10 Best Ever Japanese Albums

What is the highest rated Japanese music album of all time in the world? This page presents best Japanese albums of all time.

Helpfully, A web site Best Ever Albums ranks the best albums of all time. I would like to introduce a ranking of albums by Japanese artists extracted from this site (Rankings are as checked as of 5/22/2022).

Note:  This blog has two different rankings of the best Japanese albums. This page is a ranking of the best Japanese albums chosen by the world, and the following article is a ranking of the best Japanese albums:

10 Best Ever Japanese Albums Ranking

The top 10 best all-time Japanese albums are listed below.

These are not particularly well known in Japan, but are highly recommended for those who like that genre of music.

For each, here is a brief description and a link to the video of the song, along with a link to the appropriate page on Amazon.com.

#1 “98.12.28 Otokotachi No Wakare” by Fishmans (1999)


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Fishmans’ musical genres range from dub to dream pop to alternative rock. This is a live album by Fishmans. Fishmans is not so popular in Japan. However, they are a band that is enthusiastically supported by some music fans, and they have received very high acclaim at Rate Your Music (RYT).

This album was ranked by RYT as the best live album of all-time, surpassing Nirvana’s “MTV Unplugged in New York” and other legendary live albums.

For more information about Fishmans, see:
Recommended Japanese Albums: “Kuchu Camp” by Fishmans

 

#2 “Long Season” by Fishmans


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This is Fishmans studio album. It consists of one song nearly 40 minutes long, divided into 5 parts, with very little vocals. This long song is also included on the #1 live album above. The album reached a high of No. 100 on the Oricon charts in Japan…

Listen to Fishmans “Long Season” on YouTube

 

#3 “Vision Creation Newsun” by Boredoms (1999)


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Boredoms’ musical genres range from experimental rock, noise rock, psychedelic rock, and space rock. Boredoms is clearly a band that is more appreciated worldwide than in Japan. Many Japanese may not know that this Japanese band was the opening act for Nirvana’s U.S. tour.

They are known for their very experimental music and this album is on the easy listening side.

Listen to Boredoms “Vision Creation Newsun” on YouTube (The comments are interesting.)

 

#4 “Flood” by Boris (2000)


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Boris is a band of experimental music that goes beyond the confines of a heavy metal band.

Listen to Boris “Flood” on YouTube

 

#5 “Modal Soul” by Nujabes (2005)


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Nujabes is an artist who has established a branch of hip hop in the world and is referred as the “godfather” of lo-fi hip hop. In Japan, tennis player Kei Nishikori is a well-known fan of his music.

Listen to track #2 “Ordinary Joe” on YouTube

 

#6 “Uchu Nippon Setagaya” by Fishmans (1997)


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This is another studio album by the above-mentioned band Fishmans.

 

#7 “For You” by Tatsuro Yamashita (1982)


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Here, for the first time, an album by an artist known to most Japanese people was ranked. Backed by a wide range of musical expertise, this pop album was a big hit in Japan, reaching No. 2 on the annual album chart.

Listen to track #1 “Sparkle” on YouTube

 

#8 “FANTASMA” by Cornelius (1997)


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Track #1 “Mic Check” YouTube video

The album is a mix of various genres of music, like Beck’s. He is a popular artist in the music field known as Shibuya-kei, but in Japan he became more famous in a bad way over the Tokyo Olympics…

 

#9 “Super æ” by Boredoms (1998)


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This is a more avant-garde album by the previously mentioned Boredoms. When I first heard this album, I was astonished at what sounds they put into the songs.

Track #1 “Super You” YouTube video

 

#10 “Metaphorical Music” by Nujabes (2005)


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This is a beautiful album by Nujabes, whom I have mentioned before.

 

What I think as a Japanese

The global reputation of Japanese music differs considerably from its popularity in Japan. Even if you don’t like the J-POP music that dominates the Oricon charts in Japan, I want you to know that there is a lot of great music in Japan, including indie and minor bands.

J-POP is a music genre with special characteristics, and Japanese lyrics are difficult to understand, but I thought that good music is properly appreciated, just as Tatsuro Yamashita is appreciated.

By the way, this ranking is not for the masses, but rather for music enthusiasts. The only albums that might be acceptable to many people might be those by Nujabes and Tatsuro Yamashita.

The average Japanese person does not know much about the music of Cornelius, nor does he or she know about Nujabes.

If you like the above bands or Otoboke Beaver (a punk band introduced by Dave Grohl) and tell your Japanese acquaintances about them, they may be puzzled because they know no one but Tatsuro Yamashita.

 

Additional famous Japanese music albums

There are too few well-known Japanese artists in this ranking, so I would like to introduce additional artists by looking at more rankings.

The following are artists that many Japanese know and I think are music with a wider audience.

 

#13 “Solid State Survivor” by Yellow Magic Orchestra (1979)


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YMO is a group that made techno music, unfamiliar to Japan, a big hit. Members of YMO include Ryuichi Sakamoto and Haruomi Hosono, who is also a member of Happy End, which will be introduced next.

Watch YMO “Rydeen” video on YouTube

Ryuichi Sakamoto also created the following masterpiece for the soundtrack of a film he co-starred in with David Bowie.

Ryuichi Sakamoto “Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence” YouTube video

 

#18 “Kazemachi Roman” by Happy End (1971)


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Happy End is a pioneering Japanese rock band, although they did not have a hit when they were released in 1971. Happy End members include Haruomi Hosono and Eiichi Otaki. Eiichi Otaki released one of the most famous J-Pop albums and presided over the Niagara Records label, which produced Tatsuro Yamashita.

Listen to track #3 “Kaze wo atsumete” on YouTube

See also: Recommended Japanese Albums #1: “Kazemachi Roman” by Happy End

 

#33 “Shoso Strip” by Sheena Ringo (2000)


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She is a unique and talented female singer. Her emotional and expressive songs were a big hit in Japan and continue to influence young Japanese artists.

Watch “Honnou” video on YouTube

 

#46 “Spirited Away” by Joe Hisaishi (2001)


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This album is one of Ghibli’s movie soundtracks. He is responsible for the music of many of Ghibli’s films and is popular for his beautiful melodies.

Watch “One Summer’s Day” video on YouTube

His following song, used in the movie “Castle in the Sky”, is a well-known song sung in Japanese elementary school music classes:

Kimi wo nosete YouTube video

If you are more interested in music in Japan, see also:

10 Best Ever Japanese Music Albums Selected by Japanese