The long-running Japanese music program Music Station recently held a nation-wide survey polling 10,000 people on what they thought were Japan’s most world-class songs. Respondents told the TV show which songs they felt best represented Japan, throwing up popular artists such as Arashi and Mr. Children, and the results were aired on 23 September.

As with any music ranking, the results are open for debate, and this list is certainly no exception. However, looking at the top 10, it’s hard not to wonder where Music Station found the people who were asked to name Japan’s greatest ever song, and many Japanese netizens are calling the list “a national embarrassment”.

Are they right? Let’s find out by kicking things off with the 10th Best World Class Song: “Koi Suru Fortune Cookie” by AKB48.

#10 – “Koi Suru Fortune Cookie” by AKB48

A lot has been said about the four dozen or so girls who make up the idol unit AKB48, and a fair chunk of it is not especially kind. I’ll spare you the details, but words like “insipid,” “degrading,” and “garbage” tend to pop up fairly regularly.

However, for every detractor, there is a passionate fan who will tell you that this music is more about having fun than experimenting with complex chord progressions or embarking on some kind of social commentary. If you take this song for what it is and try not to look too deep, you too may just find yourself tapping your foot and murmuring the random English lyrics to this 2013 hit.

#9 – “Subaru” by Shinji Tanimura

Much less controversial is this tender ballad from Shinji Tanimura, originally recorded in 1980. Beyond Tanimura’s silky voice, this song was actually an impetus for him to begin crusading for improved relations between China and Japan. Sure, things seem to be deteriorating rapidly of late, but at least he’s trying.

#8 – “Sakura Zaka” by Masaharu Fukuyama

Here we have a turn of the millennium offering from actor/musician Masaharu Fukuyama. This pop rock ballad shows that sakura (cherry blossoms) are an enduring symbol in Japan, surprisingly never falling into the realm of the cliché.

#7 – “Ito” by Miyuki Nakajima

You might not recognize “Ito” by name, but if you’ve watched any Japanese television since its release in 1992 you’ve probably heard its mellow melody in one of the numerous shows and commercials that feature it.

#6 – “Eikou No Kakehashi” by Yuzu

Boy, people in Japan sure do love ballads; here’s another one from Yuzu. It’s likely this one evokes good feelings and happy memories from its use as NHK’s official anthem of the 2004 Olympic Games.

#5 – “Tsunami” by Southern All-Stars
NOTE: This video is a cover version by Masahiro Taichi, not the Southern All-Stars’ own.

At least the tempo is picking up a little bit with this hit single from the year 2000. Despite the overkill in soft music, a band who has managed to keep putting out hits in the Japanese music scene as long as the Southern All Stars have certainly should take a place in the top 10.

#4 -” Sakura (Solo)” by Naotaro Moriyama

Things were getting a little rowdy there with that last song, so here’s Naotaro Moriyama to bring up back down to earth again with his emotional and almost instrument-free rendition of his hit song “Sakura” from 2003.

#3 – “Kawa No Nagare No Yo Ni” by Hibari Misora

Hibari Misora is considered to be something of a national treasure in Japan and was one of the highest-earning musicians in the country. The enka hit “Kawa No Nagare No Yo Ni” was her final single soon before her death in 1989 and was voted the nation’s greatest song in a 1997 poll of 10 million people by NHK. But if this is coming in at number three, what could have surpassed it this time?

#2 – “Ue wo Muite Aruko (aka Sukiyaki)” by Kyu Sakamoto

Many times in conversation someone will bring up this Kyu Sakamoto hit and look at me with shock when I say I never heard of it before. It’s understandable, as the song topped the charts in the USA, Canada, and Australia in the early ’60s thanks at least in part to its cheerful pop melody. That’s no mean feat for any non-English song, and very good reason to be ranked highly among the most world-class songs from Japan.

But there is one tune that, according to voters, is even more highly regarded…

#1 – “Sekai Ni Hitotsu Dake No Hana” – SMAP

It’s hard to walk into a karaoke place anywhere in Japan and not hear a group of people belting out this 2003 SMAP single. It certainly is a very catchy pop tune, and SMAP certainly are permanent fixtures in Japanese entertainment which makes them a reasonable choice for this list. But do they really deserve the number-one spot?

