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Japan’s 10 best singing voices as chosen by people in the industry

25 Comments

Japanese music has a wide variety of artists, and like any country’s music scene it too is full of gimmicky sounds or imagery. Such music can be great and a lot of fun too, but there’s something about a naturally talented vocalist that demands our attention and respect.

But who in Japan is the greatest pure singer? Some of you may have already pulled up an image of your favorite Japanese singer while others are drawing a blank, still unable to shake the image of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu dancing with candy skeletons.

Luckily, the TV show "Suiyobi No Downtown" held their own ranking survey asking 200 people in the Japanese music industry from vocal trainers to studio engineers “Who is really good at singing?” Here are the results.

10th Place Akira Fuse [5 Votes]

Akira Fuse earns the 10th position due to his silky smooth treble range and frequent vibrato that one voter claims “shakes the heart.” Here we can watch as he seems to effortlessly make the steady climb in volume through My Way all the while maintaining that signature smoothness. As another voter put it “his skill is self-explanatory.”

9th and 8th Place [Tie] Atsushi & Yosui Inoue [6 Votes Each]

“Even while moving around on stage his voice doesn’t falter” is what the voters for one of Exile’s main vocalist are saying. Atsushi has the vocal stability of a rock as seasoned through countless performances. Here he is singing Let It Be with his usual confidence and beauty even in English.

Meanwhile, Yosui Inoue's soft rock stylings don’t fall into the typical mold of what some consider “great singing” but his voice as once voter describes it “soaks into your body and lingers.” Others mentioned how he shines when there is as little music to drown out his vocals as possible, so here’s one of his more mellow tracks "Riverside Hotel."

7th Place Miho Fukuhara [7 Votes]

Miho Fukuhara was celebrated by voters for her equally outstanding sense of pitch, beat, and volume. Many describe this combination as a more Western than Japanese style of singing, but great nonetheless.

6th Place Hikaru Utada [8 Votes]

Perhaps the most world-famous singer on the list, Hikaru is said to have a grove that’s in a “class by itself.” She can also emote songs of love and sadness in both Japanese and English with sincerity.

5th Place Miwa Yoshida [10 Votes]

Miwa Yoshida is known as the lead singer for Dreams Come True as well as one of my favorite names Funk the Peanuts. However, she stands alone in fifth place largely due to her versatility. One voter describes it best: “I can hear many techniques used in a single song.”

4th Place Rimi Natsukawa [13 Votes]

Everyone who voted for Okinawa’s Rimi Natsukawa unanimously said that she had the clearest voice they have ever heard. Some even went as far as saying that a microphone only gets in the way of her pristine vocals. It’s hard to argue listening to this version of Amazing Grace in both English and Japanese. I have to say I felt kind of disappointed when the band kicked in. They just seemed to get in the way.

3rd Place Superfly [15 Votes]

Shiho Ochi, the vocalist and kind of sole member of the rock group Superfly has won the respect of industry pros with her combination of raw power and high degree of control over her voice. One voter summed it up saying, “The volume of her voice balances well with her range.”

2nd Place Toshinobu Kubota [18 Votes]

Arguably the most preeminent Japanese R&B singers. Toshinobu Kubota has just as many fans for his charming personality as he does for his velvety voice. “He has a sense of rhythm beyond Japanese people,” said one rather racially self-deprecating voter. In the end, Kubota simply has a truly well-honed voice.

1st Place Koji Tamaki [25 Votes]

“I’m impressed by his extraordinary singing ability,” said one voter who wasn’t alone in that opinion as Koji Tamaki clinched the top spot by a relatively large margin. It would also seem that Tamaki’s fun personality which seems fused into his vocal work won the hearts of many voters. That what-you-see-is-what-you-get spirit is also found in his technique as one voter said, “his live voice sounds exactly the same as it does on CD without any modification.”

