I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Top Ten Best Singers?

Picture courtesy of
JapanToday highlighted recently a segment of the popular Japanese TV variety program 水曜日のダウンタウン (“Suiyobi No Downtown”), in which a poll was done that surveyed 200 individuals in the Japanese music industry (vocal trainers, studio executives, studio engineers,  etc.) and asked them who they considered to be the "best singers" in Japanese music? The results were not only quite surprising but also very revealing....
Below is the sampling of who placed in the top ten and how many votes they received.  I also included some of their live performances to give you an idea of their vocal talents.

10th Place - 布施明/Fuse Akira [5 Votes]

9th and 8th Place [Tie] - Atsushi (EXILE) & 井上陽水/Inoue Yosui [6 Votes Each]

7th Place - 福原美穂/Fukuhara Miho - [7 Votes]

6th Place - 宇多田ヒカル/Utada Hikaru - [8 Votes]

5th Place - 吉田美和/Yoshida Miwa (Dreams Come True) - [10 Votes]

4th Place - 夏川りみ/Natsukawa Rimi - [13 Votes]

3rd Place - 越智志帆/Ochi Shiho (Superfly) - [15 Votes]

2nd Place - 久保田利伸/Kubota Toshinobu - [18 Votes]

1st Place - 玉置浩二/Tamaki Koji (Anzen Chitai) -[25 Votes]

It was somewhat refreshing to see that the two top artists on the list were 80s artists as opposed to more current artists, however I am a bit disappointed that a few key artists didn't make the list.

For instance Ikimono Gakari's powerhouse lead singer Yoshioka Kiyoe was curiously not mentioned as were other current exceptional singing divas like Nakashima Mika, Ayaka or Misia.  I'm also somewhat surprised that other 80s singers like Nakamori Akina (who is making a dramatic comeback) or the iconic Matsutoya Yumi weren't included as well. 

Although I'm not an Enka fan, I was also a bit surprised that the list didn't include more Enka singers.  It would have been nice to have included faithful Kouhaku regulars like Kitajima Saburo and Itsuki Hiroshi or even younger Enka talents like Jero and Hikawa Kiyoshi.

I guess any list is going be subjective and open to criticism and debate.  It did get me to think about it and if I had a chance to vote, here would be my choices of who the best vocalists would be:

18) Atsushi (EXILE)
17) 井上陽水/Inoue Yosui
14) 久保田利伸/Kubota Toshinobu
12) 越智志帆/Ochi Shiho (Superfly)
10) 吉岡聖恵/Yoshioka Kiyoe (いきものがかり/Ikimono Gakari)
7) 玉置浩二/Tamaki Koji (安全地帯/Anzen Chitai)
6) 宇多田ヒカル/Utada Hikaru
4) 吉田美和/Yoshida Miwa (Dreams Come True)
1) 小田和正/Oda Kazumasa (Off Course)

So who do you think are the best singers in JPop?  Let the debate begin...

Image courtesy of


  1. Hmm, some how I thought there would be more Enka singers on this.

    I definitely agree with Akira Fuse, that guy's voice is really impressive - even now! I also agree with Koji Tamaki in both your list and the list above... although I think Hiroshi Itsuki should have a higher position.

    For me, I would say Aska from Chage and Aska - don't know what position, but I think he's one of the best Japanese singers. And I would also say Kiyoshi Maekawa, as well, should be on the list.

  2. Hi JTM. Good to see you back.

    Yeah, it's very much a subjective matter when it comes to music. There may be some near-universal choices such as Koji Tamaki but even some folks back in Japan have told me that he's not their cup of tea; one young fellow even labeled him as "hammy". However, I'm definitely a fan.

    I can't even order my favourites in a Top 10 in terms of perceived ability. The folks that have been listed are fine but I would certainly include folks like Hiromi Iwasaki, Chikuzen Sato (Sing Like Talking), Misia and the late Kiyohiko Ozaki.

  3. Crystal Kay. The best ever.

  4. Hi JTM. Very interesting topic. It's practically impossible for me to make a list of this kind. There are singers who are not particularly strong vocalists (i.e. Yumi Matsutoya), but their unique delivery and tone is irreplaceable. Shiina Ringo also has a special voice, regardless of whether you're a fan of hers or not.

    In terms of pure ability and range though, Demon Kogure (ex. Seikima II) deserves a mention. Yes, he's usually over the top and silly but the number of octaves he can hit without exhausting himself is insane. Sometimes I doubt he's even human.

    Also Hideaki Tokunaga. What a voice.

    1. And very briefly, ol' Demon was a CNN announcer. The network devoted a week of coverage to Japan, and he was a guest on "Larry King Live". Just for kicks, Larry let Demon hand it over to the newscaster who was back in Atlanta. The newscaster had a nice laugh about being introduced by a fellow who claimed to be millions of years old.


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