I’m not a big fan of what is commonly called “J-Pop” but when I lived in Japan I made a conscious effort to find some Japanese artists that I did like. I rented a lot of CDs (yes you can rent CDs in Japan — a good thing, since they are close to $30 apiece) and eventually found quite a number of artists that a liked a lot. But when I moved back to the US, I was pretty much cut off. It is possible to import Japanese CDs to the US, but it’s expensive and you certainly can’t do much experimenting with new bands that you’ve never heard of before.
When the iTunes Music Store opened in Japan, I had hoped that it would allow me to buy Japanese songs, much as the US version of the iTS had helped me keep in touch with American music while I was in Japan. But unfortunately, they required you to have a credit card with a Japanese billing address just to open an account. You can listen to the 30-second previews, but not download anything — even the weekly free songs.
However, I recently found out that if you buy an iTS prepaid card from Japan, you can use it to create a Japanese iTS account without any credit card at all, allowing you to download Japanese songs. There are even places on the net (such as J-List) that sell Japanese cards for this express purpose. There are instructions on the J-List page telling how to go about creating an account with a prepaid card. You need to have the card first, though, since if you try and create an account without it, it will insist that you have a credit card. The only tricky part is that you have to have a Japanese address of some kind (even though it will likely never be used). I don’t know how strict the system is about putting in a real address, but J-List has said that you can even use their address as a dummy. However, I couldn’t find their Japanaese address on the site, though, so you might need to contact them if you want to try that.
Anyway, I can finally download Japanese music now, so I’m happy. Here are some of my favorite Japanese artists. Clicking the links will take you to their iTS page. Unfortunately, the iTS doesn’t have the greatest selection for some of them — I have 13 albums by my favorite band Spitz, and only one of them is on the iTS. They do have a couple of greatist hits albums that have some of their best stuff, though. There are also some major artists that aren’t on the iTS at all, such as Mr. Children and the Southern All Stars.
UA (prononuced Ooh-Ah)
Chage and Aska