I’ve shopped around for listicles of weird Japanese band names, and there certainly are some. But this listicle isn’t just about “weird names”: anyone can start an obscure band and name it some strange obscure thing.
Trust me, I’ve done this plenty of times, having named my bands things like Ppavaartaana and Hello? Noisy! (the latter was actually our name translated from the original which was for some reason in Japanese: もしもしうるさい！/ Moshi Moshi? Urusai!).
No, the bands on this list are popular bands, often with HUGE followings. That is why it is all the more ridiculous that these bands actually exist with these names.
Thing is, three of these five bands were named by John Hiromu Kitagawa, aka Mr. Johnny. He is the founder and director of “Johnny and Associates”, a company that promotes male pop idol type bands. Johnny is the leading figure in Japanese boy bands, since forever. He basically invented the Japanese boy band thing, and at 87 years old, he is the longtime king of kingmakers in that scene.
Under Johnny’s direction, many young men have been made famous by exploiting their good looks and the Japanese public’s discerning taste. You know, like the well-known love of square watermelons, expensive toilets that spray your ass in ten different ways, and porn that isn’t allowed to show penetration (along with insane comic porn of monsters raping fairies—so civilized).
Some of Johnny’s famous bands happened to be given ridiculous names. Perhaps it adds to their mystique? I would think maybe English as a second language helps to make these names “more cool”, but apparently Mr. Johnny was born in Los Angeles, CA, and does speak English.
There are other “non-Johnny” bands that have ended up popular, even with (or because of?) their weird names. But the names of these bands aren’t as weird as those of Johnny’s. Which is why they are the first up, since this list is in reverse order (countdown style).
In reverse order:
5) Mr. Children
Heavy rock! Mister Children isn’t creepy on its face; more just a contradiction in terms. However, it could certainly be interpreted as having pedophiliac connotations. From what I hear, Mr. Children is maybe the most actually band-like band on this list. They both write their own songs and play their own instruments. Their music isn’t particularly innovative, but it’s, um, understandable. It’s rock-ish. It’s pop-like. There is showmanship. If this list were based on musicality rather than band name weirdness, they might be #1 not #5.
4) Bump of Chicken
Ok, so did the chicken bump you? Are you taking “a bump” of chicken, like some sort of drug? No. According to one completely random fanpage (the “go-to” source for J-Pop info), the name emerged from “a derpy attempt at translating “cowards strike back” or “attack of the cowards” that just stuck”.
Hmmm. I think I prefer to make up my own explanation for “the Bump”.
As for their sound, I get the sense that it’s really more about image:
Also known as “Kiss My Feet 2”. I think of this band as being the second formation of the original, more obscure “Kis-My-Ft” (which they are). Let that sink in: the name worked so well the first time around it was worth rehashing as a sequel.
…but really, the name was based on the members’ combined names. The first letters of each member’s last names put together (Misters Kitayama, Senga, Miyata, Yokoo, Fujigaya, Tamamori); The “ni” from Mr. Nikaidō means “2” in Japanese. Boring.
Still, kissing feet is something everyone can relate to. And if a sexy boy band is telling you to “kiss their feet”, why wouldn’t you buy their album? And poster? Or overpriced ticket to a concert? There might not be live instrumentation, but at least there’ll likely be a live human being singing to you, which is an advance on the phenomena of Hatsune Miku, a virtual “singer” whose concerts attract millions.
2) Sexy Zone
I hear that Mr. Johnny named this band after Michael Jackson, who, after all, was very often in the sexy zone. At least, Mr. Johnny definitely thought so. Mr. Johnny and Mr. Jackson have/had some things in common, like being accused of child sexual abuse (I know this isn’t really a funny thing, but it’s a noteworthy aspect that both pop star and pop star kingmaker share). But clearly, what really unites them is a dedication to the best pop music.
The “best” is of course subjective. To me, Sexy Zone sounds like crap. But hey, I’m not Japanese, and my musical tastes have been pretty unconventional to begin with.
Besides being the weirdest of the bunch, this name is also fun to say. Smmmmmmm-AP! Shmap! What’s more is it’s an acronym for Sports Music Assemble People. Because that’s what Japanese people like I guess. Have a look-listen.
Really, though, SMAP is number one on this list because the name is amazing, but also this band has been at the top of the game for 20+ years. And they still look like they are 20 years old! One member had a drunk-and-naked-in-the-park scandal, while another left to take up motorbike racing. All the remaining members star in a cooking show—the most popular show on Japanese TV EVER.
These guys are clearly multi-talented (though everybody knows that member Masahiro Nakai can’t sing), and Johnny christened them with the most appropriate, all-encompassing name possible, which never ages. SMAP forever! Once SMAP, always SMAP.