Japan is known for its vibrant and distinct culture. From its cuisine and customs to its technology and tourist attractions, Japan is truly one-of-a-kind. Some musicians draw inspiration from their experiences in Japan, while others create lighthearted songs for fun. Here is a list of songs about Japan:
- 1. “Big in Japan” by Alphaville
- 2. “My Private Tokyo” by Vicious Pink Phenomena
- 3. “Tokyo Kid” by Jean Michel Jarre
- 4. “Japanese Boy” by Aneka
- 5. “Mr. Roboto” by Styx
- 6. “Outside Tokyo” by The Stranglers
- 7. “Woman from Tokyo” by Deep Purple
- 8. “Japanese Sunshadows” by Rick Wakeman
- 9. “Godzilla” by Blue Öyster Cult
- 10. “Love Letter to Japan” by The Bird and the Bee
- 11. “Alone in Kyoto” by Air
- 12. “Lost In Japan” by Shawn Mendes and Zedd
- 13. “Tokyo Girl” by Ace of Base
- 14. “Kyoto” by Phoebe Bridgers
- 15. “Somewhere Near Japan” by The Beach Boys
- 16. “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots pt. 1” by The Flaming Lips
- 17. “Turning Japanese” by The Vapors
- 18. “Chicken Teriyaki” by Rosalía
- 19. “Crystal Japan” by David Bowie
- 20. “Love From Tokyo” by Rita Coolidge
1. “Big in Japan” by Alphaville
To start off, this is a song that mentions Japan in the name and is often cited as a song about Japan, but technically doesn’t really have anything directly to do with Japan for the following reason.
The story is actually about a couple suffering from addiction who think they can get clean when they’re in an outside environment (“big in Japan” is used as a way to describe being popular in a foreign country or environment) but eventually discover that their addiction follows them no matter where they go.
2. “My Private Tokyo” by Vicious Pink Phenomena
This is a pop song about Tokyo life and robots. They included Japanese words in the lyrics that are related to electronic companies made by Japan. The singer expressed his interest in everything technology. The singer also said he’s in a kimono.
There’s a possibility this song is about adapting to Japanese culture. With the lyrics “High, low, can’t say no, high, low, that’s my private Tokyo”. However, with the band’s reputation in the new wave and synth-pop music scene, this song might just be a dance track.
3. “Tokyo Kid” by Jean Michel Jarre
This feel-good instrumental music doesn’t scream Japan, but the percussion and string instruments are distinctly Japanese.
The song is from the album “Zoolook” which was inspired by world music. Jarre intended his album to contain different ethnic feels that would be suitable for his ambient style.
4. “Japanese Boy” by Aneka
A girl in love with a Japanese boy, Aneka sings about how the girl’s love and yearning are strong enough to cross the ocean. The song reflects on the feelings of willingness to visit her lover against all odds, no matter how far apart she is.
The music video is also Japanese-themed, which shows Japanese guys playing in an arcade – Japan’s significant role in video games is prominent.
5. “Mr. Roboto” by Styx
With technology playing an important role in our everyday lives and Japan has been a leading country in that department, it’s no surprise that Mr. Roboto is inspired by the sci-fi mecha anime “Mobile Suit Gundam”.
The lyrics are about how humans are replaced by robots in terms of work. In the song’s setting, jail guards are replaced by robots and Kilroy escapes the jail by hiding in a robot costume.
6. “Outside Tokyo” by The Stranglers
This song is about a man selling time outside of Tokyo, which does not have any relation to Japan in terms of business. With its vague lyrics, it can be interpreted in different ways. The lyrics might be about a man who is waiting for his time or about how time is running out.
7. “Woman from Tokyo” by Deep Purple
This rock band has expressed their creativity in making a song about being in love with a Japanese woman and how it felt so good and comfortable when they were together.
The lyrics “My woman in Tokyo, She makes me see, my woman in Tokyo, she’s so good to me” shows how Japanese hospitality and comfort are reciprocated by the man’s love and appreciation for his lover.
8. “Japanese Sunshadows” by Rick Wakeman
Rick Wakeman is known to make instrumental feel-good songs that are related to the seasons. Although the title doesn’t reflect the track, the song features percussion and stringed instruments that are played like the “oriental riffs” similar to the tone of “kung fu fighting.” It has been typical for musicians to utilize Japanese riffs as samples in their songs.