Readers of the list had a lot to say about it. As you might imagine, none of them could agree.

“Was number one supposed to be the most hated song in the world?”
“Why not Kyary Pamyu Pamyu or Babymetal? Those are the acts that people are listening to around the world nowadays.”
“Music after the year 2000 really started to suck.”
“No one even knows that number-one song outside of Japan, and no one cares about enka out there either.”
“I’m seriously disturbed by number 10.”
“This is a sad state of affairs.”
“Oh great, the song we’re most proud of was from that guy who got arrested for drug abuse.”
“No anime songs?”
“Every track except numbers 2 and 3 are garbage.”
“The Super Mario Bros. theme song should be number one.”

I’d have to agree that the Super Mario theme song is probably the most globally loved Japanese song today. Regardless, it seems no one was happy with the choices for a variety of reasons. By the way, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and Babymetal did actually appear in the top 100, at 74 and 68 respectively.

Also, although it probably wasn’t what the one commenter had in mind, a few songs from animation made the top one hundred, such as the theme songs from Evangelion (65), Doraemon (91), and Anpanman (84). Even Hatsune Miku, who exists somewhere between the real and animated, came in at a respectable 25th place.

We’ll leave you with the full list of 100. Let us know if you think this ranking is bogus too, or if you one of those rare magical creatures who thinks it’s right on the money.

1 「Seikai Ni Hitotsu Dake No Hana」 SMAP(2003)
2 「Ue wo Muite Aruko (aka Sukiyaki)」 Kyu Sakamoto(1961)
3 「Kawa No Nagare No Yo Ni」 Hibari Misora(1989)
4 「Sakura(Solo)」 Naotaro Moriyama(2003)
5 「Tsunami」 Southern All-Stars(2000)

6 「Eiko No Kakehashi」 Yuzu(2004)
7 「Ito」 Miyuki Nakajima(1992)
8 「Sakura Zaka」 Masaharu Fukuyama(2000)
9 「Subaru」 Shinji Tanimura(1980)
10 「Koi Suru Fortune Cookie」 AKB48(2013)

11 「Arigatou」 Ikimono-gakari (2010)
12 「A・RA・SHI」 Arashi(1999)
13 「Akai Sweet Pea」 Seiko Matsuda(1982)
14 「Hitomi wo Tojite」 Ken Hirai(2004)
15 「First Love」Hikaru Utada(1999)

16 「Rising Sun」 Exile(2011)
17 「Ultra Soul」 B’z(2001)
18 「Jidai」 Miyuki Nakajima(1975)
19 「Ii Hitabidachi」 Momoe Yamaguchi(1978)
20 「Nandodemo」Dreams Come True(2005)

21 「Can You Celebrate?」 Namie Amuro(1997)
22 「Shonen Jidai」 Yosui Inoue(1990)
23 「Itoshi No Eri」 Southern All Stars(1979)
24 「Dragon Night」 Sekai No Owari(2014)
25 「Senbonzakura」 Hatsune Miku(2011)

26 「Natsuyo, Koi」 Yumi Matsutoya(1994)
27 「Kazoku Ni Naro Yo」 Masaharu Fukuyama(2011)
28 「R.Y.U.S.E.I.」 3rd Generation J Soul Brothers from EXILE Tribe(2014)
29 「Aisansan」 Hibari Misora(1986)
30 「RPG」 Sekai No Owari(2013)

31 「Kiseki」 GReeeeN(2008)
32 「Love Phantom」 B’z(1995)
33 「Nada Soso」 Rimi Natsukawa(2001)
34 「Guts!」 Arashi(2014)
35 「Matsuri」 Saburo Kitajima(1984)

36 「Yokai Taiso Daiichi」 Dream5(2014)
37 「innocent world」 Mr.Children(1994)
38 「Automatic」 Hikaru Utada(1998)
39 「Love Love Love」 Dreams Come True(1995)
40 「Makenaide」 Zard(1993)

41 「Cosmos」 Momoe Yamaguchi(1977)
42 「Natsuiro」 Yuzu(1998)
43 「Polyrhythm」 Perfume(2007)
44 「Yozora No Muko」 SMAP(1998)
45 「Nippon」 Ringo Sheena(2014)

