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Japanese culture and lifestyles through the eyes of NHK WORLD personalities

February 10, 2016

Japanese Music in the Eyes of the World

May J. / Singer

May J. is a multilingual singer who made her major-label debut in 2006. She is a regular presence on television, radio and in advertising. On NHK WORLD, she hosts the Japanese music show J-MELO.

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After making my singing debut at the age of 18, I appeared on NHK WORLD's music program J-MELO as a guest at 19 and became a host of the show at 20. Despite my lack of experience, I took the job in hopes of serving as a bridge between Japan and the world.

At the outset, I was surprised at how much e-mail we received from all over the world. Now I realize just how popular Japanese music is outside the country.

We've met with viewers abroad in visits to China, Dubai, England, France, Germany, Indonesia, Oman, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey and the US, performing for them and in some cases making surprise appearances at their homes.

At an event introducing Japanese anime and music, the venue was packed with fans dressed in their favorite costumes. The quality of their wardrobe was so good they looked like they'd jumped out of their favorite manga.

I have to confess, I get nervous when performing live at a new place abroad. I worry that the Japanese lyrics might be lost on the audience. So, I use facial expressions and gestures to help them feel the songs. On the other hand, I've found that many listeners have studied Japanese through song lyrics or just because they like the language. Speaking Japanese during the shows creates a sense of unity. It makes me feel at home even when I'm performing overseas. That's a sensation that never fails to delight me.

When we go on trips, we always interview people we meet. Some first encountered Japanese music through manga and anime; others came to it through theme songs of Japanese TV dramas and movies or video-sharing websites.

Japanese anime singers, pop idols, and visual-kei rock bands have fans everywhere we go. Some viewers know more about Japanese music than I do, filling me in about new artists. I still have a lot to learn through J-MELO.

International viewers often observe Japanese music has a wide variety of genres, as well as depth of lyrics. Some tell stories; others have thought-provoking messages. Viewers tell us those words heighten their appreciation of the songs.

The appeal of Japanese music transcends gender, ethnicity, and age. Through J-MELO, I have rediscovered how wonderful our music is and learned what kinds of songs touch our friends abroad. My role is sharing this music with the world, in hopes that even more people will come to enjoy it.

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May J. / Singer

May J. is a multilingual J-pop singer-songwriter and TV host who has roots in Japan, Iran, Turkey, Russia, Spain and the UK. She dreamed of being a singer at a young age and took up piano, dance, voice training and opera. Her wide range of activities includes modeling for clothing brands.
May J. made her recording debut at the age of 17, with a mini-album released in 2006. These days, she performs nearly a hundred shows per year. She has appeared on stages around the world in places such as China, England, Oman, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United States. Since 2008, she has been the host of NHK WORLD's Japanese music show, J-MELO.

QuestionWhere were you born and raised? Do you have roots anywhere else?
Born in Tokyo and raised in Yokohama. My mother is from Iran, and my father is from the Kansai area of Japan.
QuestionAny places you'd like to live besides Japan? Why?
Because of family ties, Los Angeles and Iran.
Question What's your favorite scenic spot in Japan?
I like walking along the Meguro river in Spring, when the cherry blossoms are beautiful.
Question What's the one thing that's essential to your life in Japan?
Shoyu (soy sauce), an essential condiment in Japanese cuisine!
Question What is your favorite Japanese word? Please briefly describe what it means in English.
"Arigato" (meaning "thank you"). It is a word that connects me with everyone.

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