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Hello Asia! Feature: Top 10 Japanese Music Industry Breadwinners

Japanese Pop can be credited to developing the Asian Pop scene, even though recently the international hype has died down a little bit, that doesn't mean the breadwinners of J-Pop aren’t still around and pumping out platinum hit after hit. Here are the top 10 best selling J-Pop artists of all time.

No.1: B’z

B’z is simply the king of J-Pop. A duet formed in 1988, B’z have a comprehensive list of awards and records under their belt. They were the first band from the entirety of Asia to have their handprints put on Hollywood’s RockWalk as well as the best selling artist in Japanese history with 81.46 million records sold and no one even comes close to that. There is no competition for B’z, they are and seems like forever will be the No.1 artist in Japan.

No.2: Mr. Children

The second best selling artist title lands with Mr. Children, another wildly successful 90’s era story. Mr. Children survived the J-Pop bubble burst of the early 00’s and have been awarded the title of the ‘ordinaries’ of the Japanese music scene with their boy next door laid back style. They were an inspiration to aspiring artists for most of the 90’s after forming at their local high school. 20+ years later and a whopping 58.42 million albums later, Mr. Children are still the older boys next-door heart-throbs.

No.3 Ayumi Hamasaki

Of course with the obsessive nature of J-Pop fans there had to be a female artist in the top 3 best selling artists. There is no other person suited for the title of the Empress of J-Pop than Ayumi Hamasaki. Oddly for Ayumi, although her albums are highly popular, her image is even more popular with countless appearances in commercials, product endorsements and TV shows. She is not only a musical best seller but also a product best seller globally. She has set fashion trends in Singapore, China and Korea. Ayumi’s career as a well-rounded sales product hasn’t faulted since her debut in 1998 and to date has sold 53.38 million records.

No.4: Southern All Stars

Japanese artists have a habit of keeping their fans loyal, literally spanning decades. A perfect example is the Southern All Stars. Established in 1978, this soft rock, blues band has held a massively successful career for more than 30 years with 47 million albums sold in Japan alone and they’re still going strong. They also hold the record for the most songs ever in the Oricon Top 100 weekly single chart.

No. 5: Dreams Come True

With the entire top 5 best selling artists in Japan all being established in the 1980’s and early 90’s there is an obvious trend that J-Pop fans were always big supporters of their domestic music. Coming in at No.5 is Dreams Come True who were formed in 1988. They were the first Japanese band to ever sell over 3 million albums. The band's international success can be credited to their involvement in the game Dance Dance Revolution as well as appearances in commercials for Coca Cola and Sony. Dreams Come True also composed songs for Sonic The Hedgehog. They were the musical creators behind most of our childhood’s most addictive games!

No. 6: Yumi Matsutoya

This jazz, folk singer-songwriter debuted in 1972 and has sold over 42 million records. Yumi is legendary in the Japanese music industry. Her status as a songwriter has lead to her composing songs for a number of high profile artists, brands and commercials such as Mitsubishi Motors. Yumi is a calm, collected and extremely talented musician, and this was cemented when her album The Gates of Heaven became the first album to be certified "2x million" by the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ). She is officially the only artist in history to have at least one number-one album every year on the Oricon Charts for 18 consecutive years.

No.7: Glay

The first Visual Kei band to come into our list. Glay debuted in 1988 with a unique concept for this era of Japanese music. Although, after a number of years their image has become less dramatic we still like to think they had a major influence on the genre we see in today’s music. This rock heavy boy band hadn’t even made it to their high school graduation before becoming idols in their hometown. Unlike the more popular artists on our list, Glay faced very hard times in the beginning of their career. At some points they were actually rejected from performing due to their low popularity. Moving forward only a couple of years, their perseverance definitely paid off and in 1996 they got their first No.1 hit on the Oricon charts. They became so popular in Japan that when tickets for their 1998 concert went on sale, the telephone system in Japan collapsed due to the mass number of fans ringing for tickets. Glay has sold over 38.20 million albums to date.

No.8: Zard

Zard holds a special place in the hearts of many Japanese music fans. Zard was originally a band however the members often left and returned, so ultimately the lead singer Izumi Sakai was considered as Zard, the solo singer. Izumi wrote songs for many other Japanese artists and was most famously known for her many highly regarded singles. Zard’s songs were used in Animes such as Dragon Ball Z GT and Detective Conan. Izumi was also responsible for the theme song for Nippon Television programs. Thanks to her songs being featured in many popular everyday situations, Zard became a household name. Sadly the face of Zard, Izumi passed away in 2007 from the return of cancer. Zard sold over 37 million records.

No.9: Hikaru Utada

Hikaru has so many awards and records it’s hard to calculate all of them, ultimately anything she does becomes a hit. She holds the title of the best selling album in Oricon history, which by the way was her debut album. She hit success instantly in Japan. Utada could only keep going up from there and she continued to smash the charts until her hiatus in 2011. Of course as she was one of the most successful artists in Japanese music history, a rest is well deserved. Kikaru Utada was also given the title ‘the most influential artist of the decade’ by The Japan Times. Utada has also hit it big in the western music market with her songs being included in the American movies Rush Hour 2 and Blow My Whistle. To date Utada has sold over 35 million records.

No.10: SMAP

The ultimate 1990’s boy group of Japan has to be SMAP, even now young fans swoon over these now married men. SMAP debuted in 1991 with 6 members however there are now only 5. The image of SMAP’s members are instantly recognizable all over Japan. Still today you can see their faces on trains, drinks, random phone cases...everywhere. Nowadays, the men of SMAP still release at least one single a year but they are more famous as individual members endorsing variety shows, dramas and movies. SMAP have sold over 34 million albums and are continuing to be one of the highest commercial celebrity earners outside of the music industry in Japan.

Source: Oricon Charts