The Most Famous

SINGERS from Japan

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This page contains a list of the greatest Japanese Singers. The pantheon dataset contains 3,541 Singers, 104 of which were born in Japan. This makes Japan the birth place of the 7th most number of Singers behind South Korea and Germany.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Japanese Singers of all time. This list of famous Japanese Singers is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Japanese Singers.

Photo of Ken Shimura

1. Ken Shimura (1950 - 2020)

With an HPI of 69.79, Ken Shimura is the most famous Japanese Singer.  His biography has been translated into 23 different languages on wikipedia.

Ken Shimura (志村 けん, Shimura Ken) (born Yasunori Shimura (志村 康徳, Shimura Yasunori), 20 February 1950 – 29 March 2020) was a Japanese comedian. He co-starred with Masashi Tashiro, Nobuyoshi Kuwano in the Japanese variety show Shimura Ken no Bakatono-sama.Throughout his comedy career, Shimura was known for his "Bakatono-sama" character, which was unusual among Japanese comedians, in that he could satirize the deeds of powerful figures (a company president, a politician, a family head, a school principal, the head of a Japanese yakuza gang) under the garb of a foolish king who lived in the country a long time ago. Another popular shtick of Shimura in the same show was "Henna Oji-san" [weirdo] who entertained himself in the company of nubile girls. After being caught for his pranks, the character regularly ended the shtick with a song 'Sou desu. Watashi wa Henna Oji-san desu'. ("That is correct. I am Henna Oji-san.") He was also known for his nonsense catchphrase "Daffunda" which would often end a Henna Oji-san skit. Shimura was most famous for starring in Hachiji Da Yo! Zen'in Shugo! with the comedy group The Drifters and Fun TV with Kato-chan and Ken-chan with Cha Kato, another former member of The Drifters. Shimura's comedic work was inspired in part by that of Jerry Lewis.

Photo of Kyu Sakamoto

2. Kyu Sakamoto (1941 - 1985)

With an HPI of 69.68, Kyu Sakamoto is the 2nd most famous Japanese Singer.  His biography has been translated into 30 different languages.

Kyu Sakamoto (Japanese: 坂本 九, Hepburn: Sakamoto Kyū, born Hisashi Sakamoto (坂本 九, Sakamoto Hisashi) and raised as Hisashi Ōshima (大島 九, Ōshima Hisashi), 10 December 1941 – 12 August 1985) was a Japanese singer and actor. He was best known outside Japan for his international hit song "Ue o Muite Arukō" (known as "Sukiyaki" in English-speaking markets), which was sung in Japanese and sold over 13 million copies. It reached number one in the United States Billboard Hot 100 in June 1963, making Sakamoto the first Asian recording artist to have a number one song on the chart. Sakamoto died on 12 August 1985 in the crash of Japan Airlines Flight 123, along with 519 others on board the flight.

Photo of Mariya Takeuchi

3. Mariya Takeuchi (1955 - )

With an HPI of 63.76, Mariya Takeuchi is the 3rd most famous Japanese Singer.  Her biography has been translated into 19 different languages.

Mariya Takeuchi (竹内 まりや, Takeuchi Mariya, born 20 March 1955) is a Japanese singer and songwriter. Regarded as an influential figure in the city pop genre, she is one of the best-selling music artists in Japan, having sold over 16 million records, and has received several accolades. Takeuchi was born in Taisha, Hikawa district, now the city of Izumo, Shimane, and attended Keio University. She made her singing debut after signing with the RCA record label in 1978, with whom she released her debut album Beginning, which peaked at No. 17 on Oricon Charts. She then released four albums between 1979 and 1981, all of which obtained commercial success, including the 1980 album Love Songs, which became her first work to peak at No. 1 on Oricon Charts. Takeuchi then announced she would go on a temporary hiatus in 1981, terminating her contract with RCA records. Three years later, Takeuchi and her husband Tatsuro Yamashita signed with Moon Records, and she made her comeback with her sixth studio album Variety in 1984, which was released internationally and shot her to mainstream success, and peaked at No. 1 on Oricon Charts. The track "Plastic Love" was released in 1985 as a single, and became a surprise hit outside of Japan in 2017 after a YouTube upload of the song went viral. The song has since attained a cult following and is seen as the staple in a revival of interest in city pop in the late 2010s.Following the success of her ventures throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, Takeuchi began releasing albums less frequently, her latest release being in 2014 as she shifted her focus to work and release standalone singles. Since 1981, every single she has released has charted on the Oricon Charts. She has stayed with the Moon record label, working with the different branches since signing in 1984 and since 1998 has been signed with Warner Music Japan, with whom she released the single "Inochi no Uta" (いのちの歌, Song of Life) in 2012, for which she re-recorded in 2020; the latter of which charted at No. 1 on Oricon Charts, making her the oldest Japanese singer to achieve a No. 1 single.

