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YumeTwins Kawaii Culture BlogWho is Hatsune Miku? A Look Into a Japanese Culture Icon

Who is Hatsune Miku? A Look Into a Japanese Culture Icon

By Terrell
January 28, 2022

Japan has plenty of iconic singers including Utada Hikaru, LiSA, and kawaii fashion icon Kyary Pamyu-Pamyu. That being said, you can’t talk about famous Japanese singers without bringing up the adorable Hatsune Miku! You may have heard of her or seen her in videos, video games, and more. But who is Hatsune Miku and why is she a Japanese culture icon?

Let’s learn all about this unique, kawaii character and singer!

Who is Hatsune Miku?

A cutout of Hatsune Miku in a more winter-themed outfit with white and blue clothes and pigtails as she holds a digital snowflake.
Her iconic look includes her blue pigtails, but they often change color to match events or outfits, like this white and blue one for winter. Image via Shutterstock

Simply speaking, Hatsune Miku is a 16-year-old celebrity from Sapporo, Hokkaido who has sold out concerts, performed with and for celebrities like Lady Gaga and Pharrell Williams, and even made an appearance on David Letterman’s show. She has gorgeous blue hair (well, technically it’s cyan), and a signature long pigtail look similar to Usagi from magical girl anime Sailor Moon

Oh, we almost forgot! Hatsune has been 16 for about 15 years now. Confused? Well, she’s not a normal girl by any means. 

She’s actually not physically real, being the face of the Vocaloid software for the company Crytpon Future Media.

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Who is She Really?

‘Hatsune’ comes from the two kanji that together mean ‘first sound’. Meanwhile, ‘Miku’ means future. Put them together, and you get “the first sound of the future”, which is exactly what this virtual singer is. Not just in her design, especially those futuristic ribbons in her hair, but also in her origins.

She is literally a voice synthesizer, released in 2007, that many music creators have used to make well over 100,000 songs of their own. Her voice is based on the Japanese voice actress Saki Fujita, which turned out to be extremely popular with music makers who often shared their finished work with other creators. 

Even now, there are tons of YouTube videos featuring Hatsune Miku and her music. Her most popular songs then go on to become the ones featured in her concert tours and performances.

A Hatsune Miku design featured on a race car in an international race in Thailand.
She’s also a race car driver… well, she’s on a race car. That counts, right? Image via Shutterstock

How Does Hatsune Miku Perform?

Contrary to what you might think, Miku has performed live many times to packed and sold-out venues from Tokyo to Los Angeles. Her live concerts involve 3D performances of her singing and dancing to her most popular songs with live musicians. 

Again, her songs are created by others, making her a completely crowd and fan-sourced Japanese pop star. The 3D creation really is amazing and the technology behind it is super cool. 

Like we mentioned, she even opened for the first month of Lady Gaga’s ArtRave: The Artpop Ball tour. Even cooler from a technical view, she once did a music video with Japanese band Bump of Chicken, where she performed alongside the group in real time with no after-editing! 

A Sapporo train in 2015 with a Hatsune Miku winter design as the train pulls up to a stop with snow falling around it.
She’s so popular that she’s even on Sapporo trains. How did she manage that? Image via Shutterstock

Well, the answer is kind of long. First of all, the first vocaloid pack that came out didn’t initially feature our favorite virtual singer and was intended more for pro music producers. She was only created for the second version of the software and was a super cute mascot that attracted music enthusiasts instead of just pros. With her pack, she was given her signature anime fashion look, an age, height, and weight, but no real personality description. 

Without a set personality, artists could create any song or video they wanted, and it would still fit Hatsune Miku. On top of that, platforms like YouTube and the Japanese Nico Nico Douga, creators could share their content featuring the android pop star herself, with the most popular videos going viral to a certain extent. 

How Did She Become a Cultural Icon?

Much like many pop artists, Hatsune Miku doesn’t just sing. For starters, she’s appeared or has had references in various video games. Sega has featured her in rhythm video games ever since her debut in Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA, and she’s now one of the cutest Sega characters ever. She also had a Nintendo 3DS game called Hatsune Miku and Future Stars: Project Mirai.

She even has a variety of cameo or costume appearances in both Japanese games like Persona 4: Dancing All Night and Western Games like Just Dance and Skullgirls.

A Hatsune Miku figure sits in the snow with a special white and blue costume with wwhite pigtails and blue ends.
Fun Fact: Her long pigtails actually made her a prime target for merch since her pigtails allow for dynamic poses! Image via Shutterstock

More than just video games, she is also a character who represents Japan itself. Not only is she a great example of Kawaii culture; she’s also an unofficial mascot for Hokkaido. There are tons of Hokkaido goods featuring the iconic singer in all kinds of cool winter outfits. 

But even more than that, she was chosen as a representative of Japan after the 2011 tsunami that hit Japan. By that time, she was already a well-known character among young people, with her image appearing in music textbooks. So, after the earthquake, she became a mascot for Cheerful JAPAN!, a fund-raising event selling special figures where part of sales went to charities related to earthquake and tsunami relief. 

Hatsune Miku is a true icon of both Japan and Japanese technology. If you have the time, check out some of her concerts on YouTube!

Or if you’ve already heard her music, what’s your favorite Hatsune Miku song? Would you ever go to one of her 3D concerts? Let us know in the comments below!

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