Japanese Music in Western Culture

October 3, 2017 | By


The word for music in Japanese is ongaku, combining the kanji “on” with the kanji “gaku”. Music that has come from the western lands, such as Great Britain and the United States, has had an influence on music all around the world. This changed the most or was seen the most after the first and second world wars. When soldiers would travel to faraway lands they would take the comforts of home with them, this would often include their music. They would even have bands that would travel to perform for them. This was one major way in which western music made its way into other cultures, such as Japanese music. The westernization of Japanese music also included the increase of English and guitars in musical composition. Overall Japanese music has change throughout the years due to various influences, some of those being Western and some of those being from other areas of the world. As the world continues to evolve and develop there will always be more countries influencing each other in various ways. Music is just one of the small ways that we can see how Japan has changed over the years.

Western Music made its way into the Japanese by means of the Meiji Restoration. During this time period there were two prominent forms of music that were developed, the shook and the gunka. The reasoning as to why Japanese music didn’t have a huge influence on the western world initially is mainly due to the fact that, during the time period when classical music was largely developed was the Edo period in Japan, in which Japan had removed itself from the outside world, causing them to miss the musical development of the majority of the Baroque, Classical, Early Romantic and half of the Romantic era.

Popular Music & Modern Influence

From Japanese animation to graphic novels to Japanese pop music, there has been a huge western interest in Japanese pop culture. It takes the western idea of pop and mixes it with Japanese style and culture. Along with its singing and dancing, J-Pop shares a lot of the Pop-like qualities in western style music. J-Rock, or Japanese Rock music, gives a new meaning to modern Japanese music. J-Rock mixes heavy guitar playing and fast paced drumming along with many English words and phrases thrown around to create a unique new sound. Japanese Heavy and Extreme metal bands also formed in the wave of American and European wave, bit didn’t get any bigger exposure until the 1990s.

In modern Japan, many musicians who use traditional instruments tend to mix traditional Japanese styles with western music, creating new styles of Japanese music. In modern Japanese society, the use of western style music using traditional Japanese instruments is quite popular. Over all you can clearly see that western music has heavily influenced Japanese music over the years. They have each helped each other to grow and to become more popular and more liked by the more and more people. If you ever are able to enjoy some traditional Japanese music, it is well worth the listen, or if you prefer, you can listen to the more modern music where you can hear how western music and culture influenced its sound and characteristics.


Filed in: Tokyoradio

Comments are closed.