Photo of Miyuki Nakajima

4. Miyuki Nakajima (1952 - )

With an HPI of 60.45, Miyuki Nakajima is the 4th most famous Japanese Singer.  Her biography has been translated into 16 different languages.

Miyuki Nakajima (中島 みゆき, Nakajima Miyuki) (born February 23, 1952, Sapporo, Hokkaidō, Japan) is a Japanese singer-songwriter and radio personality. She has released 43 studio albums, 46 singles, 6 live albums and multiple compilations as of January 2020. Her sales have been estimated at more than 21 million copies.In the mid-1970s, Nakajima signed to Canyon Records and launched her recording career with her debut single, "Azami Jō no Lullaby" (アザミ嬢のララバイ). Rising to fame with the hit "The Parting Song (Wakareuta)", released in 1977, she has since seen a successful career as a singer-songwriter, primarily in the early 1980s. Four of her singles have sold more than one million copies in the last two decades, including "Earthly Stars (Unsung Heroes)", a theme song for the Japanese television documentary series Project X. Nakajima performed in experimental theater ("Yakai") every year-end from 1989 through 1998. The idiosyncratic acts featured scripts and songs she wrote, and have continued irregularly in recent years. In addition to her work as a solo artist, Nakajima has written over 90 compositions for numerous other singers, and has produced several chart-toppers. Many cover versions of her songs have been performed by Asian (particularly Taiwan and Hong Kong) singers. She is the only musician to have participated in the National Language Council of Japan.

Photo of Akina Nakamori

5. Akina Nakamori (1965 - )

With an HPI of 59.87, Akina Nakamori is the 5th most famous Japanese Singer.  Her biography has been translated into 19 different languages.

Akina Nakamori (中森明菜, Nakamori Akina, born July 13, 1965) is a Japanese singer and actress. She is one of the most popular and top selling artists in Japan. Akina achieved national recognition when she won the 1981 season of the talent show Star Tanjō!. Her debut single "Slow Motion" was released to moderate success, peaking at number thirty on the Oricon Weekly Singles Chart. Nakamori's popularity increased with the release of her follow-up single, "Shōjo A", which peaked at number five on the Oricon charts and sold over 390,000 copies. Her second album Variation became her first number-one on the Oricon Weekly Albums Chart, staying in that position for three weeks. She made her acting debut in 1985 with an appearance in the Japanese romance movie Ai, Tabidachi. After an extended hiatus from 2010 to 2014, Akina released two compilation album, All Time Best: Original and All Time Best: Utahime Cover, both of which were commercially successful. As of 2011, Akina has sold over 25.3 million records and was named the third best-selling female Japanese idol singer of all-time.Within two years of her debut, Nakamori set herself apart from other singers of her generation with her mature songs and ability to change her image with the release of each new single. This provocative and rebellious image was to be the direct opposite of her pop rival, Seiko Matsuda, who projected more of a girl next door, sweet-natured charm.

Photo of Seiko Matsuda

6. Seiko Matsuda (1962 - )

With an HPI of 59.72, Seiko Matsuda is the 6th most famous Japanese Singer.  Her biography has been translated into 25 different languages.