As always with lists of this type, many of you are probably feeling someone was left out. Many netizens brought up Aska and Misia as glaring omissions. However, looking at the numbers each singer got, the overall votes were spread pretty thin. So with the exception of Koji Tamaki, it looks as if any given Sunday we could be seeing a very different list.

Listen to Tamaki in the video below.

Source: Livedoor News

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25 Comments
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I'm surprised Tatsuro Yamashita didn't make the list.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Wish I could get into Japanese singers more, but haven't found any that really appeal to me.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Any Koji Tamaki fans out there should check out Sapporo based musician Yuya Hoshino. He is produced by Anzen Chitai guitarist Wataru Yahagi and frankly could step in for his obvious hero and have old Anzen Chitai fans wondering if they were listening to Tamaki himself. And he's a damn nice kid to boot!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

her outstanding sense of pitch, beat, and volume. Many describe this combination as a more Western than Japanese style of singing

Err, that's not a great compliment to "Japanese style singing".

On the side note, having a great range is pointless if you can't actually sing. It's not something to crow about in itself. If you think about it it's pretty obvious Axl would have a larger range than Mariah Carey who sings high all the time while Axl goes from very deep to very high. Not to say he's the better singer though.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I thought I would see the tone deaf SMAP oyaji on the list.

-2 ( +6 / -8 )

A whopping 25 votes for first place, huh? My vote goes for Miwa Yoshida.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Kind of surprised Kyosuke Himuro (especially from the BOowy years) didn't make the list.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

not a big fan of kubota, so i can't see why he beat yoshida and utada, who are two of my fav singers, period.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

not a big fan of kubota, so i can't see why he beat yoshida and utada, who are two of my fav singers, period.

Because this is not a list of your favs! No seriously, I'm not that big a fan of kubota either. His songs all sound the same to me.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Still love Tanimura Shinji's voice.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Always had a soft spot for Utada....but her English singing is not exceptional by any American standards. At All. Still has cute J-Pop tunes though.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Tatsuro Yamashita has a great voice. and miwa, while young and still "new", is greatly underestimated. Her voice is extremely pure and pleasant.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Oda Kazumasa. His voice is simply great, brilliant, pleasant.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I can't believe Miwa Yoshida made the list and Nakashima Mika didn't...

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Great stuff, JT. This is the kind of piece I come here to read.

My supermarket has the habit of playing groups with tone-deaf singers. It's not just bad music; every singer has trouble hitting the note, let alone holding it. Then there's the nasal intonation, like a cat on a B-Odori float.

I'm wondering why Ken Hirai didn't make the list. He's often cited as being the real deal. Riina Shingo and Ua deserve mention.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I tend to agree with Koji Tamaki being No. 1. Thought Hikaru Utada would score a bit higher, though.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I would've put Naotaro Moriyama on this list, along with Spitz's lead singer Masamune Kusano.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I can't believe Miwa Yoshida made the list and Nakashima Mika didn't...

Because Mika Nakashima should not be mentioned in the same sentance as Miwa Yoshida unless that sentence reads: Nakashima is not as good as Yoshida.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I think Oda Kazumasa has one of the best voices in Japan. His Christmas concerts are live, no backing tracks and not a note is played or sung out of place.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I am very happy to see Superfly high on the list. I actually buy her CDs and she is truly amazing.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Misia?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

6th Place Hikaru Utada [8 Votes]

Perhaps the most marginally known outside of Japan singer on the list, . . .

There, fixed it for you.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Never heard of any of these, but then I'm not well versed on Japanese music. If they haven't performed songs used in anime, chances are I haven't heard of them. Ok, I definitely haven't heard of them. Still, I might check these singers out, broaden my horizons and see how they compare to the Japanese artists I am familiar with.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I second the votes for Tanimura, Oda and Hirai. While he's still relatively new, would add Shimizu Shota as well. He got a standing ovation at the Apollo when he performed there.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Here is a LIVE performance by Superfly for those who never listen to any of her ballads.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRSQp1IPiGk

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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