3 Popular Japanese Boy Idol Bands
3 Best JPOP Boys Groups in Japan
To talk about boy bands in Japan is to talk about Johnny’s Entretainment, the largest male idol company in Japan. It was founded in 1962 by the recently deceased Johnny Kitagawa and since its inception has been dedicated to training and promoting groups of male entertainers know as Johnny’s.
Johnny’s not only sing and dance but generally also act and the most famous often appear in Japanese doramas (series) as protagonists. In general, these boys are chosen from children in auditions that are usually taken by their mothers or older sisters, fans of the company. Once they are selected, they start with a daily training when they finish their school classes and are taught to sing, dance, act and pose as models. Depending on the characteristics of each one, they are joined in groups of between 5 and 8 members and assigned a name. But they are known as Johnny Jr. They help their senpai (groups larger than them) in their performances dancing behind them and collaborating with the choreography, until finally when the company considers it is the right time they make their own debut. That means having your own concerts and records.
Arashi is probably the most famous group of the JE at present, and the most veteran who are still active (although next year they will take a hiatus). They debuted on September 15, 1999 in Honolulu (Hawaii). His name means “storm” in Japanese, and according to Kitagawa, he chose that name to “create a storm around the world.” It consists of five members: Satoshi Ono, Sho Sakurai, Masaki Aiba, Kazunari Ninomiya and Jun Matsumoto. Although all are well known throughout Japan and have thousands of fans internationally, Jun is the most popular and the most prominent of the group, and was one of Kitagawa’s favorites. His case is exceptional, since he entered the company without having to audition. It is explained that Jun filled out the request to request an audition, but a few days later he received a direct call from Johnny Kitagawa himself saying that it was that same day to start work.
If you don’t know the group yet but are curious about them, they have recently released a documentary on Netflix for their twentieth anniversary.
Until now it was difficult to follow these groups from abroad, but recently they’re opening up more to the world and using social media as Instagram or Twitter. This documentary is the first documentary by a group of JE to come out on an international platform like Netflix so it’s a unique opportunity.
2. Hey!Say! JUMP
Hey! Say! JUMP, often abbreviated as the “heysay” or the “jump” seems to be the next relay for Arashi. Originally there were ten members, but there was a problem with one of the members and he was suspended and finally stayed in nine: Ryosuke Yamada, Kota Yabu, Yuya Takaki, Keito Okamoto, Yuri Chinen, Yuto Nakajima, Daiki Arioka, Hikaru Yaotome and Kei Inoo (although Keito Okamoto has currently left the group temporarily to go to the United States for a while, it was one of his dreams). The name of Hey! Say! It’s because everyone was born in the Heisei period (in Japan every time there is a change of emperor the period is changed) and JUMP is the acronym for Johnny’s Ultra Music Power.
A group with so many members is quite unusual within the JE, and sometimes they’re divided into two groups: Hey! Say! BEST (Kota Yabu, Yuya Takaki, Daiki Arioka, Hikaru Yaotome, Kei Inoo) and Hey! Say! 7 (Ryosuke Yamada, Keito Okamoto, Yuto Nakajima, Yuri Chinen). It’s said that Hey! Say! JUMP is an extension of the Hey! Say! 7, which were actually the first group. But this internal division is usually occasional, for some song or activity. Most of the time are the 9 members. And although it was a risky bet to create a group with so many members, they’re doing very well, it seems to be a very good relationship between all the members and they’re currently one of the most famous boy band group.
3. King & Prince
King & Prince are the latest tend of the moment. They debuted for the first time in 2018 and gave a very strong rise, being the second group with more albums sold after Arashi. It consists of five members: Sho Hirano, Ren Nagase, Kaito Takahashi, Yuta Kishi, Yuta Jinguji, Genki Iwahashi
Originally they were two separate groups, Mr. King and Prince. On June 5, 2015 the group was formed for the Summer Station event. It was supposed to be only a temporary group, and then president Johnny Kitagawa chose the name of the group two hours before the press conference (perhaps that’s why it’s so unoriginal). However the members of both groups spoke with mr. Kitagawa to let them stay together as a group.
Another documentary that just came out on Netflix is Ride On Time. In this case, the documentary is about several groups in the Johnny’s company, instead of a single group (Arashi is JE’s most famous and popular group and it’s normal that they have a separate documentary just for them).
Among the groups featured in this documentary are Hey! Say! JUMP and King & Prince, which I just talked about. But it’s also a good chance to meet other groups, such as KAT-TUN, which made it to the top of the most popular but after 3 of the 6 members left the group, they had to be reborn. Or also discover all the work and preparation behind each concert and these idols.
Tomohisa Yamashita, also known as Yamapi, is an actor, singer and dancer of Johnny’s Entretainmen. But it’s a rather exceptional case because due to its enormous popularity, although initially it was part of a group (NEWS), in 2011 the company decided that it would leave the group and focus on its solo projects. He is the only Johnny who has concerts and solo albums.
Yamashita joined the company when he was 11, and made his first debut with his group NEWS in 2004. In 2005 he played Kusano Akira in the hit drama Nobuta Wo Produce. The drama was one of the most famous in Japan, his character was charismatic and people loved his performance. So he get popularity really quickly and a year later, in 2006, he debuted as a soloist and starred in Kurosagi, the drama that leaded him directly to be one of the most famous actors in the country and to be in the first place at Oricon’s ranking for weeks.
And recently, Yamashita has achieved another success for his professional career: he has been the first of his company to participate in an international production series called “The Head”, which has taken him to shoot three months in Spain and then in Ireland. This series is produced by the same that made the worldwide famous “The House of Paper” and surely when it’s released will bring Yamashita to international fame. Now it’s also popular in other countries, but only among those who love J-Pop and Japanese pop culture.
The series has been made in collaboration with Hulu Japan, and you can find it on this platform (as the series was made internationally, it’s in English even though the platform is Japanese). Try the free trial month of Hulu and discover this serie and many more!
As I said at the beginning, the Johnny’s Entretainmen basically has almost the complete monopoly of the idol boy bands in Japan. Of course there’re other bands, but the most populars in the rankings are always Jhonnys’s bands. But if you want to listen to non-JE bands, you also have J Soul Brothers and EXILE for example.
Until now the world of Japanese idol boy bands was very closed abroad, but now they start to create accounts on social networks (Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, etc), have series on Netflix and even go abroad, so I hope that in the future many more people discover these groups and enjoy with them as me!
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