Looking for quality Japanese songs that will improve my Japanese.
July 24, 2014 8:43 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for good Japanese songs or artists that will teach me new, useful words or phrases so that I can improve. I read articles in Japanese too, but words seem to 'stick' better when I am listening to a song and going over the kanji and hiragana at the same time. Details inside.

By useful, I mean words/phrases that I can use in everyday life, not songs with lyrics like "The sword of liiiiight will vanquish the daaaarknessss" (although I like those songs too). In other words, I'm looking for reasonably intelligent lyrics - hopefully with a catchy melody as well.

Also, I would say that I'm at a semi-advanced level of proficiency and can speak conversationally just fine. So, I'm looking for songs that might feature lyrics that deal with a bit more difficult subject matter, or introduce words/phrases/idioms that I might not know. (SO NO AKB48!!!) Classics, popular songs, little known songs, it doesn't matter. Any type of music - upbeat, sad, uplifting, setsunai, emotional, rockin', etc. - is welcome.

I'll give some examples of artists I like so you can get an idea of what I like: Mr. Children, Bump of Chicken, Utada Hikaru, X Japan, Oda Kazumasa, Hirai Ken, B'z, Spitz, Moriyama Naotaro, Kotoko, Funky Monkey Babys, Ikimono Gakari.

I'm forgetting some others. Oh well. Anyhow, I'm looking forward to "hearing" what you all come up with! Hyuk hyuk.

PS: Songs from the artists that I listed above would be much appreciated as well.
posted by Kamelot123 to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Pizzicato Five sing in both Japanese and English. It's often possible to get hold of the same song in both languages.
posted by merocet at 9:03 AM on July 24, 2014

I would suggest Mr. Children because there are a number of English-language fansites so you can compare the Japanese original with a reasonably competent English translation. And Sakurai-san is one hell of a writer.

The other guy you can't go wrong with is Inaba Koshi, lead singer of the B'z. His Japanese is quite impactful (although some B'z songs just do not translate well into English). I like his solo stuff (my wife is a huge huge huge B'z and Inaba Koshi fan).
posted by KokuRyu at 9:10 AM on July 24, 2014

My personal favourite B'z song is Calling. However, Inaba Koshi's "love" songs, while using colloquial Tokyo Japanese (he's from Okayama, actually) are often "fuck you" love songs.

I quite like Kurumi by Mr. Children. The video has nothing to do with the lyrics exactly.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:13 AM on July 24, 2014

Your music tastes sound scarily similar to mine.

For Mr.Children (I LOVE Mr. Children and think their lyrics are out of this world - my favourites are 終わりなき旅、Sign, HANABI, 口笛、ひびき、花言葉、CANDY etc etc), BUMP, Utada, Oda Kazumasa, B'z, Spitz are probably among my top artists. If you want more specific song recs from those artists shoot me a MeMail.

Here are a few others you might want to consider:

* ZARD (female) - personal favourites are 心を開いて, others like 負けないで、きっと忘れない、揺れる想い、マイフレンド. She's quite upbeat, but has a beautifully clear voice and her lyrics are straightforward but far from superficial. She's from the 90s.

* YUI (female) - My Generation, Goodbye Days, Rolling Star, CHERRY. Again mostly upbeat (she plays guitar herself) and cute.

* オフコース (male band) - this is Oda Kazumasa's band from back in the 70s (I think). Oda has made covers of their most famous songs but I prefer the Off Course versions. Try 秋の気配、さよなら、愛を止めないで、YES-NO

I'll throw a few song recs for a few more random bands. Try listening to a few and see if you like their sound.

flumpool (春風、星に願いを)
Aqua Timez (千の夜をこえて、決意の朝)
EVERY LITTLE THING (Times Goes By, 出逢ったころのように)
サザンオールスターズ (TSUNAMI、涙のキッス)
posted by pikeandshield at 9:24 AM on July 24, 2014

Bonnie Pink
Judy & Mary
Natsukawa Rimi
Tsuchiya Anna
Beat Crusaders
Nakashima Mika
Ringo Shiina, Tokyo Jihen
Rip Slyme
World Order

I'm sorry I didn't link to individual videos, but if I do I'll be here all day!
posted by wintersweet at 9:54 AM on July 24, 2014

Response by poster: Okay, here are more bands I like that I forgot to mention - you guys reminded me!

Sukima Switch
Judy + Mary
Nakashima Mika
Off Course
Maki Otsuki

I will check out the songs everyone suggested. If you have an artist for me, I'd appreciate some 'starter' songs to get into them so I'm not fumbling around and listening to their worst tracks. Thanks :)
posted by Kamelot123 at 10:06 AM on July 24, 2014

There's a fundamental problem with your plan: sung Japanese isn't the same as spoken Japanese. Whey they sing, they read off the hiragana, even if the words aren't pronounced that way. So singing でした would be deh shee tah but when spoken it's deh shtah.

