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Japanese Rock Bands

Updated on August 9, 2014

The Land of the Rising Sun has contributed some of the most original aspects of modern human culture. Walk into a major bookstore, and there will likely be a section dedicated to manga, or Japanese-style comic books. If you're looking for "cute" trinkets and knickknacks, they have given the world Hello Kitty. They have also contributed long-enduring characters like Mario, Godzilla, and Pokemon. And what would college life be without instant ramen noodles. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Japan has an active and creative modern rock scene producing acts which can rival some of the best American or British groups. Who are some of these groups? Let's discover some Japanese rock bands.

Charcoal Filter

Like so many rock bands before, Charcoal Filter, affectionately known as Charcofil or CFD to their fans, started during the high school years for the band members, Yuki Yasui and Shintaro Takano, in 1995. They would later add Takahiro Konagawa and Tuzo Otsuka to complete the quartet and started playing covers of Green Day songs while composing their own unique pop-punk and pop rock jams.

The bands first indie album, Gimme a Light, was released in September 1999, and it was quickly followed by their first full album released under the label Powerpop Records in 2000. They would go on to release eight more albums under two different major labels, Columbia and Warner Music, over the course of the next 7 years until they disbanded in 2007. Their most successful album was their fifth entitled, C-Best & Flying Hi-High.


Metalheads will find a lot to like about the short-lived Deluhi. They're loud. They shred on the guitar. They scream. There's double-bass kicking. It's fast and energetic music, and the Japanese language seems to blend so well into the melodic parts. And for the uninitiated, Deluhi is also classified as visual kei -- something more akin to glam bands overseas with a special Japanese twist.

While the band was only around for three years (2008-2011), they managed to release three albums in that time. While many singles performed well on the charts, the albums did not fair as well. Their best album, Yggdalive, topped out at 91 on the Oricon charts, the charts for the Japanese music industry, in 2009. Still, they reflect two interesting aspects of Japanese music -- Japanese metal and visual kei.

Shonen Knife

Naoko Yamano and her sister founded the band, Shonen Knife or "Boy Knife," in 1981 along with their friend Michie Nakatani. Naoko is the sole remaining member of the founding trio, but she has kept the band going for over 30 years and remains active today. The band has seen success in both Japan and the United States with many of their songs being sung entirely in English. They also drew the attention of famed rock legend Kurt Cobain when he attended a 1991 show by them in L.A. He is reported as saying, "When I finally got to see them live, I was transformed into a hysterical nine-year-old girl at a Beatles concert."

Over their 30 years, the band has release 18 albums and developed a cult following. They have appeared on MTV and Conan O'Brien, and they have also been a part of the Lollapalooza rock festival. They are not likely to be the flavor for every alternative rock fan, but they are definitely a group which has made a mark and will be around for sometime to come.

Southern All Stars

Southern All Stars has been an active Japanese rock band since the late '70s. This quintet has remain mostly intact during that time only making a change at guitar in 1999. They were labeled as the most influential group on the "100 Most Influential Japanese Musicians" list by HMV Japan, and they have had 44 songs make the Oricon Top 100 Weekly music charts over the years.

The All Stars' most successful album was their 11th, entitled Young Love, and released in 1996. The album would sell more than two million copies that year. In total, the group has released 25 albums inclusive of full albums and EPs. As of 2009, they have taken a break while members work on other projects with the intention of getting back together at a later date.


This five-piece rock band was founded in 2000 and has become one of the most popular modern Japanese rock bands. The band regularly plays to large sellout crowds including a show at the Tokyo Dome which had more than 56,000 people in attendance. They range from alternative rock to rap rock to pop rock, and their brand of music seems to blend quite nicely with anime as exhibited by numerous videos on YouTube mixing the two.

In their 12 years of existence, the band has release six full-length albums. Each album has topped out at the fifth position or higher in the Oricon Top 200 Weekly charts with their fourth album, Awakeve, being the most commercially successful selling over 160,000 copies in Japan. To anyone who enjoys rock music in general, this is perhaps one of the best bands to serve as an introduction to Japanese rock.

Purchase Japanese Rock

Thanks to the popularity of Japanese culture overseas, Japanese rock bands can be more readily discovered than other non-Western rock groups. Each of the bands on this list along with many other rock groups can be purchased through Amazon or Yes Asia. They can also be discovered in large, local music stores in major cities which carry imported albums.


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    • sandonia profile image

      sandonia 5 years ago


      That's a splendid idea!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Hey, I'm a music lover myself, we could exchange info! Great hub!

    • sandonia profile image

      sandonia 5 years ago

      Glad I could introduce you to some new bands, Christy! :)

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for introducing me to these bands!

    • bockshiner profile image

      bockshiner 5 years ago from Dallas, TX

      Nice list. I like Versailles.

    • giocatore profile image

      giocatore 5 years ago

    • FatFreddysCat profile image

      Keith Abt 5 years ago from The Garden State

      Don't forget Loudness, who are the most well known Japanese heavy metal band (to those of us in the West, at least)!!