Punk Rock in Japan (2023)

Punk rock has been a big element of Japanese popular culture since the 1970s. This article looks at the history of homegrown punk rock in Japan.

  • Maruhachibu - Japanese proto-punk
  • The 1970s
  • The 1980s
  • The 1990s
  • The 2000s

Punk Rock in Japan

Punk rock found a very ready audience in Japan in the 1970s and punk has been a fundamental element of Japanese youth culture ever since. Punk rock and its derivative scenes are still alive and well in 21st century Japan, particularly in the form of hardcore rock.

(Video) Punk in Japan || Finding Japan's Hidden Punk Scene

Punk Rock in Japan (1)Rock culture - alive and well in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo

Of at least equal significance in Japan is the punk fashion movement associated with the Sex Pistols, which has had a profound influence on how Japanese youth present themselves, albeit as punk poseurs in many cases. Punk influence in fashion, inspired by the Sex Pistols, Malcolm Maclaren and Vivian Westwood, is still very much in evidence, for example, in Tokyo's Harajuku district.

Maruhachibu - Japanese proto-punk

Japan had something of a proto-punk scene, epitomized by groups such as Murahachibu ("Ostracism") and Zuno Keisatsu ("Brain Police").

Murahachibu formed in Kyoto and played in mainly the Kansai area (i.e., in and around Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe) in the early 1970s. Murahachibu was less about the music than whipping up the crowd; the language sung and shouted was characterized by so-called "discriminatory expressions" (the equivalent of expletives in English) and fights were known to break out. Maruhachibu was a precursor of the hardcore scene, now considered an offshoot of punk, that is still alive and well in Japan today.

Zuno Keisatsu was from the Kanto area (Tokyo and Saitama) and appeared in the middle of the often-violent student protest movement that rocked 1970s Japan. Zuno Keisatsu's music was explicitly anti-establishment and subject to government repression, such as concert venue entrances being blocked, and a ban on its first album.

(Video) Punk Japan! - 1 Hour of Independent Japanese Punk Rock Music

The 1970s

The advent of punk in the US and the UK from around the mid-1970s revolutionized the Japanese rock music scene, boosting the existing alternative rock scene in Japan and inspiring the creation of numerous more punk bands and labels. Alternative rock pioneers - even if not self-proclaimed punk rockers - Friction, appeared in 1978 from out of a band formed in 1971. The Tokyo Rockers also formed in the late 1970s in Roppongi in Tokyo, as did Supermilk in Kyoto, who opened for the Stranglers' tour of Japan.

Other punk, new wave and noise bands from that time include 8 1/2, Sex, Totsuzen Danball, Pain, Jisatsu, Phew, Matatoshi Tsunematsu, Boys Boys, Gunjogacrayon, Non Band, Shampoo, Daisack & Prostitute, Shampoo and P-Model. These bands all comprised members in their teens or early 20s and formed and split up quickly.

The 1980s

The punk scene in Japan during the 1980s was generally small and localized, with the only nationwide information available being in the form of the alternative music magazine, Doll (1980-2009).

Anarchy was probably Japan's first recognizable punk band, formed in a housing estate in Saitama prefecture in 1978 and catapulted to fame by winning the Yamaha amateur musicians' contest "East West" in 1979. Lyrics included in their first album ridiculed Japanese Imperial family, resulting in protests by Japanese right-wingers outside the headquarters of their label, Invitation (owned by JVC).

The Stalin was another prominent Japanese punk band that colored the definition of punk in the Japanese media with extreme behavior that included throwing firecrackers and animal entrails into the audience, and even even X-rated onstage antics.

(Video) japanese pop/rock songs to cheer you up! bc studies are hard (help me pls) - playlist

The hardcore scene was an important punk derivative, with the Comes, the Execute, Gauze, G.I.S.M., Kikeiji and others from Tokyo, SS and others from Kyoto, and Laughin' Nose, Outo, Mobs, and Zouo and others from Osaka.

The late 1980s music scene in Japan saw an indies boom, with Takarajima ("Treasure Island") magazine as its mouthpiece, and typified by bands like Laughin' Nose, the Willard and the Yuchoten ("Ecstasy"). During this time, punk in Japan gave rise to a variety of styles that burgeoned into an indies scene and saw the beginnings of glam-rock-influenced "visual kei" and of noise.

