Rock Day 2016: Legendary Japanese Female Rockers
June 9th can be read as “rock” (ro-ku) so in celebration, we decided to look back at some of the most important female artists that have made their mark on the genre in Japan. Even though rock had a relatively late start in Japan, it exploded into the mainstream starting in the 1980’s and continues to go evolve and change. While this is by no means a complete list, they have paved the way for many Japanese girls’ bands or female-fronted rock units active today.
Because some of these artists are no longer active, links to relevant music will be provided as available. Japanese names and song/album titles will be included to help you in searching for their music. Due to some artists having a large discography, not all of their hits will be included either. Here are 5 Japanese female rockers who we feel have attained legendary status.
Princess Princess (プリンセス プリンセス) 1983 – 1996, 2012 – 2016
The first to perform in the legendary Nippon Budokan, Princess Princess is one of the pioneers of girls’ bands in Japan. Put together via an audition in 1983, they began their journey as Akasaka Komachi before changing their name to JULIAN MAMA in 1985, finally becoming Princess Princess in 1986. After years of struggling in small venues, their big breakthrough came with the release of their second album “HERE WE ARE” (1988). Powered by several songs that became hits, Princess Princess sold out Shibuya Public Hall in 2 hours that year. This was followed up in 1989 by the release of their biggest hit “Diamonds”, the first CD single to sell over a million copies, and their historic Nippon Budokan concert. After a string of #1 hit albums/singles and national tours throughout the early 1990’s, Princess Princess retired in 1996 after a 3-night stand at Nippon Budokan. They reunited in 2012 and went on to perform in the Budokan as well as Tokyo Dome and the 2012 NHK Kouhaku Uta-Gassen before retiring again in 2016.
Second album “HERE WE ARE” (1988)
“19 GROWING UP-ode to my buddy-”
“GO AWAY BOY”
“Joudan Janai” (冗談じゃない)
Seventh single “Diamonds” (ダイアモンド) (1988)
Princess Princess Official site: http://www.princess2.net/
Princess Princess YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/princessprincessSMEJ
JUDY AND MARY 1992 – 2001
Probably most famous for “Sobakasu”, the opening theme song of the anime Ruroni Kenshin, JUDY AND MARY were one of the most successful and eclectic bands of the 1990’s. With frontwoman and lyricist Yuki’s unique vocal delivery and the pop-punk compositions of bandmates Yoshihito Onda (bass), TAKUYA (guitar), and Kohta Igarashi (drums), they dominated the charts for the better half of a decade before disbanding to pursue their individual musical projects after 2-days of concerts at Tokyo Dome in March of 2001.
Second album “ORANGE SUNSHINE” (1994)
“Hello! Orange Sunshine”
Third album “MIRACLE DIVING” (1995)
“Doki Doki” (ドキドキ)
Fourth album “THE POWER SOURCE” (1997)
Fifth album “POP LIFE” (1998)
“Music Fighter” (ミュージック ファイター)
“Sanpo Michi” (散歩道)
6th album “WARP” (2001)
“Brand New Wave Upper Ground”
“Lucky Pool” (ラッキープール)
Nanase Aikawa (相川七瀬) 1995 – present
Osaka-born Nanase Aikawa burst upon the scene in Japan with her 1995 hit “Yumemiru Shoujo ja Irarenai” (夢見る少女じゃいられない) which won her an invitation to the NHK Kouhaku Uta-Gassen the following year. While she hasn’t been dominating the sales charts like she has during her early days, Nanase has kept performing while raising a family and even filmed a MV in France for “Fine Fine Day” the all-girls band Rockstar Steady in 2010. While this is merely a small sampling of her 20+ year career, the songs listed below are essential listening when it comes to Nanase Aikawa.
First album “Red” (1996)
“Yumemiru Shoujo ja Irarenai” (夢見る少女じゃいられない)
“Like A Hard Rain”
Second album “ParaDOX” (1997)
Third album “Crimson” (1998)
Nanase Aikawa Official site: http://www.nanase.jp/
Nanase Aikawa Official Twitter: https://twitter.com/nanase_aikawa
ZONE 1997 – 2005, 2011 – 2013
Pioneers of the “bandol” genre, ZONE was originally a dance-vocal group before picking up their instruments and becoming one of the most famous female groups Japan has ever seen. Making their debut with “believe in love” (1999), their big breakthrough came with their major label debut single “GOOD DAYS” (2001). Their biggest hit, “secret base ~Kimi ga Kureta Mono” (secret base 〜君がくれたもの〜), which has been covered by SCANDAL (2010) and Silent Siren (2015) among countless other artists. ZONE disbanded after their final live at the Nippon Budokan on April 1, 2005 due to the graduation of drummer Mizuho Saito. While the 3 members reunited without Mizuho in 2011, after the departures of Tomoka in 2012 (health issues) and lead guitarist Miyu Nagase in 2013 (contract violations), bassist Maiko Sakae officially ended the group.
First album “Z” (2002)
“Daibakuhatsu NO. 1” (大爆発 NO.1)
“Sekai no Honou Katasumi Kara” (世界のほんの片隅から)
“secret base ~Kimi ga Kureta Mono” (secret base 〜君がくれたもの〜)
Second album “O” (2002)
“Yume no Kakera…” (夢ノカケラ・・・)
Third album “N” (2004)
“Shiroi Hana” (白い花)
“H・A・N・A・B・I ~Kimi ga Ita Natsu” (H・A・N・A・B・I 〜君がいた夏〜)
“Boku no Tegami (僕の手紙)
Ringo Sheena (椎名林檎) 1998 – present
Making her debut in 1998 at the age of 19 with “Koufukuron” (幸福論), Ringo Sheena is instantly recognizable for her nasal vocal delivery. As a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer, Sheena is a rock star, even if her musical range is seemingly limitless. If she were to suddenly announce she was going to release a rap album, it wouldn’t be surprising, and it would probably be amazing! Whether as a soloist, with Tokyo Jihen (Tokyo Incidents), or any other project she’s involved in, expect to be surprised!
Thirteenth single “NIPPON”
Sheena Ringo VEVO YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/SheenaRingoVEVO
Tokyo Incidents VEVO YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMFNa5Yzq6AXjPix8ijHS6A
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