Five Japanese Albums from the 1970s


Not a top-five list, and not meant to be definitive in any way, but here are five albums that hit Japan’s record stores—and its charts—in the 1970s. Listen and enjoy!

Kazemachi Roman, 1971, Happy End

Translating roughly as “Windy City Romance,” weather is a theme that runs through several of the tracks on Happy End’s folk rock classic, including “Kaze o atsumete” (Gather the Wind), which featured on the Lost in Translation soundtrack. The album was voted Japan’s best ever in a 2002 Rolling Stone poll.

Solid State Survivor, 1979, Yellow Magic Orchestra

Happy End bassist Hosono Haruomi went on to become a member of electronic trio Yellow Magic Orchestra, performing on this key album of the late seventies alongside Sakamoto Ryūichi. Its pioneering synth sounds gained a global audience and the song “Behind the Mask” was covered by artists including Michael Jackson and Eric Clapton.

Hikōkigumo, 1973, Arai Yumi

Released when she was just 19 years old, singer-songwriter Matsutōya Yumi’s folky debut (recorded under her maiden name) means literally an airplane's “vapor trails”; it made her a star and set the stage for decades of success. The melancholy-tinged title track recently appeared in Miyazaki Hayao’s Kaze tachinu (The Wind Rises).

Eclipse, 1975, Takayanagi Masayuki and New Direction Unit

Although it has seldom brought its performers genuine fame or wealth even in their home country, one of the most influential Japanese genres is “noise.” Guitarist Takayanagi “Jojo” Masayuki started his career at 19, playing straight jazz and chanson in late-1950s Ginza coffee shops, but he soon began to experiment with the parameters of jazz and set the controls for the heart of the sun with his free jazz ensemble New Direction Unit. The ecstatic, atonal explosions of this 1975 live recording lay out much of the template for later eardrum vandals like Merzbow and Haino Keiji.

Anata ni Muchū—Uchiki na Candies, 1973, Candies

This was the prototypical “idol pop” group: Ran, Sue, and Miki, three seemingly ordinary girls who blazed a trail through the Japanese charts with a string of saccharine-sweet, yet often deceptively complex, pop masterpieces. The Candies released 14 albums in less than five years before walking away from the business at the peak of their popularity. This is the one that got the ball rolling, on the back of their near-perfect debut single “Anata ni Muchū” (often translated as “Crazy for You”).

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music entertainment 1970s