Five Dance Music Icons From Japan

Music and video can be powerful ways to convey culture. Lyrics can convey messages about love, loss, tragedy and humor – providing powerful expressions of culture in all its guises.

Japan has long been at the forefront of dance music production. Their productions spanning everything from techno to trance have been widely celebrated worldwide.

1. Satoshi Tomiie

Japan is known as an advanced, futuristic nation; yet its music fails to reflect that reality when it comes to dance music. While there are some techno-influenced pop groups like CAPSULE and Perfume as well as bands incorporating elements of EDM, EDM hasn’t achieved the same popularity here as elsewhere such as Europe or America.

However, Japan boasts an active and lively techno scene which continues to push boundaries and take influence from both globalized techno landscape and their unique culture and soundscape. Artists in Japan produce various styles from ambient techno through experimental ambient to bass heavy beats.

Satoshi Tomiie stands out as one of Japan’s foremost house music exports since the late 80s, leading his production style with deep grooves reminiscent of Chicago, Detroit or New York club sounds that has had an enormous effect on Japanese electronic scene musicians and producers alike. His legacy spans multiple decades; inspiring generations to take an innovative approach to dance music production in Japan itself.

Cabaret Recordings was also established, featuring his recordings as well as those by other Japanese producers. As a DJ he’s become an invaluable fixture at clubs across Japan – often playing into the early hours and getting crowds up on their feet! In addition, he has become known as an accomplished remixer; working on several Touhou-related remixes.

MC SAMO of TYO GQOM stands out among Tokyo producers for her dizzying sets that can light up any dancefloor. Her bassweight is undeniable, as she creates hypnotic, bouncy dance music that gets heads nodding. She is a regular resident at Shelter club in Tokyo which recently invited Bristol producer Lil Mofo over as well. Check out ‘Dance With Devils’ for an example – its relentless beat builds into an explosive drop into monumental subbass accompanied by wordless war chants!

2. Towa Tei

Towa Tei, one of the earliest pioneers of Japanese electronic dance music, is an internationally-recognized DJ-producer with an expansive musical repertoire encompassing bossa nova, jazz and electronic genres. He has collaborated with Yellow Magic Orchestra and Ryuichi Sakamoto among many others; known for his thick-framed black glasses he is considered an influential figure within Shibuya-kei movement.

Future Listening was his debut album released in 1994 and showcased his unique blend of Asian and electro music, making it a huge hit both within Japan and internationally. Additionally, Future Listening became his gateway into collaborations with Ryuichi Sakamoto (his idol) on two albums known as Heart Beat and Sweet Revenge which became international hits as well.

Once Towa Tei released his debut album, he continued producing and remixing music – lending his voice to numerous films and TV shows like The Last Samurai – as well as producing more albums – last Century Modern being his third. It proved an immense commercial success.

Towa Tei has racked up numerous hit singles that have reached the top of the charts. His most beloved track is Love So Sweet – an infectious melody sure to fill listeners with joy and happiness and ideal for karaoke!

Matsuri, one of Towa Tei’s signature songs, combines Japanese folk music and electronic dance music in an intriguing fusion that has won fans both locally and abroad. Nominated for a Grammy Award and topping New Age album charts worldwide, its unique sound appeals to people worldwide.

Many Japanese songs carry hidden messages about love, sorrow, humor, history and more – making them a fantastic way to explore Japanese culture! A translator can be invaluable when listening to these songs; one such tool that is user-friendly and quick is Google Translate which quickly translates any language into English and available on most devices – perfect!

3. Susumu Yokota

Susumu Yokota was one of Japan’s pioneering electronic musicians in the early ’90s, pioneering their early electronic music scene alongside Ken Ishii at Berlin’s Love Parade and representing Asia beautifully through dance music’s glory days in to the 2000s. Yokota left behind an expansive body of work including acid trance and disco house music that crossed genre boundaries as far as acid trance to disco-house was concerned. Recording under various aliases such as Stevia 246, Anima Mundi Ebi Frankfurt-Tokyo Connection Prism Ringo Yin & Yan & Tokyo Cult House among many more, his sound veered into realms such as techno ambient and breaks as he recorded under various aliases as Stevia 246, 246, Frankfurt-Tokyo Connection Prism Ringo Ringo Ringo Yin & Yan & Tokyo Cult House among many more!

Yokota began listening to New Wave, Post-Punk and Japanese popular music as a teenager but found his true calling with dance. Beginning producing music in the early ’90s under his ‘246’ moniker in late ’90s he released ambient and techno albums titled ‘The Frankfurt-Tokyo Connection’ and ‘Garden on the Palm’ which proved enormously successful internationally; these groundbreaking releases introduced Japanese audiences to dance music for generations of DJs to follow.

He created mesmerising albums such as Sakura and Grinning Cat that showcase his versatility across ambient, experimental, and psychedelic trance genres with equal passion, delivering captivating compositions to transport listeners to other worlds through dreamy string arrangements, droning vocals and mesmerising chants from classic composers such as Debussy and Tchaikovsky – using samples to enhance and recreate them his own way.

Yokota first encountered French artist and producer Alex Prat in 1995 while visiting Far East Recording owner Manabu Yamazaki – an influential figure in connecting Tokyo’s emerging dance music scene to wider European club culture – as an associate of Far East Recording’s owner Manabu Yamazaki, an integral figure in linking it with Europe club culture. A former employee of Mr Bongo in Shibuya himself, they quickly formed a collaborative project called Far East together.

Wonder Waltz’, with its combination of sunny psych-pop, hypnotic leftfield clatter, shadowy two-step harmonic-based euphoria, harmonic-based euphoria, Steve Reich minimalism and contemporary minimalism is an emotionally engaging contemporary album that stands the test of time. Unquestionably beautiful work, it stands testament to just how relevant ambient, experimental and hypnotic trance still are today.

4. Shinichi Osawa

Shinichi Osawa stands as an innovator and iconic artist within Japanese dance music culture, being recognized for his diverse genre blending and use of new technologies that has propelled him to the forefront of Asian electronic music scene. With unique productions that comment cynically on modern society and his unique productions making waves all across Japan he remains a popular figure within this scene.

Born and raised in Chicago, Osawa was heavily influenced by its vibrant club scene when starting his musical journey. He brought this sensibility with him when moving to Japan where he helped introduce house music into local nightlife through his weekly residency at Tokyo club Tolos. While initially focused on hip hop music, when house became trendy Osawa made the switch and adopted his now infamous Mondo Grosso moniker.

Far East Recording was co-founded with Soichi Terada and went on to curate many successful Japanese house tapes under its auspices. His style embodies his role as curator with heavy New York influences, bright instrumentation and an affinity for turntablism all hallmarks of success for any label.

Mondo Grosso also has a background in jazz, and collaborated with singer Yuki Kitayama (better known by her stage name Bird) upon her introduction into Osaka club scene. They created Bird, featuring Bird’s soulful yet jazz-influenced vocals over music and beats composed and produced by Osawa; an ideal project that allowed him to showcase his abilities as a producer.

Osawa spends his free time not DJing or producing, but painting. For over two decades he has created art that both challenges and upholds audiences; most recently he released KLKTN digital collectibles featuring twenty-one iterative artworks with stems from his song, “Everything Needs Luv.”

Japanese music offers an expansive variety of genres and styles. From experimental instrumentals to lively electropop, there’s something for everyone in this dynamic country. Techno, ambient or otherwise – Japan offers an exciting journey into dance music’s depths!