Organized Panel Session
Japanese “city pop” has recently become trendy among indie and alternative music listeners in the West, thanks to popularity among vaporwave enthusiasts and European DJs; in 2018, the Seattle-based label, Light in the Attic, reissued the original albums of Hosono Haruomi, a forerunner of this music, for the first time outside of Japan. However, just what constitutes the genre is ill-defined. The term originally referred to music emerging in the 1970s and 1980s that was heavily influenced by soft rock, jazz fusion, and album-oriented rock. Succeeding Hosono’s legacy, musicians such as Arai Yumi and Yamashita Tatsurō diverged from the tradition of Japanese folk music and established what became known as “new music.” In this paper, I will focus on the advent of this “new music” in the 1970s. Coinciding with the stagnation of the student movement in Japan, “new music” was a strange amalgamation of the political and the apolitical. People who established the genre had roots in both (authentic) folk music and (commercial) show business. Since some social movements of the 1960s had aimed at repealing the Japan-US Security Treaty, the politics of “new music” inevitably implied transpacific dialogue on music scenes and urbanization between the two countries—a perspective that remains effective in examining “city” music in Japan.