Recently a friend asked me if there were any original Japanese Christmas songs I could recommend since they had never heard of any. I was shocked since I could easily think of several dozen off the top of my head and assumed they could too seeing as they were also a fan of Japanese music. See, Christmas music is something I really enjoy and Japanese Christmas music holds a special place too. So with that in mind I set out to make a list of my favorite Japanese Christmas songs both for my friend and for everyone else!
Well, when I started that list I realized that it was LONG and that it was all over the place genre-wise. Also, it's worth noting that there are a lot of "winter" songs in Japan that have that Christmas feel, but really aren't Christmas songs in the traditional sense. So compiling a list like this turned out to be harder than I first thought. After some deliberation I decided to narrow the focus to Japanese idol Christmas songs. So here is my list! A few notes though. First, while this list has the "Top 10" feel it isn't so much a ranking as much as just a collection of my ten favorite idol Christmas songs. You can get a slight feel for my favorites depending on where the song is placed in the list, but for the most part I did not try to rank them and as you can see I didn't number them. Also, this list is by no means comprehensive. There are many more songs I didn't include for various reasons; mainly space. Also, I only included original songs so you won't find any covers of English Christmas songs here. (There are a LOT of those by the way) Make sure to check them out and build your own idol Christmas playlist!
e-girls - Merry x Merry XMas
e-girls have a new Christmas song this year! The production values are high, the outfits and sets are beautiful and the girls all look amazing. Why don't I place this higher on the list you ask? Well, I have to admit that it's a great song, but I personally prefer Mr.Snowman to this one. That is a matter of personal preference though and I'm sure many out there will disagree with me on this one. That said, this song isn't a bad one I just feel that the whole package was presented just a little better last year. Don't let my opinion keep this one from your Christmas playlist though! It's already on mine!
Shige-pink & Kohappink - Wa~ MERRY Pin X'Mas!
Kusumi Koharu was always my Morning Musume oshi so I had to add this one here. I am not a huge fan of the cuteness overload that you hear in this song, but it's cute and catchy so we'll just leave it here nonetheless! Besides Kusumi you also get Sayumi in her earlier years, so there's that as an added bonus though I personally feel that Shige-pink and Kohappink borderlined on cringe-worthiness at times. Once again, personal preference here. Mild criticism aside, this is a standard for every holiday season in my opinion. Whether this is your preferred style or not, it's one that you should check out!
Petit Moni - Pittari Shitai X'Mas!
More Hello! Project songs! This time it's Petit Moni, which was a group that had my first Hello! Project/Morning Musume oshi, Goto Maki. This was a single for Petit Moni and while I always found it weird when seasonal songs are released as singles (Since they can only be played at one time of the year) I think this one stands out. It has the old-school Tsunku-vibe to it and has been covered countless times by other Hello! Project artists over the years in concert. Seeing as this comes from the height of the Morning Musume boom, the production values are high and this song stands the test of time without sounding too dated. A great addition!
SCANDAL - Koibito ga Santa Claus
"Koibito ga Santa Claus" is one of the Japanese Christmas songs that you can't get away from. Originally recorded by Yumi Matsutoya it has been covered more times than I can possibly think of. It's a Christmas standard in Japan and the version here is from all-girl rock band Scandal. Not quite an idol cover, but it's the best I could find on short notice! That said, it's a classic for a reason. This is an amazing song that can lend itself to many different musical styles not just its original pop or even the rock you see here. If you're making a Japanese holiday playlist just throw in a half dozen of versions of this and you're halfway there!
Vanilla Mood - X'Mas Melody
Vanilla Mood is an odd one. They were a four piece band (currently three) that played their own instruments (piano, flute, violin, and cello) but they were marketed as idols circa their debut. We at A-To-J have worked with other artists that are marketed as idols even though we feel they belong in more mature categories so we're no stranger to this, but it was still an odd choice of marketing for the group at the time. That being said this song is an amazingly beautiful song that you should check out! Vanilla Mood was never too popular either so there is a very good chance that this is the first time you're hearing of them. Also it's worth noting that this version of the song is actually a re-recording as vocalist/pianist, Keiko, recorded this song solo prior to this group version. Keiko's solo version was originally released on a Christmas compilation of other original Japanese Christmas songs, but that's for another article. This one is just a little fuller with the other girls performing as well.