Other bands such as Cobra, the Jun Sky Walkers, Kenzi and the Trips, Neurotica, and Pogo fused the aggressive punk performance style with poppy melodies. A band called the Blue Hearts came to dominate this scene from 1987 with innocently youthful lyrics to a punk rock sound.

At the same time, the US-style hardcore scene was alive and well in Japan, even if it was not as popular as the sound of bands like the Blue Hearts. Japanese hardcore bands that achieved strong followings include Lip Cream, S.O.B. (grindcore), Japan's skate core pioneers Rose Rose (hardcore/thrash metal), G.I.S.M. (hardcore/heavy metal), and Gastunk (metal core). The Japanese live house scene in the late 1980s was marked by fierce rivalry between heavy metal and hardcore fans, with fights regularly breaking out if schedules happened to bring them together.

The 1990s

The 1990s saw even more ramification of styles, with melodic hardcore (Brahman, Hi-Standard, Husking Bee) and ska core (Kemuri, Potshot, Snail Ramp) in particular gaining popularity. The "emotional hardcore" scene also got off the ground in the 90s with bands like Bloodthirsty Butchers and Eastern Youth.

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The final year of the 20th century saw the Okinawa punk band Mongol800's album "Message" reach No.1 on the Oricon Album Chart, making the band the first indies musicians in Japan to sell over 1 million albums.

The 2000s

The 21st century saw a youth punk boom with the appearance of groups like GaGaGaSP, Going Steady and the Stance Punks, their fans made up mainly of junior and senior high school age youth. The plethora of rock festivals that took off in the 21st century include a strong punk rock presence, such as bands like Ellegarden, 10-Feet and Maximum the Hormone.

Now, four decades since the advent of punk, the sound is still alive and well at live houses and festivals throughout Japan. The main magazine for punk rock in Japan now is Bollocks, published every two months, and the main online punk presence is gekirock.com.

However, maybe because the punk revolution so pre-dated the internet, there is not that much online about punk in Japan. The best thing is to visit a few record stores, pick up a few pamphlets, then get go along to that cramped little venue and pogo!

Read about music festivals in Japan.

(Video) Japanese Punk Rock Documentary "Danger Boys: Punks In Osaka" - Full Documentary

Note: This article is based on the Japanese Wikipedia article on Japanese punk rock.

Travel Books on Japan


What is Japanese punk called? ›

Osakan punks borrowed from industrial music, avant-garde, and performance art to create something that could hardly be called music. Here in America, they called it Japanoise.

Does Japan have a punk scene? ›

Whether your thing is dressing up like a wolf or fawning over J-pop Idols, Japan caters to even the most niche subcultures — including heavy metal and punk. No one can argue Japan's profound contribution to metal and punk music from Disclose to Sabbat to X-Japan, bands loved by metalheads and non-metalheads alike.

Why was punk popular in Japan? ›

Japanese hardcore is the hardcore punk scene in Japan, which originated to protest the social and economic changes sweeping the country in the 1980s. The band SS is regarded as the first, forming in 1977. Bands such as The Stalin and GISM soon followed, forming in 1980 and 1981 respectively.

What is Japanese rock called? ›

Japanese rock, or J-rock, is an eclectic genre of rock and roll music from Japan.

Is punk big in Japan? ›

Punk rock has been a big element of Japanese popular culture since the 1970s.

What is Harami in Japan? ›

“Harami” is the Japanese word for pregnant. Traders typically combine other technical indicators with a bearish harami to increase the effectiveness of its use as a trading signal.

Why does Japan like red? ›

The color red is associated strongly with authority, strength, sacrifice, joy, and happiness. It is regarded as an auspicious color in Japan, especially when paired with white (also used on the national flag).

Can you hug in public in Japan? ›

Best not greet a Japanese person by kissing or hugging them (unless you know them extremely well). While Westerners often kiss on the cheek by way of greeting, the Japanese are far more comfortable bowing or shaking hands. In addition, public displays of affection are not good manners.

Is Cyberpunk popular in Japan? ›

Cyberpunk themes are widely visible in anime and manga. In Japan, where cosplay is popular and not only teenagers display such fashion styles, cyberpunk has been accepted and its influence is widespread.

