Japanese pop music, also known as J-Pop, is an immense part of the Japanese culture we know today. One can see, hear and experience it everywhere in Japan such as video games, anime, manga, stores, commercials, radio, TV shows, and so forth. Many people know it today from anime or dramas, where a song is commonly used in the opening and closing credits. The song is then often changed with each season of the show. Gamers will also hear J-Pop being used more and more in the games we see today. While some games are focused entirely around this genre; such as the Ouendan Series, Band Brothers, The Idolmaster, and numerous music/rhythm games, some games just reference it such as Metal Gear Solid 4, while others use it for game soundtracks such as Final Fantasy X-2 or the Kingdom Hearts series.
Games and anime therefore provide an excellent introduction to many people in the West with J-Pop, although many people still frown upon it because of its often strange nature. Because of its gaining popularity in the West, many online retailers are featuring more and more imported albums and soundtracks which makes it easier to obtain.
According to 2010 data from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), Japan currently has the largest music market in the world.
Sound and Style
While there are many different genres of J-Pop, the most popular styles are largely based on electronic music, due to the influence of pioneering Japanese electronica band Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO), consisting of members Haruomi Hosono, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Yukihiro Takahashi. Their electronic music in the late 70s and early 80s not only had a strong influence on J-Pop as well as Western electro-pop, but much of the chiptune video game music produced during the 8-bit and 16-bit eras have also been influenced by YMO.
A popular style of J-Pop today is "para para", which is often charactered by a high tempo sound influenced by Eurobeat, a genre of music that was popular in Japanese dance clubs (during the late 80s, and again in the late 90s to early 2000s), that did not become as popular in North America until the late 200's, though it can and commonly does defer from this.
J-Pop is perhaps most common in the music/rhythm genre, including popular franchises such as Bemani (including Beatmania and Dance Dance Revolution) and Space Channel 5. In fact, the music/rhythm genre itself was largely pioneered by former J-Pop musician Masaya Matsuura, with Parappa the Rapper in 1996.