Guest writer: orenio#1511
So what is the most important part to you when starting a new anime? The animation? The art style? The voices or even the colors presented? For me, I would say the most important part when starting a new anime is the opening song. Songs are so important to anime and Japanese culture in general because it shows you what you’re getting into when you discover a new anime or band.
The oldest forms of music in Japan are Shomyo and Gagaku. Shomyo is a form of Bhuddist chanting that was used a lot a long time ago. Though rarely available for most to see or hear nowadays, this is still commonly enjoyed amongst people of older age. The Tendai and Shingon sects still uphold the tradition and use the information with it as a basis for other forms of Bhuddist singing. Gagaku is an orchestral court music also not readily available for most to see or hear. Gagaku doesn’t have most of its origins in Japan, however, most Gagaku come from China or Korea as early as the 6th century AD.
When you think of modern Japanese music you would probably think of J-pop or J-rock but, the first “modern” Japanese music form is called Enka. In the late 1900’s, Japanese political leaders would hire singers to create songs with the same views of said political leaders, these singers were known as Enka-shi. This was a very popular music form just before World War II, because of WWII, jazz was introduced to Japan and was very popular, eventually overshadowing Enka.
Now the music you do think of when you hear the phrase “modern Japanese music” is J-pop or J-rock. The first few instances of J-pop were in the 1960’s, originating from Kayoukyoku or “Lyrical Singing Music.” Japanese artists at the time would translate Western music into Japanese and perform them, which is why Kaoukyoku is a part of the “cover pops” boom.
Otaku and Anime Influence
Now otakus and anime have influenced many things, one of those things happened to be Japanese song culture. A lot of the Japanese songs we know and instantly recognize are from anime and made for them. The most obvious cases being in anime openings and endings. Some popular otaku influenced songs were because of a software called Vocaloid. Vocaloid is a program where you create a song and the program will act as the singer. “Vocaloids” were the avatars that sang the song you made, one instance being Hatsune Miku, who is basically the face of Vocaloid now.
Japanese song culture is definitely one of the biggest and most refined forms of spoken media. As a whole Japanese song culture started with singing types closely knit to Japanese traditions and eventually took influence from the west, anime, and otakus.