Noriko Kamachi (蒲池 法子, Kamachi Noriko, born 10 March 1962), professionally known as Seiko Matsuda (松田 聖子, Matsuda Seiko), is a Japanese pop singer and songwriter, known for being one of the most popular Japanese idols of the 1980s. Since then, she is still actively releasing new singles and albums, doing annual summer concert tours, winter dinner shows, high-profile TV commercials and movies, and makes frequent TV appearances and radio broadcasts.Due to her popularity in the 1980s and her long career, she has been dubbed the "Eternal Idol" by the Japanese media. In January 2011, the Japanese music television program Music Station listed her as the 2nd best-selling idol of all time in Japan, with 29,510,000 records sold. She placed right behind pop group SMAP and ahead of Akina Nakamori, her biggest rival from the 1980s, who was listed in third place. In 2016, however, Ian Martin of The Japan Times compared her output unfavorably with that of Hikaru Utada, describing Matsuda as "first and foremost an idol rather than an artist. Her legacy is best expressed in singles rather than albums."Matsuda once held the record for number-one hits from 1983 to 2000 (broken by B'z) and for solo artist (broken by Ayumi Hamasaki in 2006). Matsuda was the overall finale performer of Kouhaku (Red White Music Battle) in 2014 and 2015, the prestigious NHK New Year's Eve Music show on which she has performed 24 times (until 2020).

Photo of Ayumi Hamasaki

7. Ayumi Hamasaki (1978 - )

With an HPI of 59.58, Ayumi Hamasaki is the 7th most famous Japanese Singer.  Her biography has been translated into 51 different languages.

Ayumi Hamasaki (浜崎あゆみ, Hamasaki Ayumi, born October 2, 1978) is a Japanese singer, songwriter, record producer, actress, model, spokesperson, and entrepreneur. Through her entire career, she has written all her lyrical content, and has sometimes composed her music. Born and raised in Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture, Hamasaki moved to Tokyo at 14 in 1993 to pursue a career in singing and acting. In 1998, under the tutelage of Avex CEO Max Matsuura, Hamasaki released her debut single "Poker Face" and debut major-label album A Song for XX. The album debuted at the top of the Oricon charts and remained there for five weeks, selling over a million copies. Her next ten albums shipped over a million copies in Japan, with her third, Duty, selling nearly three million. A Best, her first compilation album, is her best-selling album, with more than four million copies sold in Japan. Since 2006, after her album (Miss)understood was released, album and single sales have declined.Hamasaki has sold over 60.94 million units as of 2019, making her the best-selling Japanese solo artist in history. Hamasaki has several domestic record achievements for her singles, such as the most number-one hits by a female artist (38); the most consecutive number-one hits by a solo artist (25), and the most million-sellers. From 1999 to 2010, Hamasaki had at least two singles each year topping the charts. Hamasaki is the first female recording artist to have ten studio albums since her debut to top the Oricon and the first artist to have a number-one album for 13 consecutive years since her debut. Hamasaki's remix albums, Super Eurobeat Presents Ayu-ro Mix and Ayu-mi-x II Version Non-Stop Mega Mix, is recognized as one of the best selling remix albums of all time and remain as her only albums to be recognized in a worldwide accreditation.During the height of her career, Hamasaki was dubbed the "Empress of J-pop" because of her popularity in Japan and elsewhere in Asia. Following an ear infection in 2000, she has had worsening hearing loss and gradually became completely deaf in one ear.

Photo of Masashi Tashiro

8. Masashi Tashiro (1956 - )

With an HPI of 59.50, Masashi Tashiro is the 8th most famous Japanese Singer.  His biography has been translated into 24 different languages.

Masashi Tashiro (田代 まさし, Tashiro Masashi, real name pronounced the same, but written as 田代 政) (born August 31, 1956) is a former Japanese television performer and the founding member of the band Rats & Star. Tashiro was a tenor vocalist for Rats & Star, and later on made himself a name as a TV entertainer in Japan. He also directed a movie after his band broke up. His arrest for filming up women’s skirts in September 2000 marked the beginning of Tashiro's problems with the law.

