J-Rock (which is the shortened form of Japanese rock), as the term depicts, is the rock genre subset of Japanese music. It is heavily influenced by American and British originating in the 90s but has evolved and expanded to shed the influence and establish itself into its unique genre. Happy End was the first Japanese musical group of this genre, and subsequent bands such as The Blue Hearts, X Japan, and B’z are credited for the mainstream success and spread of J-rock worldwide. J-rock has yielded many outstanding artists over the years, but there are a few worth mentioning artists that paved the way and made the name of J-Rock known worldwide. Take a look at the top 10 musicians that specialize in J-Rock.
1. The Gazette
In the early 1980s, a music scene and movement rose, influenced by the rock music scene at that time. This genre is known as Visual Kei, and The Gazette is one of the most well-known bands of this style. The band was formed by four members Ruki, Reita, and Uruha in 2002. The three musicians worked separately in other Visual Kei bands before they decided to make their own band. Members Aoi and Yune were recruited into The Gazette, and the band released their first single, "Wakaremichi," and its accompanying music video. Their 2007 single “Filth in the Beauty” became a massive hit, and since then, the band has enjoyed tremendous fame.
L’Arc-En-Ciel, also known as Laruko, is a Japanese rock band formed in 1991 in Osaka, Japan. Members Tetsu and Hyde were the band founders, and later members Ken and Sakura were added who served as the guitarist and drummer respectively. Lakura shed its Visual Kei genre origin in the middle 90s and is regarded as one of the most famous Japanese musicians of all time. Their twin albums Arc and Ray became one of the best-selling albums in Japanese music history. L’Arc-En-Ciel was the first Japanese-origin band to headline at New York’s most famous indoor arena, the Madison Square Garden.
Radwimps was formed by five high school friends. Their activities started in early 2002 with a performance on BB Street in Kannai. Later, the band partook in a Yokohoma High School Music Festival and won owing to their song “Moshi Mo”. The track became their lead debut single and sold 10,000 copies in Japan. Besides releasing studio albums and singles, Radwimps has also recorded and produced original soundtracks for several Japanese animes and movies. ‘Kimi Wo Nosete’ (from Laputa: Castle In The Sky) and ‘KANATA HALUKA’ by RADWIMPS (from the movie Suzume) are some of the songs the band made for motion pictures.
Precious’s music style is characterized by loud and aggressive vocals and guitar riffs and solos. The band performed domestically following their initiation in 1986, still, their track “Crazy for Your Love”, released a year after their debut, catapulted their fame and made their name known internationally. The band’s last recorded single was in 2006, and since then they have been presumably disbanded.
MUCC is another rock band in the Visual Kei genre. Originally consisting of members Miya, Tatsuro, Hiro, and Satochi, the band held its first show at the music store in May 1977. MUCC initially covered songs by other popular bands like The Blue Hearts and Glay but later started putting out original music. After handing out demo tapes at whatever show they performed, the group released their first extended play, Antique, in 1999. They made their international debut in 2005 by performing at various locations in Europe. MUCC’s musical style changes tune frequently, which made them a known name outside their genre. The band stays true to its profound and meaningful lyricism.
B’z originated in 1980 with Tak Matsumoto. Matsumoto released his first solo album, A Thousand Waves, in 1988 with majorly positive reviews. Wanting to make a band, tak started scoping out various members, and a duo was formed when vocalist Koshi Inaba joined B’z. Tak is responsible for music composing, while Koshi pens the lyrics. Their music style encompasses a wide range. From dance and hard rock to blues and J-pop, B’z has dabbled in many genres. Despite frequent genre shifts, the band didn’t lose support and enjoyed a massive and loyal fandom. Matsumoto’s guitar skills are adept, and he has been described as the “top guitar artist” in Asia.
7. One OK Rock
One OK Rock is a Japan-based rock band whose music style is defined by a blend of emo, alternative rock, post-hardcore, and pop rock. The constituent members are Takahiro Moriuchi Toru, Yamashita, Ryota Kohama, and Tomoya Kanki. Formed in 2007, One OK Rock rose to fame when the track “The Beginning” from their sixth album gained international recognition. Following this release, the band pushed their fandom boundaries beyond Asia and headlined at music festivals and concerts outside Asia. One OK Rock is the recipient of Classic Rock Roll of Honour Awards for Eastern Breakthrough Male Band in 2016, the Rock Sound Awards for Best International Band in 2017, and Best Live Performance in 2018.
8. X Japan
Drummer slash pianist Yoshiki and lead vocalist Toshi were the founding members of the rock/ heavy metal band X Japan. The band leaned into the Visual Kei genre in its earlier years but soon transitioned into a more casual and aesthetic approach to their music. The band released their debut album, Vanishing Vision, which entered the top of many streaming charts. Their subsequent release, Blue Blood, Jealousy, Art of Life, and Dahlia, were the subject of commercial success and critical acclaim. The band broke up in 1997 but reunited ten years later to tour in South America and Europe.
9. Dir En Grey
Dir En Grey as a band isn’t affiliated to any one or a specific music genre. Like many musicians in this list, the band specializes in the Visual Kei genre that focuses on Avant-garde metal, progressive metal, alternative metal, death metal, gothic metal, and nu-metal music sub-genres. This heavy metal band utilizes words in other languages, such as French, English, and German in their lyrics, and the music includes temperamental style and sound. The track “Child Prey” was featured in the animated series Baki The Grappler, which made the band’s name even more well-known.
Outrage specializes in the thrash metal sub-genre of rock. The band has been continuously in its active years since its inception in 1982. Teenagers Yosuke Abe, Yoshihiro Yasui, Shinya Tange, and Kazutoyo Ito formed the band, influenced by the new wave of British heavy metal. They debuted with their self-titled EP and became apparent for the aggressive tempo frequently utilized in their songs.