Who started emo punk? ›

Emo /ˈiːmoʊ/ is a rock music genre characterized by emotional, often confessional lyrics. It emerged as a style of post-hardcore and hardcore punk from the mid-1980s Washington D.C. hardcore punk scene, where it was known as emotional hardcore or emocore and pioneered by bands such as Rites of Spring and Embrace.

Do Japanese like metal music? ›

That style of music is not big in Japan. However, that influence has found itself in popular music. There's a lot of very heavy metal-oriented pop music in Japan, and there's a lot of very guitar-oriented pop music in Japan, and dance music.

Is punk a Gothic? ›

Gothic rock (also called goth rock or simply goth) is a style of rock music that emerged from post-punk in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s. The first post-punk bands which shifted toward dark music with gothic overtones include Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, Bauhaus, and the Cure.

What is the most common rock in Japan? ›

Granite, one of the rocks made of magma cooled and solidified in a great depth (plutonic rock), is one of the most popular rocks in Japan, with its distribution covering about 11.6% of the ground surface of Japan.

What Stone is Japan known for? ›

Jadeite (hisui in Japanese) is a stone that occurs naturally in Japan and has long had a special place in the affections of Japanese people.

What is kei in Japanese? ›

Popularity:12341. Origin:Japanese. Meaning:Blessed; Respect; Joyous. Kei is a name of Japanese origin that can be either masculine or feminine. Meaning “blessed,” “respect,” or “joyous,” this name is sure to remind baby to appreciate all the good things in life.

Is Samurai a punk band? ›

Samurai is a legendary chrome-rock band featured throughout the Cyberpunk series, for whom music was a way to rebel against corporations. They are featured in Cyberpunk 2077, where they are musically portrayed by real life punk band Refused.

Is Emo popular in Japan? ›

The short answer is no.

Is Yu Gi Oh popular in Japan? ›

The name Konami might bring back memories of British football cards featuring famous players like Graham Souness and Kevin Keegan, but in Japan, the company is still going strong in the Manga sector, and Yu-Gi-Oh is the biggest of them all.

What is Hakken in Japan? ›

Haken (派遣) is the Japanese word for temporary employees dispatched to companies by staffing agencies.

What is Baba in Japan? ›

Meaning and Origin of: Baba

Japanese : from a word meaning 'horse-riding ground', 'race track'; a common place name. The surname is found mostly in west central Japan. One Baba family in Kai (now Yamanashi prefecture) were samurai, vassals of the Takeda family.

What is a mojo in Japan? ›

mojo {noun}

volume_up. 呪術 {noun} mojo (also: incantation, magic)

What does a purple kimono mean? ›

Koki-murasaki (Purple)

It was reserved for the kimonos worn by Japan's highest-ranking individuals and denied to lower classes.

What does white mean in Japan? ›

In Japanese culture, white is a sacred color. It can be associated with priests and brides, especially in the Shinto tradition where it's associated with physical and spiritual purity.

What do blue flowers mean in Japan? ›

The meaning of the iris (hanashobu) varies with its color. A purple iris sends a message of wisdom and honor, while the blue flower conveys hope and faith.

What is not accepted in Japan? ›

Narcotics such as opium, cocaine, heroin, MDMA, magic mushrooms, stimulant drugs (stimulant drugs contained in an inhaler or items containing stimulant drug ingredients), cannabis, opium smoking paraphernalia and psychotropic drugs are not allowed in Japan.

Do Japanese say no? ›

The word for 'no' in Japanese is いいえ (iie) or the more familiar いや (iya). But to say or hear 'no' is generally uncomfortable for the Japanese. A negative response is often reformulated into a negative question where the verb's negative form is used.

Can you smile at people in Japan? ›

In Japan, smiling is a way to show respect or to hide what you're actually feeling. Although, in Japanese culture, nonverbal expressions use the eyes more than the mouth. This makes it easier for the Japanese to determine if a smile is genuine or fake.

Is Akira a cyberpunk? ›

From today's perspective, Akira is regarded as cyberpunk—a genre that had its heyday just at the same time when Ōtomo's manga was first published in the Western world.

Why is Japan so important in cyberpunk? ›

Japan's origins in cyberpunk

Asian symbolism is often used to highlight the future of technology and presented in dystopian settings. At the heart of it all is Japan, a country that was seen as a technological powerhouse at the same time the cyberpunk genre was developing in the 1980s.