Photo of Yumi Matsutoya

9. Yumi Matsutoya (1954 - )

With an HPI of 59.27, Yumi Matsutoya is the 9th most famous Japanese Singer.  Her biography has been translated into 16 different languages.

Yumi Matsutoya (松任谷 由実, Matsutōya Yumi, born January 19, 1954), nicknamed Yuming (ユーミン, Yūmin), is a Japanese singer, composer, lyricist and pianist. Generally the writer of both the lyrics and the music in her songs, she is renowned for her idiosyncratic voice and live performances, and is one of the most prominent figures in the history of Japanese popular music.Her recording career has been commercially successful with more than 42 million records sold. In 1990, her album The Gates of Heaven became the first album to be certified "2x million" by the RIAJ, and she has had twenty-one No. 1 albums listed on the Oricon charts. She is the only artist to have at least one number-one album every year on the Oricon charts for 18 consecutive years.After gaining several years of experience as a session musician, she debuted as a singer-songwriter in 1972. During her early career, she worked under her birth name Yumi Arai (荒井 由実, Arai Yumi). In 1975, Arai became known as a composer for "Ichigo Hakusho wo Mou Ichido", a commercially successful song recorded by the folk duo BanBan. She also gained popularity as a vocalist in the same year through the success of "Ano Hi ni Kaeritai", which became her first number-one hit on Japan's Oricon Charts. Other famous songs include "Haru-yo, Koi" and "Sweet, Bitter Sweet". In The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Japanese Culture, it is written that "Yuming incorporated influences from progressive rock and European pop to produce a sophisticated, upper-middle-class female Japanese voice and sound in a contemporary musical and journalistic world dominated by discussions of folk music and social critique. This musical idiom is generally thought to have been first realised on [...] Cobalt Hour". The album The 14th Moon and the three albums that ranked in the top 10 of the Japanese charts in 1976 (Cobalt Hour, Yuming Brand, and Hikōki-gumo) "contained several songs which are considered to be early classics of the J-pop genre."After marrying her musical collaborator Masataka Matsutoya in 1976, Arai began recording under her married name and has continued to do so. Throughout the 1980s, Matsutoya's music was prominently featured in advertisements for Mitsubishi Motors in her native Japan and her image was used to promote their vehicles. In addition to multiple hit singles, she has obtained enormous commercial success on the Japanese Albums Chart, particularly during the late 1980s and the first half of the 1990s. The magazine Shūkan Gendai ranked Matsutoya third (behind only Miyuki Nakajima and Masayoshi Son) in a list of the smartest Japanese figures that was determined based on the criteria of "intelligence, determination, sensibility and capability".

Photo of Izumi Sakai

10. Izumi Sakai (1967 - 2007)

With an HPI of 59.08, Izumi Sakai is the 10th most famous Japanese Singer.  Her biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Sachiko Kamachi (蒲池 幸子, Kamachi Sachiko, February 6, 1967 – May 27, 2007), known professionally as Izumi Sakai (坂井 泉水, Sakai Izumi), was a female Japanese pop singer, songwriter, and member of the group Zard. As Sakai was the only member who stayed in the group while others joined and left regularly, Zard and Sakai may be referred to interchangeably. She was the best-selling female recording artist of the 1990s and has sold over 37 million copies of sales, making her one of the best-selling music artists in Japan of all time.

Pantheon has 104 people classified as singers born between 1941 and 1999. Of these 104, 98 (94.23%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living singers include Mariya Takeuchi, Miyuki Nakajima, and Akina Nakamori. The most famous deceased singers include Ken Shimura, Kyu Sakamoto, and Izumi Sakai. As of October 2020, 22 new singers have been added to Pantheon including Ken Shimura, Yumi Matsutoya, and Momo Hirai.

Living Singers

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Deceased Singers

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Newly Added Singers (2020)

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Which Singers were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 6 most globally memorable Singers since 1700.