You may learn words and phrases this way but you might not learn them correctly!
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:18 AM on July 24, 2014

If you can find clips of the live performances (um, are Utaban and Music Station still going?), I found that a really helpful way to improve my reading speed, since they do that weird thing where the lyrics are at the bottom of the screen.
posted by chocotaco at 10:21 AM on July 24, 2014

Dreams Come True: "Suki" (すき), "Sō Dayo" (そうだよ), "Love Love Love/Arashi ga Aru" (LOVE LOVE LOVE/嵐が来る)

The BOOM: 帰ろうかな, 星のラブレター

Chage & Aska: SAY YES

SMAP: KANSHAして, A Day in the Life, たぶんオーライ

Fukuyama Masaharu: Hello

Sakamoto Kyu: 上を向いて歩こう (the Sukiyaki song)

If you are looking to increase your vocabulary, you might also consider watching Jdramas. I found cop procedurals ("踊る大捜査線") and science themed shows ("ガリレオ", "ナイトヘッド") really helpful.
posted by sazanka at 1:44 PM on July 24, 2014

Chocolate Pickle, the OP can already carry on conversations in Japanese, so I don't think we need to worry about the pronunciation issues too much. (That said, DL'ing Japnese subtitles for Japanese TV shows is a fun thing to do.)

Now. *cracks knuckles*

Ulfuls: Ashita ga aru sa, Samurai Soul, Guts da ze, Osaka Strut (well...uh...use your judgment)
Cocco: Jyu-san-ya (album version is better IMO, but she doesn't have many videos online)
Bonnie Pink: Perfect Sky, Is This Love?
Lecca: Jammin' the Empire, too BAD, too FAKE, My Measure, Power Butterfly
Tsuchiya Anna: okay, I still love her, but man, her lyrics make no sense at all.
Yuming (Matsutoya Yumi): Haru yo, koi, Hikoukigumo
Beat Crusaders: Dunno what I was thinking; they sing almost exclusively in English
Natsukawa Rimi: Tori yo, Shima uta (should have put this in the 'songs that make you cry' thread), Nada sousou, Sayonara arigatou
Ringo Shiina, Tokyo Jihen: looks like everything's been taken down from youtube :(
Halcali: yikes, 8-year-old videos you can hardly make out. Sigh.
Nokko: Crazy Clouds, Yuugarenaki (my favorite is "Jump a Little Higher," can't find it)
Rip Slyme: Hot Chocolate (guaranteed to be the only song in this list with "sex machine" in the lyrics), Speed King, Blue Be-bop
World Order: Mind Shift, Boy Meets Girl, Machine Civilization (okay, okay, so these are closer to anime-style lyrics than you'd think, but oh well)

Bonus Kimura Kaela: Wonder Volt, 3 songs at Rock in Japan 2006 (sorry, you'll have to look for albums--most of her stuff on Youtube is just clips)
posted by wintersweet at 2:06 PM on July 24, 2014

You seem to enjoy mainstream pop. OK, then... here are some that haven't been mentioned yet, with interesting lyrics:

Eine kleine by Yonezu Kenshi. His music videos are gorgeous and this one has lyrics at the bottom. Seriously, check this guy out if you haven't already.

Love Hotel by Creephyp. Note: I think they're a good band but both the lyrics and their videos can be disturbing. But I suppose that's to be expected with a band name with "creep" in it.

RPG by Sekai no Owari.

Kimi no mune ni dakaretai by Kirinji. Kirinji's lyrics are often strangely poetic and beautiful.

Utautai no ballad by the ever-awesome Saito Kazuyoshi. Speaking of awesomeness, this classic by Okuda Tamio has lyrics in the video.

Yakan Hikou by Ishizaki Huwie. Bonus trivia: that's his real name.

Subarashiki nichijou by Takahashi Yu. This isn't his best song but it has lyrics in the video. So does Fukuwarai. Actually, so does this song.

Rock 'n Roll wa nariyamanai by Shinsei kamattechan also has lyrics in the video.

Sekai wa sore wo ai to yobundaze by Sambomaster.

Yume no soto e by Hoshino Gen. OK, I just linked to this one because I love the guy and the video is delightful. Can't find a full version online though.

I could go on but I have to get back to work!
posted by misozaki at 6:55 PM on July 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just remembered another one you might enjoy. Girl by Hata Motohiro.
posted by misozaki at 7:14 PM on July 24, 2014

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