Is Night City in Japan? ›

The Free City of Night City (NC) is an autonomous city located on the border between North and South California, on the Pacific coast of North America.

Who was the first ever punk? ›

Ramones: The first major American punk band, The Ramones brought catchy melodies to rowdy teenage audiences. Their national presence was enhanced by a featured role in Roger Corman's 1979 film Rock 'n' Roll High School. 3.

What is Goth vs emo? ›

Emo belongs to post-hardcore, pop punk and indie rock style while gothic rock is a form of punk rock, glam punk and post punk. Emo rockers preach release of primal energy with abstract and chaotic sub structures while Goth are recognized by emphasis on darkness in their tone, dress, hair dyes, make up, emotion, etc.

Who started punk culture? ›

By the early '70s, The New York Dolls, a glam band with high-energy riffs, hit the scene and further laid a foundation. The Strand, a precursor to The Sex Pistols, burst in, and shortly after The Ramones, Blondie, and Talking Heads all present themselves as punk.

What are the top 3 music genres in Japan? ›

According to a survey conducted in Japan in December 2020, almost 81 percent of the respondents liked Japanese pop, rock, or dance music.

What genre of music do Japanese like? ›

Japan is the Second Largest Music Market in the World

Japan has variety of music genres include J-pop, J-rock, J-hip hop, Japanese reggae, Japanese Jazz, Japanoise, Anime Music, Game music, Traditional Minyo, Traditional Wadaiko, Traditional Kagura, Traditional Dengaku, Traditional Gagaku and so on.

What country likes metal music the most? ›

Which Countries Have the Most Heavy Metal Bands?
RankingCountryPercentage of Total Bands
1United States21.62%
11 more rows
3 May 2021

What is punk beliefs? ›

The punk ethos is primarily made up of beliefs such as non-conformity, anti-authoritarianism, anti-corporatism, a do-it-yourself ethic, anti-consumerist, anti-corporate greed, direct action and not "selling out". There is a wide range of punk fashion, including T-shirts, leather jackets, Dr.

Is Harry Potter a goth? ›

The Harry Potter series is not usually considered a part of the gothic genre. For the most part, the series is considered apart of the fantasy, young adult, and fiction genres.

How do punks dress? ›

In general, contemporary street punks wear leather, denim, metal spikes or studs, chains and military-style boots. They often wear elements of early punk fashion, such as kutten vests, bondage trousers (often plaid) and torn clothing.

What type of rock is Mount Fuji? ›

Mt. Fuji has a stratovolcanic structure resulting from sequences over vivacious volcanic activity which created multiple layers of lava and volcanic projectiles. This volcanic ejecta is made of basaltic rock, setting it apart from the more common andesite volcanoes of Japan.

What do rocks symbolize in Japanese culture? ›

They symbolize eternity. Despite facing the elements of nature they stay in place. According to the ancient art of Japanese gardens you need to use rocks as they appear in nature without adjustments and in the same position.

What stones are native to Japan? ›

In addition to granite, native gold, quartz, and other precious stones, jade was picked as a national stone of Japan based on the following factors. For centuries, jade has been used throughout Japan, particularly in the northern part of the country.

What are 3 things Japan is known for? ›

Japan is famous for natural sights like cherry blossoms and Mount Fuji, cutting-edge technology like Japanese cars and bullet trains, wacky inventions like karaoke and vending machines, cultural values like politeness and punctuality, popular anime and manga, and mouth-watering food like ramen and sushi.

What is Zen stone? ›

Zen stones are fascinating natural structures consisting of a stone standing on a slender ice pedestal, whose origin had long been misunderstood.

Is Tamamo no Mae evil? ›

Tamamo no Mae is one of the most infamous antagonists of the Japanese mythology. She is classified as the Nihon San Dai Aku Yokai, better known as one of the Three Most Evil Yokais that plaguing Japan alongside Shutendoji and Emperor Sutoku.

What does Keiko mean? ›

Popularity:8933. Origin:Japanese. Meaning:happy child; blessed child; jubilant child. Brimming with unbridled optimism, Keiko is a feminine name of Japanese origin often translated as "happy child." Certainly setting a delightful standard for your little one, Keiko possesses a whole array of joyful possibilities.

