Recently , I’ve been listening to quite a bit of J-pop thanks to youtube and all the other free internet sites. Japanese pop music always reminds me of the summer holidays when I used to visit Japan. Most of the music I liked were tied in with the J-dramas I was obsessively watching, and when I listen to the songs now, they bring back vivid memories of the lazy summer days, all hot and languid watching tv and eating shaved ice or kakigori with strawberry syrup.

The January mini-challenge for Hello Japan! is Music to My Ears and it’s great because I can talk about all of my favourite J-pop!

I lived in Japan in the mid-80s, and I hear now that 80s J-pop is all the rage again among the Ara-4 (around 40) crowd – there seems to be a nostalgic boom going on in Japan.

I remember the first Japanese tape (!) I bought was that of Kawai Naoko in which I fell in love with one particularly melancholic song. I think ever since I’ve always loved songs in the minor key. But I’ve since lost the tape, never remembered the name of the song and only recently stumbled across it on youtube after endlessly searching for it. The song is called Gimonfu and is beautiful.

Of course like everyone in the 80s I used to watch the weekly music show The Best Ten hosted by Kuroyanagi Tetsuko (who wrote Totto-chan) and was a big fan of the legendary Yamaguchi Momoe (who famously retired at 21) Matsuda Seiko, Nakamori Akina, Oginome Yoko and The Chequers amongst other mainstream idols.

I also used to watch a lot of anime such as Touch by Adachi Mitsuru whose theme songs by Iwasaki Yoshimi were also my favourites.

Utada Hikaru, Misia and Ayaka are three artists I love listening to and who are all million sellers in Japan. And more recently I’ve been listening to Arashi’s Ashita no Kioku – yup, I’m still obsessed with them – not so much for their singing but because their variety programmes are just hiliarious. They really work well together as a team and the banter between all five of them are just spot on and hysterical.

Kind of like SMAP who were the first idols/boy band who became famous not just for their singing skills (which, let’s admit, aren’t really that great) but for their tv shows, comedic flair, J-dramas and their cooking skills (check out Bistro Smap in their variety show SmapxSmap which has been on air since 1996). They are good at everything and have taken over the Japanese entertainment industry!