chapter  19
13 Pages

Popular music in Japan

ByIan Condry

What can we learn about Japan through contemporary music? What does it mean to say some music is “Japanese” and other music “Western”? Attempts to answer these questions draw us into the complex relationships between nationhood, race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, media and industry, and the dynamics of historical change. Music is less a place of hard-and-fast defi nitions, and more a sphere of dialogue, performance, and experience. As in jazz improvisation, music embodies an emergent creativity within time-honored structures. In this, the lessons of music in Japan speak well beyond the sounds themselves. This chapter provides a modest survey of some of the important work on music in Japan, with an emphasis on a brief history of popular music in the twentieth century, followed by discussion of several genres, namely, enka (a popular ballad genre), jazz, idol pop, and hip-hop.