16/06/2021

J-Rock: Must-know Japanese Rockstars and Rock Events

Among the various kinds of Japanese entertainment people have enjoyed for years, Japanese rock or J-Rock is something that has maintained its presence and popularity. Not only are there subgenres for everyone, Japan also has its fair share of Japanese rock concerts that are enjoyed by locals and foreigners alike.


Table of Contents

  1. What You Need to Know About J-Rock
  2. Japanese Rock Bands to kick off exploration into J-Rock
  3. Japanese Rock Events and Music Festivals You Must Go To
  4. As a final note

What You Need to Know About J-Rock

Japanese rock music is one of many reasons why travelers become interested in and want to visit Japan. J-Rock is an abbreviation for Japanese rock, and it started in Japan way back in the 1960s when American and British bands introduced this type of music to Japan.The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and Bob Dylan are just some of the artists and bands that influenced the Japanese to delve into rock music. Many sub-genres and divisions of rock still popular today also arose from Western influence.

In the 1990s, Visual Kei or what is also called Visual Rock or Visual Style appeared. It is one of the sub-genres of J-Rock that often has the performers in heavy make-up (the performer’s faces are often painted white) and black clothing with bright accents, extravagant detailing and accessories. Heavy metal and extreme metal are also rock subgenres in Japan, although not as mainstream.

※ University College London Atlas, "Music"

If you take a look at Wikipedia’s list of Japanese rock bands (in Japanese), you’ll not only find a ton of subgenres - from hard rock, glam, progressive, alternative, to indies and girl rock bands - but also an endless list of bands under each section. Read on to get a few ideas of rock bands you should check out!

Japanese Rock Bands to kick off exploration into J-Rock

Here are just 5 rock bands that have solidified their positions in the world of Japanese rock. 

X-Japan

It’s impossible to bring up J-Rock without discussing the famous and successful X-Japan. This band was one of the huge contributors to starting visual kei with their distinct appearance and sound. The band has gone through losing precious members including beloved and legendary lead guitarist Hide, and a decade-long period where they were broken up. They’ve been going strong since reforming in 2007 and a new album is said to be in the works. The current members are Yoshiki, Toshi, Pata, Heath and Sugizo.

※ X Japan, "Biography"

Boøwy

Boøwy was a rock band that consisted of Kyosuke Himuro, Tomoyasu Hotei, Tsunematsu Matsui, and Makoto Takahashi. They were only a band from 1981 to 1988, yet they were so widely successful, they continued to remain influential and their compilation albums have continued to sell well even after they broke up. The solo careers of the members have been successful since, arguably especially for Himuro and Hotei.

ONE OK ROCK

This renowned band formed in 2005 started performing at small live houses like most bands that start but because of the continuous support and expanded fanbase from different countries, they now perform at large concert venues with up to 100 live concerts every year. They have had several great collaborations with both domestic and foreign artists, have provided music for many famous Japanese films and continuously print their name on the hearts of the fans globally. Their concert streams on YouTube especially during the pandemic were widely watched.

※ One OK Rock, "About"

BUMP OF CHICKEN

This fascinating four-member rock band got its start performing Beatles covers at a school festival in junior high school. Since officially forming in 1996, they’ve grown into a popular and successful band that continues to produce good music, not only for themselves, but for a plethora of Japanese media including TV shows, movies, video games, and even the popular anime One Piece.

※ Bump of Chicken, "Profile"

Spitz

Spitz are a beloved rock band in Japan, notable for their softer sound and romantic lyrics. Their song “Cherry” is especially popular and is a widely covered song even today, not to mention sung at karaoke! They’ve remained a 4 member group since formation in 1991 and celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2021 by releasing their 44th single “Murasaki no Yoru wo Koete”.  

Spitz

Other notable bands definitely worth checking out include: L'Arc〜en〜Ciel, Glay, Radwimps, Luna Sea, Hi-STANDARD, SCANDAL and many many more!

Japanese Rock Events and Music Festivals You Must Go To

If you can, make sure you don’t leave Japan without experiencing one of the countless rock festivals that Japan has to offer. Get yourself prepared for headbanging, loud music, fashionable clothing, lights and a huge party. Here are just 5 of the many awesome rock events and music festivals in Japan.

Rock in Japan

Heads up J-Rock lovers! Every August, this event spans four to five days across two weekends so you can take your time and get ready for this huge music event with only Japan’s best-known rock stars and J-pop artists unlike other music festivals that include international artists. 2019’s Rock in Japan festival featured rock artists such as Kana-boon, UNISON SQUARE GARDEN, Bump of Chicken and more! And you’ll be at the beautiful and spacious Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki too! For more updates you can check their website.

Summer Sonic Festival

Looking for a party to jam on? Summer Sonic Festival is for you! This festival is a combination of rock, pop, and best acts from Japan as well as different parts of the world. It is a two-day festival so make sure to be a part of it if you are new to Japan or even if you are just traveling. And you can take your pick of location, since it’s held in Osaka and Chiba simultaneously! Summer Sonic 2019 features B’z, Weezer, Fall Out Boy, Baby Metal, and so on. Visiting their festival website will give you more details.

Greenroom Festival

The Greenroom Festival is not just about music, but incorporates art and film as well with its art gallery exhibitions and showing of films. This event emphasizes the surf culture and beach life as well as protecting the beaches and oceans of Japan. And as it’s in Yokohama at the Red Brick Warehouse, you’ll be in a historic location the entire time. In 2021, popular rock bands Dragon Ash and Asian Kung-fu Generation performed! To know more about the Greenroom Festival, visit their website.

Fuji Rock

If you want to be mesmerized at the beauty of nature in Japan while rocking out, then Fuji Rock is waiting for you. It is one of the biggest outdoor music festivals and is known to be the “cleanest festival in the world”. It is celebrated at a ski resort and hundreds of thousands of locals, as well as tourists, gather here together ‐ and many even camp out!! - to see well-known artists both local and foreign. The 2019 lineup featured big artists such as Coldplay, Ellegarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Cure and many more! Visit Fuji Rock Festival website to be updated about the event.

Knotfest Japan

Knotfest Japan is one of the festivals that will surely make your head bang! Be immersed in the music festival created by metal band Slipknot. It’s held in various countries around the world, and Japan has been included several times! The 2022 Knotfest is planned to be held in Japan, so if you’re a metalhead, make sure to check their website here and plan to be in Japan in April 2022!

As a final note

If you didn’t know already, Japanese rock stars and artists are sure to take you to another world, not only with their music but with all the great music events and festivals. You’ll be able to rock out with other fans, enjoy great food and atmosphere, not to mention the music! Make sure to give J-Rock a chance and don’t miss out on J-Rock events that will surely lift your Japan experience to a new level. 

If you're interested in studying music about Japan, check out our article Study Music in Top Music Schools, Colleges and Programs in Japan. There's lots of opportunities for you!

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