6 Japanese Musicians To Look Out For In 2020 | CoolJapan

With rock band Tokyo Jihen announcing a comeback on the first day of the year and popular pop groups Arashi and E-girls going into hiatus and disbanding respectively, 2020 is probably going to be a big year for the Japanese entertainment scene.

Amid the shifts with the familiar names, many up-and-coming musicians have been gaining momentum and are set to take over the charts this year. Keep reading to get to know these rising Japanese musicians in 2020.

King Gnu

Active since 2015 as Srv.Vinci, this up-and-coming Japanese band underwent a name change in 2017. Now known as King Gnu, their hits include the very popular "Hakujitsu." This song was used as the theme for a J-drama show Innocence: Enzai Bengoshi. As of now, the music video of this song has accumulated over 140 million views on YouTube. The band even managed to make an appearance in one of the most widely watched year-end programmes in Japan — Kouhaku Uta Gassen — last December. 

But this sudden spurt in popularity is not just because of their tie-up with a popular drama. Each year, there are several tie-ups between brands and dramas, but King Gnu's success with "Hakujitsu" was unlike any other in 2019. The band's unique style called "Tokyo New Mix Culture" also garnered interest and attention because it's basically genreless — having elements of rock, jazz, pop, electro and more. This music style that no other band can replicate, along with the unique blend of vocalist Satoru Iguchi’s soft and high vocals with guitarist Daiki Tsuneta’s raw and deep backing vocals, could be the formula that’s propelling them to popularity.

Macaroni Enpitsu

You may be wondering about the quirky name of this Japanese band. What does Macaroni Enpitsu even mean? The band explains that their choice of the word "Macaroni" is inspired by how emptiness — resembled by the tubular macaroni hole — can actually be crucial in a person's experience (such as when they devour the pasta). Meanwhile, they wax poetic about "Enpitsu" (the Japanese word for pencil), an unassuming, rather mundane implement that allows people to immortalise beautiful experiences on paper. Put together, the two words describe the band's philosophy: to find meaning in emptiness and immortalise it through music.

Most of their songs speak of youth and dreams like "Seishun to Isshu" (A Moment With Youth). For those nursing a heartbreak, you may be interested in their hit song "Mr. Blue Sky." The way Macaroni Enpitsu is able to represent chapters of life in their music so perfectly is probably why they’re garnering a strong following in Japan.


Even as a newbie, milet has become one of the most popular up-and-coming Japanese musicians in 2020. It's only been less than two years since she entered the music scene but she's already had several of her songs used in dramas, animes, movies and commercials. Her husky and strong voice stands out from the rest of the female J-pop singers and has led people to compare her vocals to that of Adele and Sia. Her debut song "inside you," produced by ONE OK ROCK’s Toru, may sound more Western pop, but her recent song "us" shows how milet is capable of pulling off songs closer to classic J-pop too. Little is known about this rising singer-songwriter except the fact that she spent her teenage years in Canada, which explains why many of her songs use a mix of English and Japanese. 


Those familiar with the Japanese idol scene will know Yasushi Akimoto as well as the AKB48 group. Started in 2005 based on the concept of "idols you can meet", the AKB48 group has since grown to have sister groups across Japan and even Asia, such as BNK48 in Thailand and JKT48 in Indonesia. To jazz up the game, Akimoto produced Nogizaka46 in 2011 as the "official rival group" to AKB48, which in turn spun off another idol group franchise, the "Sakamichi series".

The latest from the "Sakamichi series", Hinatazaka46’s first single reportedly sold 476,000 copies in its first week of release, making them the new record holder for the best first-week sales for the first single by a female artist in Japan. Loved by their fans for their happy and cheery image, the group will embark on their nationwide arena tour this spring. 

SixTONES/Snow Man

Johnny’s, one of Japan’s biggest talent management agencies behind top-selling groups like Arashi and King & Prince, seems to be going through a period of change. Known to be notoriously strict with the usage of media with their talents involved, the agency began relaxing rules a few years back. First, they allowed a fixed number of approved photos to be used on online media. Next, they started creating starting social media accounts for some of the talents under their care.

Two of the first groups to be officially on YouTube were SixTONES (pronounced as “stones”, with “ix” silent) and Snow Man.

SixTONES and Snow Man had a simultaneous debut this 2020, marking the first time Johnny’s has had two groups debut on the same day. Surprisingly, it worked to the favour as the boybands' joint debut single, "Imitation Rain/D.D.," sold more than 1.3 million copies in the first week of release, making it the first debut single of any artist in history to sell more than a million copies.

While under the same talent management agency, both boybands signed with different record labels, a move said to allow competition between both groups. Which group will go on to head the pack? Or will both groups continue sweeping charts together? Your guess is as good as mine.