• SHARE

The Japan Times newsroom selected these culture stories as the most important of 2016.

1. Nothing lasts forever: After conflicting reports dominated tabloids, J-pop act SMAP finally announced a breakup planned for New Year’s Eve. Regardless of whether it was in-fighting or exhaustion that led to it, the group has made a definite impact in the world of entertainment.


A fan pays tribute to musician David Bowie who died in January.
A fan pays tribute to musician David Bowie who died in January. | REUTERS

2. Celebrity deaths: There were times this year when it felt like the world was losing many of its artists. Overseas we saw the deaths of David Bowie, Prince, Gene Wilder and, recently, George Michael, and Carrie Fisher followed a day later by her mother, Debbie Reynolds. Japan mourned the loss of stage legend Yukio Ninagawa, synth pioneer Isao Tomita and dancer Mika Kurosawa.

Author Carrie Fisher (right) and her mother Debbie Reynolds
Author Carrie Fisher (right) and her mother Debbie Reynolds | AP
Stage legend Yukio Ninagawa (left); synth pioneer Isao Tomita
Stage legend Yukio Ninagawa (left); synth pioneer Isao Tomita | MAIKO MIYAGAWA (LEFT)
From left: George Michael, Prince, Leonard Cohen
From left: George Michael, Prince, Leonard Cohen | REUTERS / AP

Japanese music found stars in new places this year and one of the biggest was Pikotaro. His infectious song
Japanese music found stars in new places this year and one of the biggest was Pikotaro. His infectious song ‘PPAP’ combined the right elements of musicality and humor, capturing attention worldwide.

3. A pineapple, an apple and a pen: A short song went viral on YouTube, inspired countless covers from around the world and earned its creator, Pikotaro, a spot on the Billboard charts — which also got him a Guinness record in the process. Admit it, you’re singing “PPAP” in your head now, right?


TV personality Becky
TV personality Becky’s affair with a musician landed on the pages of Shukan Bunshun. | KYODO

4. A scandalous run: Shukan Bunshun began the year with a string of scoops involving various scandals: TV personality Becky’s affair with musician Enon Kawatani, SMAP’s infighting, the arrest of baseball star Kazuhiro Kiyohara, the tracking down of nameless juvenile murderer “Shonen A,” exposing TV personality Sean K’s false resume and politician Kensuke Miyazaki‘s affair while on paternity leave. Shukan Shincho fired back with a five-parter on disabled advocate Hirotada Ototake. The winners in this tabloid war were the readers.


Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan | KYODO

5. Award nods: Musician Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature, the first time it has been given to a musician. Of course, that means perennial favorite Haruki Murakami didn’t get it, but he could take comfort after the Danish honored him with the Hans Christian Andersen Award instead.


Animated film
Animated film ‘Your Name.’ continues to be a smash hit. | © 2016 “YOUR NAME.” FILM PARTNERS

6. A surprise hit: “Kimi no Na Wa.” (“Your Name.”) was a huge hit in Japan and its success continued in China, which is now the world’s second-largest film market. Next stop: Hollywood.


Pop star Aska is taken away by police, but later released.
Pop star Aska is taken away by police, but later released. | KYODO

7. Struggles with addiction: Pop star Aska (real name Shigeaki Miyazaki) of duo Chage & Aska was arrested and released after being accused of slipping in his rehabilitation. Former actress Saya Takagi was arrested for marijuana possession, and actor Hiroki Narimiya quit showbiz after cocaine allegations.


Japan’s most famous monster returns to the screen in
Japan’s most famous monster returns to the screen in ‘Shin Godzilla.’ | © 2016 TOHO CO., LTD.

8. The return of Godzilla: “Shin Godzilla” was released to good reviews at home and overseas, and was a success at the domestic box office.


Babymetal hits the stage at this year
Babymetal hits the stage at this year’s Fuji Rock Festival | JAMES HADFIELD

9. Metal rules: The young metalheads of Babymetal saw their album “Metal Resistance” make it into the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 album chart in the U.S. — a feat that was last achieved by Kyu Sakamoto for his 1963 classic, “Sukiyaki.”


Fuji Rock Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary.
Fuji Rock Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary. | MARK THOMPSON

10. Twenty years of Fuji Rockin’: One of Japan’s largest music events, Fuji Rock Festival, hit a two-decade milestone. Original headline act Red Hot Chili Peppers returned to celebrate.

RELATED PHOTOS

Coronavirus banner