9. “Godzilla” by Blue Öyster Cult
‘Godzilla’ is related to the fictional monster that started in Japanese films. A Godzilla-themed song takes credit for the prehistoric monster that was made in Japan. This is a result of Japan’s rich contribution to animation and sci-fi which inspired plenty of artists.
10. “Love Letter to Japan” by The Bird and the Bee
As the title speaks for itself, the song is about love and distance. To be more specific, it is being in love with Japan and with the protagonist’s lover who is Japanese.
Appreciating the cherry blossoms he sent to her and how her partner provided her patience and understanding. The music video depicts a long-distance relationship and how the girl is willing to fly from west to east, just to be with her Japanese lover.
11. “Alone in Kyoto” by Air
As an ambient track, “Alone in Kyoto” is an instrumental song that gives you a relaxing vibe while you imagine yourself strolling on the quiet streets of Kyoto.
Japan’s cold weather and quiet streets are ideal for sightseeing and enjoying everything around you. If you’re touring in Japan, you might wanna add this to your playlist.
12. “Lost In Japan” by Shawn Mendes and Zedd
There’s something about Japan that love and long-distance relationships are common, or maybe the songs are just inspired by the place. This song is about being in Japan and feeling lost because you are miles apart from your partner.
Although Mendes didn’t use the title in making this song, he did mention Japan three times. This track became a hit on the UK Singles Chart.
13. “Tokyo Girl” by Ace of Base
This pop song is more about an energetic and elegant strong girl who’s in Tokyo. Released in 1998, this must be related to the famous anime “Sailor Moon” but the Tokyo reference is not clear.
As the lyrics “Her language is so hard to learn” and “Tokyo girl, Tokyo girl, You’ve got the moves to rule the world” implies that this Tokyo girl is certainly one of a kind.
14. “Kyoto” by Phoebe Bridgers
Phoebe Bridgers is one of the artists who made songs out of her experience. She mentioned in the song that on her day off in Kyoto, she went to a temple and became bored so she looked for a 7/11 Shop. The song’s lyrics evolved into an unpleasant recollection about her father’s mistakes.
Despite the teenager’s angst in this song, This track took an odd turn since it debuted in 2020 and has been nominated for Grammys for Best rock performance and best rock song.
15. “Somewhere Near Japan” by The Beach Boys
This rock song is about a woman calling for help because she was stranded. Not knowing the exact location, she was sure it was ‘somewhere near Japan,’ hence, the title of the song.
The Beach Boys might have not been to Japan when they made this track but their experience in making songs about places they’ve never been to is impeccable.
16. “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots pt. 1” by The Flaming Lips
Another robot reference, this time by The Flaming Lips. This song is about a girl named Yoshimi who’s battling Pink Robots. The lyrics: “Yoshimi, they don’t believe me but, you won’t let those robots defeat me” might suggest that the song is about hope and fighting for one’s life.
Some fans believe this song is about a woman battling cancer. We can only guess, but there’s no denying that this song is clever.
17. “Turning Japanese” by The Vapors
This upbeat song is often mistakenly interpreted with a sexual meaning. The lyrics “I think I’m turning Japanese, I really think so” gave the impression that the artist is talking about masturbation.
However, in an interview, the songwriter David Fenton said that the song is about paranoia and insomnia caused by stress about missing someone so badly. This track also samples oriental riffs in their tune.
18. “Chicken Teriyaki” by Rosalía
This song is entitled “Chicken Teriyaki” and is not about the Japanese dish but rather just something she made out for fun.
The Latin urban pop music was about her adventures in New York City. There’s nothing about the song that describes why she chose the title but hey, we are all creative in our own ways.
19. “Crystal Japan” by David Bowie
This instrumental track is from David Bowie’s 1980 album “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps).” He used Japanese instruments in some of his works and this might be one of them. This song was used in a Japanese commercial for Crystal Jun Rock.
20. “Love From Tokyo” by Rita Coolidge
This list ends with a love song from Rita Coolidge. It is a mid-tempo track about being in love with someone from afar. The lyrics “SAYONARA for a while, Love from Tokyo” express the artist’s feelings of missing her partner.
Looking at the songs, we can say that Japan has been an inspiration for many artists across the globe. Some made songs about their personal experiences while others were just creative with their titles and lyrics.
While some songs are more lighthearted, others have more serious undertones. Music is a way for people to connect and these songs about Japan is all about that.