can persevere with Japanese music," laughs bespectacled musician Ichiro Yamaguchi. "Sure, there's a lot of crap music here, but there's a lot of good stuff, too. Intelligent music is in the minority now, but I believe it will become mainstream in the future."

Yamaguchi's doing his part. His band, Sapporo five-piece Sakanaction, have found their way into Japan's music charts despite an often deliberately contrary sound that mixes elements of rock, electro and folk music, with the balance of ingredients changing from album to album and even song to song.

"When my father was young, in the '60s, there were student protests, and their soundtrack was Japanese roots and folk music — artists such as Masato Tomobe or Wataru Takada," says Yamaguchi. "I am very much influenced by these folk singers. They sang about political and social issues, but always in a direct way.