For a music fan wanting to explore jazz for the first time, an ideal starting point may be the current chart-toppers, which includes Robert Glasper, Esperanza Spalding and Jose James. Alternatively, he or she may choose to start with the classics, diving into the extensive back catalogs of the Blue Note or Impulse labels.

When it comes to Japanese jazz, a look at the charts may give some clues as to who the big artists are, but for a newbie wanting to explore the classics it can be difficult to gauge where to start. There's a tiny amount of information available on this country's scene in any language other than Japanese, which is a pity given the rich heritage of the genre here.

While jazz became popular in Japan in the 1920s and '30s, the real boom in homegrown artists started in the '50s, marking the start of a golden age of recorded music in which Japanese musicians both mirrored the trends in American jazz and created a distinct sound through the music they composed or via the incorporation of Japanese instruments. Despite the limited availability of many of these recordings outside Japan, the jazz scene here quickly earned a reputation as a hotbed of creativity.