Music And Art Cultures Of Japan



One of the most recognized Japanese cultures is anime (animation), the comic thing that is also known as otaku. Among otaku culture there are two major scenes. The first one is with original characters and is a story that is widely distributed on a commercial level. The other one is a secondary product of aforementioned characters or situations of widely distributed popular anime and comic. Sometimes it is going to be a parody of huge anime, so-called doujin, which means coterie. There are many communities and networks that publish doujin-shi (coterie magazine), and I think doujin or doujin-shi is similar to a cover song in the music scene.


Doujin-shi is mainly sold at komike (comic market/convention). I hear there are many comic markets everywhere these days, but it is way more popular here in Japan. One of the biggest ones last year brought in more than 560,000 people in three days. There is a huge and strong distribution network among doujin culture, and this DIY scene in Japan is hidden from the traditional network.


At those komike, doujin-ongaku (coterie music) is getting popular these days. To introduce roughly, it is a cover version of computer game music written with an application called Vocaloid. These are not only sold at komike but also uploaded at the very popular video file sharing site Nico Nico Douga as a mutual communication tool. Recently the music originally released through Nico Nico Douga was compiled on several albums and is now getting a higher position on the national chart.


I think there is a common point among doujin-ongaku culture, and secondary production is widely done by many creators. That music won’t be born without a certain original video game or a certain character. In another expression those creators write music with a specific catalyst or under certain restriction to follow a particular character. Very unique structure, this idea is totally different from regular music that is written by a musician or an artist with ego or desire inside of them.


Also ani-son (ani = animation, son = song) is huge here. It consists of a newly written theme song for an animation movie, a song by an artist who is tied up on a commercial campaign and soundtracks. Usually pure and die-hard music fans tend to ignore ani-son though they are totally huge as they are on top of the national chart and have many audiences. There is no doubt ani-son is a big industry on an economic level. It is kind of ironic that ani-son takes down the music that is considered “this is music” for a long time, like minority surpasses majority.


Looking like Japanese visual-kei (kei means genealogy, a category of makeup band more than music sub-genre) bands are introduced and slowly accepted in western countries. I think they are pretty similar to ani-son because they write music for certain characters and concepts. In fact visual-kei bands are popular in the ani-son scene as they contribute songs for animation movie themes.


Honestly I don’t think the Japanese language barrier will disappear soon and am afraid that Japanese music culture will not be fairly and properly recognized by people outside of Japan any time soon. I know it is hard to understand the music that is coming from such a twisted structure.


The time that music itself can be principal is over unfortunately, though good music will catch your ear and heart for sure even if you don’t understand a context that I mentioned above. I believe good music will prove the music.


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