Despite what the west tends to think of Japan, the nation has a long history of embracing counter-culture. Punk bands from all over the world, including Joan Jett and the Ramones, saw their first mainstream success in Japan. And Japanese punk bands continue to thrive and influence music far beyond their borders.
Here are just a few of the bands tearing up the Japanese punk band scene that any self-respecting punk needs to get on their playlist and celebrate.
Though Kemuri were originally formed in California in 1995 and many of their songs feature at least some English, they have been at the forefront of the Tokyo Japanese punk band scene for over 20 years. This ska-punk outfit proves that sometimes the most punk thing you can do is put on a smile and sing upbeat songs. They’re a band that features the best of ’90s ska, with a decidedly Japanese twist and outlook to their songs. I have talked about my love for ska-punk before, so it should be no surprise that I managed to sneak some more into your life.
Though they broke up in 2003, Kemuri couldn’t keep off the road for too long and reformed in 2012. Since then they’ve released several singles and albums and toured the US with Less than Jake. Here’s hoping they make their way back to the UK soon.
Tokyo Syoki Syodo
This all-woman Japanese punk band is one of the most diverse artists on the scene today. They eschew most genre limitations, with their performances typically including high energy punk rock followed almost immediately with a ballad or a JPop inspired song. Fortunately Tokyo Syoki Syodo have the talent and passion to pull off multiple genres and styles — itself impressive for a band that has only been touring for a handful of years.
Perhaps they will settle down onto a specific sound in the future, but for now I’m happy to just enjoy the journey with them.
Wanima is a trio who have been touring since 2010 throughout Japan. This Japanese punk band embodies a lot of the joy and energy that typically defines the scene. Their songs are often irreverent, such as the above Chilly Chili Sauce, but that shouldn’t take away from how good this band is.
If you’re a fan of punk with some ska influence mixed in but don’t want to admit you’re a ska fan (you coward), you need to get Wanima on your playlist.
On top of being the band with the most “nice” worthy name on this list, Namba69 is a Japanese punk band that is most likely to bring up memories of hanging out a skate parks in the 90s and 00s. They have been active since 2014, with their most recent album breaking the top 20 of the Oricon rankings, so they have certainly tasted some mainstream success in their time on the scene.
Namba69 plays the kind of melodic punk rock that I grew up with. Their sound feels influenced by bands like Good Charlotte or Sum41, so fans of those groups should definitely give them a listen. They even feature on this month’s Rice Digital JRock Playlist, so be sure to check them out there.
UNMASK aLIVE sounds like they just stepped off the main stage at the Warped Tour circa 2004, having played to a heaving mass of sweaty punks. This Kyoto-based Japanese punk band, who only released their first full album earlier this year, seem to be full of limitless potential. With a high-energy style and just the right amount of polish to their sound, UNMASK aLIVE could be on the cusp of some great things going forward. We will have to wait and see.
Got another Japanese punk band you want to share with the rest of the world? We have a whole channel dedicated to music on the Rice Digital Discord server, so be sure to join in the conversation. And for more JRock goodness in your ears every month, check out the updated Rice Digital Spotify Playlist.
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