In a previous post I mentioned that I’ve been self-studying Nihongo for the past four years. No reason in particular, I just wanted to exercise a part my brain that’s been dormant since, er, graduating from school? And I thought learning the language would be perfect since I grew up loving Japanese culture anyway.

I didn’t want to stress over it though so I’ve been trying out a “semi-passive” approach. The only “active” part was purposely memorizing the alphabets — hiragana, katakana, and levels 4 and 3 of kanji, some important nouns, verbs, participles… and that was it. The rest I am learning through immersion. Since 2010 my senses have been surrounded by TV shows, movies and music, all in Japanese. It’s working… I think.

Regardless of whether my method is effective or not, I was able to discover some wonderful J-pop music and artists and today I’ll be talking about them. Esquire Philippines actually invited me to share what I’m listening to in this month’s issue…

but because magazines can’t play music, I’m listing them down along with videos so you can listen to the songs too. 🙂

Moumoon – “No Night Land”

Moumoon is a Japanese indie music duo and they play the cutest synth pop which I would describe as “bubblegum with an edge”. I love all their albums so far but judging from the number of ratings stars in my iTunes, “No Night Land” contains the most tracks that I like. If I were to pick one song for you to listen to first, it would be “Bon Appetit.”1

Suemitsu & the Suemith – “Man Here Plays Mean Piano”

I think of Suemitsu-san as Japan’s Ben Folds. I would describe his music as melodic piano/synth-backed power pop and like the title says, he really does play mean piano. All his albums are worth listening to but this one has “Basketball Game Crush” which is mine (and Arnold’s) absolute fave.

Edit: Ok, I can’t find a video of BGC huhu so please listen to “Allegro Cantabile2,” another of my favorites, instead.

Sakamoto Shintaro – “”Matomo Ga Wakaranai”

The title track, “Matomo Ga Wakaranai (“I Don’t Know What is Normal”) was in the soundtrack of one of my favorite Japanese dramas last year called “Mahoro Ekimae Bangaichi” (starring Eita and Matsuda Ryuhei) and after hearing it the first time, I just had to get the whole album. It’s got a laid-back funky vibe that makes me think of summer afternoons spent mindlessly browsing through secondhand records in Cubao X (or some such place). The rest of the album has a similar lazy, melancholic mood.

Shiina Ringo — “Ariamaru Tomi”

I love Shiina Ringo, her distinct voice, and her music’s unpredictable (but always beautiful) melodies. I don’t know what album this song, “Ariamaru Tomi: is from but I first heard it in the J-drama “Smile” (which, incidentally is about a half-Filipino — played by MatsuJun — trying to survive in the midst of prejudice in Japan).

Arashi — The Digitalian

Okay, confession. I listen to Johnny’s Entertainment idols too. Before you dismiss these boybands as merely eye candy, trust me when I say that there are some quality music to be found from the 30-year-old (and older) guy groups like Kanjani8, Tokio, Smap, and Arashi. On our recent Japan trip I happened upon Arashi’s latest album so I gave it a listen and loved this song immediately — “Wonderful.”

?More next time!

Do you listen to J-pop too? What or who are your favorites?

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  1. This is my current ringtone! [ back]
  2. from “Nodame Cantabile” — I love both the TV show and the anime! [ back]