Buono! - -Winter story-
Want an idol Christmas song with just a hint of rock? Then look no further than Buono!'s "Winter Story"! I am a huge fan of all things Buono so this was kind of a given. It was actually this song that really inspired me to track down other idol Christmas songs. Buono might have dissolved with the graduation of Berryz Koubou, but thanks to recent announcements I think it's safe to assume that those watching the Hello! Countdown live this year will most likely have the joy of seeing this song performed live! The English is the chorus just a little off (something that can make or break a song in my opinion) but it never feels too jarring and taken in its entirety it is a very upbeat song that is hard to dislike no matter what your preference is. The rock stylings, complete with the occasional live instruments, help set this one apart from the rest. Definitely one to check out!
ZYX - Shiroi Tokyo
Okay in case you haven't noticed there is a lot of Hello! Project love on this list. While there is a certain bias towards them there is also the fact that they have put out an amazing number of Christmas songs over the years! Many of them were singles too which is even less common. This was the second (and ultimately last) single for the group ZYX and they went out with a bang! One of the catchiest Christmas songs, this song would become one of the most covered songs in concerts during the holiday season. Also owing to when it was released, it has that fun early 2000s idol vibe that you just don't see in music today. A great addition to your holiday music collection!
e-girls - Mr.Snowman
Up now is another one from avex idol supergroup e-girls with "Mr.Snowman"! This song has it all, a catchy melody, uplifting lyrics and beat and an amazingly colorful video to go along with it! If you want a fun song to share with loved ones this year then look no further! Being as e-girls is made up of several smaller idol groups, the video has a refreshing feel as each group/girl take center stage. Being that they're avex they also have some of the greatest songwriters at their disposal to write what is sure to become a Japanese Christmas standard. At the rate e-girls are going they might just overtake Hello! Project in the number of Christmas songs in their catalog. While I love Hello! Project Christmas songs, this is something I'd be really happy to see!
C-ute - Aitai Lonely Christmas
Most of the other songs on this list are upbeat ones, well now we have C-ute's "Aitai Lonely Christmas". Other songs on this list actually have lyrics that lean more towards sad, but this song is different in that you can actually feel it in the music and video whether or not you know the lyrics themselves. This has to be my favorite idol Christmas song period. The song is well-written and arranged, the track is powerful and different than your typical Christmas song and the girls look great in a video that had decent production values for contemporary Hello! Project. It is also worth noting that we at A-To-J have a certain bias to C-ute these days and love to mention them whenever we can! That said, you should really check this song out. Great vocal performances and the song's message of longing can add a different feel to any holiday playlist.
SOLIDEMO - Christmas Eve
Okay, this is the other song-every-Japanese-artist-covers-on-Christmas song! There are countless covers of this song, both official and unofficial. Why is this you ask? Well, this song is just so perfect! Tatsuro Yamashita recorded this song in the early 90s in both Japanese and English. The Japanese version has been featured in countless movies and dramas and was recently re-recorded last year. There have been all sorts of covers too over the years. Instrumental, jazz, rock, versions in other languages, it is safe to say that this is Japan's most popular Christmas song. The version here is one by avex group, SOLIDEMO. This video was literally just uploaded Christmas Eve 2015 (yesterday at the time of writing) and is one of the best performances of this song I've ever heard. We at A-To-J were lucky enough to interview SOLIDEMO earlier this year too and they are the friendliest group you could ever hope to meet! Also, since this is an idol Christmas music playlist, I figured it'd be best to find one of the many idol covers of this song. So, if you're putting together that holiday playlist, be sure to throw in a few versions of Christmas Eve!
Also....just for fun and because we at A-To-J also cover visual kei, here is my favorite visual kei Christmas song! Yes those exist!
Mix Speaker's Inc. - My wish [Horror] X'Mas
Want some visual kei on Christmas? Well, there are actually lots of Christmas songs by visual kei artists, both original and otherwise. Perhaps this is a list I will compile for next year, we shall see. In the meantime here is my personal favorite, Mix Speaker's Inc.'s "My wish [Horror] X'Mas". While Mix Speaker's Inc. have recently gone through a significant change in vocalists after the departure of Yuki, I think they were a special band in the early days and had a chemistry you don't see too often in visual kei. While this song is something of a departure for the group at the time (also worth noting that this was a single release) it has all the hallmarks of a Christmas classic. It rocks at just the right levels without being too heavy and has the timeless feel that ensure that this is a future classic in the making. If you haven't heard it yet then check it out!
There you have it, my picks for an idol Christmas playlist. I repeat that this list is in no way comprehensive. There are countless other idol Christmas songs out there that I know of and there are probably far more that I am unaware of, but this should be enough to get you into the holiday feeling! 'Til next year! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!