46 「Tsugaru Kaikyo・Fuyu Geshiki」 Sayuri Ishikawa(1977)
47 「Tsubomi」 Kobukuro(2007)
48 「However」 Glay(1997)
49 「Everything」 Misia(2000)
50 「Ai wo Komete Hanataba wo」 Superfly(2008)

51 「Sen No Kaze Ni Natte」 Masafumi Akikawa(2006)
52 「Kureinai」 X Japan(1989)
53 「Miagete Goran Yoru No Hoshi wo」 Kyu Sakamoto(1963)
54 「Heavy Rotation」 AKB48(2010)
55 「Desire-Jonetsu-」 Akina Nakamori(1986)

56 「Yoake No Scat」 Saori Yuki(1969)
57 「Jupiter」 Ayaka Hirahara(2003)
58 「Choo Choo Train」 Exile(2003)
59 「Merry Christmas Mr.Lawrence 」 Ryuichi Sakamoto(1983)
60 「Donna Toki Mo.」 Noriyuki Makihara(1991)

61 「Shima Uta」 The Boom(1993)
62 「Tentai Kansoku」 Bump Of Chicken(2001)
63 「Kanpai」 Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi(1980)
64 「Story」 AI(2005)
65 「Zankokuna Tenshi No Teze (A Cruel Angel’s Thesis)」 Yoko Takahashi(1995)

66 「Garasu No Shonen」 Kinki Kids(1997)
67 「Okuru Kotoba」 Kaientai(1979)
68 「Gimme Chocolate」 Babymetal(2014)
69 「Tegami – Haikei Jugo No Kimi He -」 Angela Aki(2008)
70 「Cherry」 Spitz(1996)

71 「Niji」 L’Arc~en~Ciel(1997)
72 「Atohitotsu」 Funky Monkey Babys(2010)
73 「Ai Ha Katsu」 Kan(1990)
74 「Fashion Monster」 Kyary Pamyu Pamyu(2012)
75 「Ai No Memory」 Shigeru Matsuzaki(1977)

76 「Sayonara」 Off Course(1979)
77 「Yuki No Hana」 Mika Nakashima(2003)
78 「Kabutomushi」 Aiko(1999)
79 「Christmas Eve」 Tatsuro Yamashita(1983)
80 「Agehacho」 Porno Graffitti(2001)

81 「Owari Naki Tabi」 Mr.Children(1998)
82 「Himawari No Yakusoku」 Motohiro Hata(2014)
83 「Guts Daze!!」 Ulfuls(1995)
84 「Anpanman March」 Dreaming(1988)
85 「M」 Ayumi Hamazaki(2000)

86 「Happiness」 Arashi(2007)
87 「Hanamizuki」 Yo Hitoto(2004)
88 「J.Boy」 Shogo Hamada(1986)
89 「My Revolution」 Misato Watanabe(1986)
90 「I Love You」 Yutaka Ozaki(1991)

91 「Yume wo Kanaete Doraemon」 Mao(2007)
92 「Konayuki」 Remioromen(2005)
93 「Chijo No Hoshi (Earthly Stars)」 Miyuki Nakajima(2000)
94 「Let It Go (Japanese language version)」 Takako Matsu(2014)
95 「Wadashimi No Ki」 Chitose Hajime(2002)

96 「Mirai Yosozu II」 Dreams Come True(1989)
97 「Forever Love」 X Japan(1996)
98 「Yuki 100%」 Hikaru Genji(1993)
99 「Sekai No Kuni Kara Konnichiwa 」 Haruo Minami(1967)
100 「Sakura」 Kobukuro(2005)

Source: News via Itai News (Japanese)
Top Image & Video: YouTube/AKB48YouTube/全球顶尖创意设计 视频, YouTube/green7coralreef ★Masaharu Fukuyama, YouTube/high_note Music Lounge, YouTube/shota takahashi, YouTube/ZippyMappy, YouTube/NaotaroMoriyamaVEVO, YouTube/Hibarinouta, YouTube/Vinicio Arturo Báez Velásquez, YouTube/Kaitlyn Heil