What is Nico in Japan? ›

Niconico (ニコニコ, Nikoniko) (known before 2012 as Nico Nico Douga (ニコニコ動画, Niko Niko Dōga) is a Japanese video-sharing service on the web. "Niconico" or "nikoniko" is the Japanese ideophone for smiling. As of 2021, Niconico is the 34th most-visited website in Japan, according to Alexa Internet.

What does Koda mean in Japan? ›

Koda Origin and Meaning

The name Koda is both a boy's name and a girl's name of Japanese origin meaning "friend". A word in the Yankton-Yanktonai and Santee dialects of the Lakota Sioux language, meaning "friend" or "ally", used for one of the main characters in the movie Brother Bear.

What is Oni and Kanabo? ›

Mythology. The kanabō was also a mythical weapon, often used in tales by oni, who reputedly possessed superhuman strength. This is alluded to by the Japanese saying "like giving a kanabō to an oni"—meaning to give an extra advantage to someone who already has the advantage (i.e. the strong made stronger).

What is a Shuto in Japanese? ›

Shutō (seafood), Japanese tuna liver seafood pickle.

What is Yankii in Japanese? ›

Yankī, a type of delinquent youth in Japan.

What is Kurosu? ›

Kurosu, a traditional vinegar produced from unpolished rice, suppresses lipid peroxidation in vitro and in mouse skin.

Can oni be female? ›

They may occasionally be depicted with a third eye on their forehead, or extra fingers and toes. They are predominantly male but they can be female because of being overcome with grief or jealousy. Oni can come in many different sizes ranging in both weight and height.

What is a Kijin? ›

Noun. 鬼 き 神 じん or 鬼 き 神 しん • (kijin or kishin) a fierce god or spirit. all of the spirits and souls and gods of the world. (Buddhism) someone with superhuman power or ability, such as Śakra, the ruler of heaven, or a rakshasa or demon.

How do you pronounce Kanabo? ›

  1. IPA: [kaˈnabo]
  2. Audio: 0:02. (file)
  3. Rhymes: -abo.
  4. Hyphenation: ka‧na‧bo.

What is a Dana in Japan? ›

The husband, master, and patron senses may be the most commonly used meanings in modern Japanese. When referring to another person's husband, this term is often suffixed with 様 (sama) as 旦那様 (danna-sama).

What does Mitsuya mean? ›

Takashi's surname Mitsuya means "three" (三) (mi), "stars" (ツ) (tsu) and the kanji of (谷) (ya) means "valley".

What is gambare in Japanese? ›

Ganbare/ganbatte is often translated as 'good luck', 'do your best' or 'break a leg', but as will be discussed in this article, there's more to it than that.

Do bosozoku still exist? ›

Although bosozoku still exist today, their antics are far less troublesome and violent. Older bosozoku scoff at younger generations who wear helmets or even “worse,” have traded bikes for scooters.

What means bosozoku? ›

Bōsōzoku (暴走族, lit. 'running-out-of-control (as of a vehicle) tribe') is a Japanese youth subculture associated with customized motorcycles. The first appearance of these types of biker gangs was in the 1950s. Popularity climbed throughout the 1980s and 1990s, peaking at an estimated 42,510 members in 1982.

What is a hikikomori in Japan? ›

A form of severe social withdrawal, called hikikomori, has been frequently described in Japan and is characterized by adolescents and young adults who become recluses in their parents' homes, unable to work or go to school for months or years.

What is a Sarashi in Japanese? ›

A sarashi (晒し, "bleached cloth") is a kind of white cloth, usually cotton, or less commonly linen, used to make various garments in Japan, such as juban (a kind of under-kimono), fundoshi, or tenugui.

Who uses Anata? ›

The other place where Japanese native speakers use “anata” is when women are speaking to their husbands. In this case, it's similar to “my darling” and “my sweetie” in English. You might have heard “omae” which also means “you”. Husbands tend to use “omae” when they're talking to their wives instead of “anata”.

What is Watashi in Japan? ›

Back to Basics: 私 (わたし) — Watashi

The Japanese word watashi is a genderless term that translates to “I” in English. Japanese language textbooks often suggest it as one of the best overall terms to use to describe yourself.


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