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YumeTwins Kawaii Culture BlogFive Japanese Idol Groups You Should Give a Listen To

Five Japanese Idol Groups You Should Give a Listen To

By James Lau
April 27, 2022

We’ve talked about the types of Japanese idols. We’ve gone through the history of Japanese idol groups! It’s finally time to give you our recommendations of which idol group you should listen to!

NiziU

The girls of NiziU, one of the big Japanese idol groups, stand together and pose for a picture in many different cute outfits.
NiziU is part of the types of Japanese idols that is actually a kind of K-pop hybrid, performing in both Japan and South Korea. Image via Instagram

There’s no getting around it: NiziU is everywhere in Japan. Whether it’s advertisements playing on the billboards, commercials on TV, or on Coca-Cola bottles, you’ll find images of the members everywhere you look!

NiziU is a Japanese-Korean idol group formed by Sony Music Japan and JYP Entertainment. That last name sound familiar? It’s the same company that debuted Twice, ITZY, and Stray Kids among many other successful K-Pop groups. The group was first featured in the reality show, Nizi Project, where twenty-six girls auditioned and trained their skills until J. Y. Park finally decided which of the nine girls would debut as NiziU.

Today, NiziU is one of the most popular Japanese idol groups in the country. Their music can be heard everywhere, and many fans and dance groups enjoy covering their songs! They’ve recently released their new song “Asobo” that peaked at number 5 on Billboard Japan Hot 100 at time of writing.

JO1

Another Japanese-Korean group, JO1, was formed through the reality competition show, Produce 101 Japan. Viewers became “national producers” and could choose which of the 101 trainees would debut in the final group. The name, “JO1” refers to the “trainees who have dreamed together at Produce 101 Japan will become one and aim for the top of the world.”

The group immediately proved they weren’t just dreaming when they peaked at number one on the Oricon Singles Chart with their debut single, Protostar. They’ve also performed internationally in South Korea on the music show M Countdown. They also took part in KCON World Premiere: The Triangle in Yokohama, performing for a live audience. 

The boys of JO1, one of male Japanese idol groups, sit around with a pizza marking their 1-year anniversary, with many of them posing and some wearing face masks.
If you check out the JO1 Instagram, you’ll rarely find a picture of them that’s not promoting an album or one of their many brand deals. Image via Instagram

They are even YSL (Yves Saint Laurent) Beauty Japan’s first male brand ambassadors.

Some of their songs have also been featured in popular anime series like Boruto: Naruto Next Generations and Fanfare of Adolescence. The group also recently released their digital single “YOLO-konde,” with the lyrics and concept planned by the group’s members.

Want to add a bit of kawaii to your music listening time? Check out YumeTwins! YumeTwins sends super cute Japanese plushies, stationery, home goods, and more items perfect for a listening session right to your door all the way from Tokyo.

King & Prince

Affectionately known as KinPuri to adoring fans, King & Prince is (surprise, surprise) one of Johnny’s successful Japanese idol groups. They originally formed as two separate limited-time groups, Mr. King and Mr. Prince, as special supporters for TV Asahi’s Summer Station 2015 event. 

The members were selected from Johnny’s Jr trainees and separated into two three-man groups in hopes of sparking friendly competition with each other. The members stayed together after the event, performing in their own respective groups and events before they debuted together in January 2018.

Their debut single, “Cinderella Girl”, was released and sold over half a million copies in its first week, becoming the first debut single in over twelve years to do so and marking them as a monster rookie in the Japanese music industry. “Cinderella Girl” was even used as the theme song for the second season of Japanese drama, Boys Over Flowers, which one of their members also starred in.

They’ve recently released their new single “Lovin’ You/Odoru You ni Jinsei Wo”, which has already topped both the Oricon Singles and Billboard Japan Hot 100 charts, selling over 400,000 copies in the process!

Nogizaka46

A map of the Tokyo train lines with the focus on Nogizaka station where Japanese idol groups Nogizaka46 and the Johnny's & Associates groups are based.
Nogizaka46 isn’t this area’s only claim to fame. They’re also home to the Johnny’s headquarters! Image via Shutterstock

We know what you’re thinking, but no, the number is correct and so is the name. Nogizaka46 is the “official rival” of AKB48, but actually both Japanese idol groups are also produced by Yasushi Akimoto, the creator of AKB48. However, at its core, the groups are still different.

The number 46 was chosen to show that they won’t lose to their rival group (AKB48) even with two less members. They’re the first group in the Sakamichi Series, the others being Sakurazaka46, Yoshimotozaka46, and Hinatazaka46. Unlike the 48Group, their aesthetic is more elegant and refined, giving off a more mature charm as opposed to the usual kawaii aesthetic (cute aesthetic).

Many of their members also debut in movies or dramas and perform as models for fashion magazines in Japan! Like their rival group, their members also graduate over time, moving onto other parts of the entertainment industry or stopping altogether. To replace outgoing members, auditions are held so new members can enter the group as part of the next generation.

Their single, “Actually…”, released this March and features a fifth-generation member as the center position for the first time before she was replaced by two seasoned veterans from the first and third generation. The song quickly dominated the charts, peaking at number one for both Oricon and Billboard Japan Hot 100. It was even certified platinum with over 500,000 copies sold.

AKB48

You can’t hide from them; you can’t run from them. With their revolutionary concept of “idols you can meet” and popularity unrivaled by other female idol groups, AKB48 sits at the top of Japan’s idol food chain.

While AKB48 boasts the largest number of members in one group (over 120 idols at one point), they are internally split into several teams, each with their own theme. Team A is for freedom, Team B for cute, idol-like looks, and Team K for the strong, powerful image, all sharing the work among themselves. 

There is always a team who performs daily at their personal theater in their namesake Akihabara, while the other teams promote their group in other locations around the country. Either way, handshake events are popular parts of their appearances.

Need to show some love to your fave idols? Check out this blog to learn how to say ‘I love you’ in Japanese for your next handshake event.

Several members of an offshoot of one of the Japanese Idol Groups, AKB48, based in Taipei at the TTP festival in Taipei posing for the camera for many fans.
Whether it’s Japan or overseas, AKIB is one of the Japanese idol groups that emphasizes being accessible to their fans, like this offshoot based in Taipei. Image via Shutterstock

AKB48’s popularity has grown immensely in Japan, and they have since formed several sister groups, both domestically and internationally. They have six groups in total in Japan (SKE48, SDN48, NMB48, HKT48, and STU48), and groups in China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines are still actively working. 

AKB48’s popularity has also been recognized internationally, like when they sent 39 active idols to compete in the South Korean reality competition show, Produce48. In the end, three idols from the 48Group (AKB48’s Honda Hitomi and HKT48’s Yabuki Nako and Miyawaki Sakura) earned a spot in the show’s limited-time group, IZ*One. 

They promoted as part of IZ*One until the group disbanded, returning to Japan and their original groups.

AKB’s catchy songs have even been featured in movie soundtracks, and the group has been the subject of several anime, manga, and video game series. They are also promoted on their own television shows, featuring members in both reality and dramatic roles.

Many of their former members go on to other ventures after graduating, although most remain in the entertainment business. Some have even ventured into K-Pop, joining Korean talent agencies and earning spots in South Korean groups. AKB48’s Takahashi Juri is now part of Rocket Punch, while Miyawaki Sakura will debut in LE SSERAFIM later this year.

On May 18,2022, AKB48 will release their 59th single, “Moto Kare desu (It’s My Ex-boyfriend)”, featuring Honda Hitomi as the center.

Have you heard of these groups before? Which group is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below!

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