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Goin’ Japanesque!

4 Highly Recommended Japanese Indie Musicians You Should Know

Photos provided by Yoshida Shonen


1. Yoshida Shonen (吉田省念)

After leaving “QURULI”, a mainstream pop band that has a wide range of loyal followers in Japan, Shonen Yoshida released the long-awaited solo album in May.  The Japanese maestro Haruomi Hosono and Yoichirou Yanagihara of the legendary band “Tama” participated in the making of the album “Golden Palace” (Ougon-no-Yakata), consequently named after Shonen’s monthly live concert at the live house Jittoku in his native Kyoto.  The album, being referred to as “the crown jewel of Kyoto”, has received enthusiastic acclaim from music critics and record store buyers. With a cool look, a sweet, rich singing voice, and the pure tonality of his guitar, he demonstrates a maturity that transcends even the realm of indie music. 

When visiting Kyoto, it is worth experiencing a live gig at Jittoku, held around the 14th of each month.  In the unique, relaxed ambience of a converted traditional Japanese storehouse, you are sure to enjoy his music even without knowing the Japanese lyrics. 

Latest album “Golden Palace” (Ougon-no-Yakata)


2. TsuchiYaniBond (ツチヤニボンド)

In the Indie music scene of Japan, TsuchiYaniBond, a music project of Takamasa Tsuchiya who resides in Mount Koya, boasts a cult following for his cool and edgy music sensitivity. Tsuchiya’s music background encompassing Latin, including Brazilian, world music, and ambient techno, is endlessly vast.  He is one of the valuable musicians who perceives the essence of this era and embodies it in music.

Unfortunately, he does not perform live very often.  But if you ever have the chance, you should check him out by all means.  Go ahead and listen to his latest studio album “3”.  If you like it, buy the CD as a souvenir from Japan for your friends and brag about your experience.  Even the CD cover artwork is perfect for this. 

Latest album “3”


3. Oh Shu (王舟)


The music played by Oh Shu is full of gentleness. A Shanghai-born Japanese, his appearance reminds us of a Japanese from another era.  Created out of Shu’s imaginative virtual world map, his hit song “Thailand” depicts the sweet and mellow atmosphere of Thailand that he has yet to visit.  You don’t need to understand Japanese to listen to his music.  The floating lyrics are liberated from words and enter into your body as warm sound particles.    

Despite Shu being the all-star representative of the Tokyo Indies scene, his activities are unpredictable.  As if on a spur of the moment, he leaves to tour around Italy, and in the next moment, he performs live with a big band. Tenaciously recorded at home, Shu’s latest album “PICTURE” is full of surprising developments that go against the pre-established harmony, highlighting his experimental spirit.  He is undoubtedly one of the musicians to watch. 

Latest album “PICTURE”


4. Irie Yo (入江陽)

Yo Irie is a singer who has pioneered and spearheads a new genre of music called Neo Soul Pop.  Unlike Oh Shu mentioned above, his trademark is lyrics composed of strange combinations of meanings and sounds from the Japanese language.  His live concerts are extremely enjoyable as he is a great performer and showman. Seemingly nerdy in appearance, his singing is top notch as a soul singer.  When you listen to his music for the first time, you will find it strange but habitformingly addictive.

His latest studio album “SF” reconstructs the 80s music influence with meticulous calculation.  The record is highly polished and acoustically elaborate.  It astounded some music fans who had underestimated Yo Irie.  Since he is actively going on a live tour around the country, why don’t you get lost in his strange world if you have the chance. 

Latest album “SF”

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About the author

I am necoja, a Japanese living in Thai. I return to Japan about twice a year to check out shops and culture from an outsider perspective.

View all articles by Necoja