My Journey Into J-pop

Recently, there have been a rash of posts from other great J-pop and Idol blogs, about how everyone has discovered or come to love it, and what drew them in. I’ve enjoyed reading such posts from blogs like Janakya Mottainai, and Okay! Musume Time.   It made me remember back to how I became a fan myself, and made me really want to talk about it.

It all started back when I was about 15 (for reference, I am 30 now… It’s been a while!). I was a huge fan of Sailor Moon, as I still am, but at the time, I’d only seen that awful hack of a dub they put on American TV. Still, even that I found incredible and amazing, and once I’d seen all that had been brought out here, I took to the only place I could find any information – the internet.

One day, as I was looking up Sailor Moon things on websites, I ended up on a page that did something I would now consider to be bad manners – It automatically played a song in the background, that you could not shut off unless you turned off your speakers. That song was Otome no Policy, by Ishida Yoko.

That song was the very first time I heard anything in Japanese. I liked the song immediately. It was cute! It was upbeat! It captured me, and made me listen to it over and over! I had found something I really liked! That one song became my gateway into Japanese music, and a furthering in my love of (mostly ’90s) anime, which is another topic altogether… From that point, I started actively looking up the music from the shows I liked, and my love for Japanese music blossomed.

However, anime music is not really the same as J-pop and idol music. For a long time, because it was connected to something I already liked, anime music was all I listened to. Even today, there are some artists that are still considered more anime music artists than anything else, that are my favorites. Hayashibara Megumi remains one of my top 5 artists of all time. But it wasn’t her that made me come around to the world of J-pop, even if she had some crossover appeal. That was someone else…

I was a fan of a show called Kodomo no Omocha, which was a pretty wacky show. An online friend of mine had a copy of the 2nd opening song to that show, which was called Ultra Relax by Shinohara Tomoe. Once I heard the song, I was hooked. The song was like pure caffeine. It was ridiculous, over the top, and I loved it! Those were the days of Napster, so it wasn’t too hard to find other songs, like Kurukuru Miracle, KiminchiHappy Point… I loved them all so much, I needed everything by this girl, needed to know everything about her! I spent hundreds of dollars making sure I owned official copies of every single and album (this is a lot when you are 17 and work part time).  I loved the whole spectrum of her music, from the crazy stuff that got me started, to the calmer acoustic guitar pieces, to the typical pop stuff.

Shinohara Tomoe was no ordinary J-pop star, of course. There was, and is, nobody else like her. I still would put her at the very top of my list of people I wish I could meet. Her music, and her way of being her own crazy self, played a big part in my life, and I could never thank her enough for it. She doesn’t really release anything anymore, she has grown up into an adult, as have I, but I still adore just about everything she has done. I’ll love her for the rest of my life.

But anyway, since I got so into Shinohara, who was not really connected to anime aside from the one song, I started being more open to others who had no connection to anime as well. At some point, I became a Hello! Project fan, after hearing some songs that had that little touch of wackiness to them that reminded me of Shinohara. The first Hello! Project song I liked was from Morning Musume, and it was SAY YEAH! ~Motto Miracle Night~. I found other artists on my own, and got into more and more things.

Eventually I was introduced to DDR, which had a couple J-pop songs in there that I knew (like that awesome cover of Petit Moni’s Chokotto Love). Some of the songs I liked the most in there were from a group I hadn’t heard of, BeForU. When I looked them up I found they were made for the game, and there wasn’t much material out there yet.  However, as soon as they released an album, I was all over it, and they grew to become my very favorite J-group of all time.   Kosaka Riyu became my second favorite solo artist, second only to my Shinorer.

Through their amazing career, I bought everything they released, followed anything remotely connected to them, and eventually had to mourn the loss of them as a group, when everything dissolved.  I still don’t even like to think about it, it makes me cry, literally.  I’m 30 years old, sitting here writing with tears coming down my face for a broken-up J-pop group.    Maybe it’s pathetic, but that’s me, I guess.

I loved Hello! Project, but as much as I love them, and as much as I love some of the other groups out there, I still love BeForU more. Kosaka Riyu actually still releases things once in a huge while, but it isn’t the same. She isn’t writing it, and it’s a different label that gives her boring stuff. I’d kill to have her release something on the same calibur as her old material, to have another Baby’s Tears, Sunny The Ride, or Freedom.

Such is life, I suppose. My two top favorites are out, but there are still many new groups out there to love. My current favorite, by far, is Momoiro Clover, who I have come to absolutely adore. What I see in them – silliness, charisma, cuteness, voices that appeal to me, and great song material – echoes what I loved so much in my old favorite groups. They make me the most happy, out of everything being released right now. Especially Kanako and Momoka.

Over the past few years Hello! Project has gone downhill for me, but there are still things I love about it, even if I’m not big on 3 out of 5 of mobekimasu (still wish we could make it Mosubo… Like Morning Musume, S/mileage and Buono!). There is still enough that I love about it to keep me interested, though. I’m hoping that some of the new blood will rekindle my interest.

I’m always on the lookout for new things to become a fan of, because nothing makes me happier than having a new obsession.  Recently, I enjoyed 2 PVs from some groups I had not tried before – Kiss = Suki by PASSPO*, and Dokidoki Morning by BABYMETAL of Sakura Gakuin – I might look into both groups some more, and post about it.  I always need more J-pop to fill in the gaping holes left in my heart from my old favorites…  Any other recommendations are welcome!



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