Sometime in late 2023, users of short-form video platforms such as TikTok and YouTube Shorts sought out a mood booster. They found just the serotonin shot they needed courtesy turn-of-the-millennium music genre Shibuya-kei, in all its smiley wonder.

Japanese project Serani Poji, founded and operated by musician Tomoko Sasaki, was a relatively under-the-radar group when it released its second album, “One Room Survival,” in 2002. Over 20 years later, two cuts from that album — the chiming “Pipo Pipo” and the joyful “Where Is Smiley?” — went viral as users all over the world used the songs to add positive vibes to a wide range of clips. Suddenly, Serani Poji’s streaming plays on services like Spotify shot up to the millions, with even more dispersed across other sites, and the project is now one of the most successful Shibuya-kei groups in terms of streaming numbers.

“Everyone is so good at expressing themselves in short videos,” Sasaki tells The Japan Times in a rare email interview. Her Serani Poji work is the latest example of a once overlooked Japanese artist being unexpectedly rediscovered by netizens all over the world. “I felt really close to them, watching non-Japanese people perform and charm me with a Japanese song playing in the background.”