Hip-hop is a major force on the American music charts, but its presence has been less prominent in Japan. Elements of the wider culture have found their way into teenage wardrobes and pop-video dance routines, but even Japanese rappers admit they have a hard time grabbing the attention of new fans.

Over the past year, however, a group of female musicians have been experimenting with rap vocals in their songs. It's being called rap by the Japanese press, but is so far removed from the genre that it may be a new style altogether.

"Our music is completely different from hip-hop," says Komuai, the lead singer of trio Suiyoubi no Campanella. "My voice really isn't for rap," she adds. "I enjoy the uncomfortable feeling it makes when I try to (do it), though."