1. AKB48AKB48 is a female idol powerhouse. It's the creation of Yasushi Akimoto — a marketing genius, professor and vice president at Kyoto University of Art and Design.
AKB48 resembles jpop musical theatre. They have a permanent theatre in Akihabara (a otaku neighborhood) in Tokyo. The theatre acts as a test market. Fans are often asked to vote members in and out of the group.
Members of AKB48 face constant competition. For example, in one appearance on a Japanese variety show a poll was taken to decide which member looks most like a man or which member looks the cheapest. The girls seem to maintain a good sense of humor about it all.
2. Kanjani EightA seven-member Japanese boy band from Kansai (Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto region). They had an incredible four #1 hits on the Japanese music charts in 2011.
3. KAT-TUNKAT-TUN are the product of Johnny & Associates — a controversial music production agency that's specialized in boy bands in Japan since 1962.
4. Hey! Say! JUMPA ten member Japanese boy band. Their name is a pun for the Heisei era (1989~). All the boys in the band were born in Heisei. In Japan years are counted by the Emperor at the time. When an Emperor dies the year goes back to 1.
5. NMB48NMB48 is the Osaka version of AKB48. It's named for the Namba entertainment district of Osaka. They have a musical theatre in the Yes-Namba building. Like AKB48, they're produced by idol mastermind Yasushi Akimoto.
6. Kis-My-Ft2A 7-member Japanese boy band under Johnny & Associates.
7. B'zThe B'z are a Japanese rock duo who've had a phenomenal 45 consecutive #1 singles and 24 #1 albums. They have sold more than 80 million records in Japan alone.
8. Kana UemuraKana Uemura is a Japanese singer-songwriter who debuted in 2004. She's a self made success most famous for the 2010 hit "Toilet no Kamisama" (about her memories of her grandmother).
9. SKE48SKE48 is the Nagoya version of AKB48. It's named for the Sunshine Sakae building in Nagoya (the location of the group's theatre).
10. Atsuko MaedaAtsuko Maeda is one of the most popular members of AKB48. The top members of AKB48 are spun off as solo artists.
11. KinKi KidsKinki is a Japanese word for the Kansai region (Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto). Both members of KinKi Kids are from Kansai. They have the same last name (Domoto) but aren't related.
12. Jin AkanishiA former member of KAT-TUN who has successfully launched a solo and acting career.
13. Maximum the HormoneMaximum the Hormone are a refreshing entry on the 2011 Japan music charts — an organic success driven by music above image. They're a punk band from Tokyo who formed in 1998. They write many of their songs in English and they have made inroads to UK and US charts.
The 2011 Japan music charts were dominated by Yasushi Akimoto (AKB48) and Johnny & Associates produced idol bands. Maximum the Hormone stole the #1 position for two weeks in April with a great punk song titled "Greatest the Hits 2011–2011".
14. French KissFrench Kiss is an idol trio formed from AKB48 members.
15. Masaharu FukuyamaA popular singer-songwriter, music producer, guitarist, actor and radio personality.
16. L'Arc-en-CielA Osaka rock band that's been active since 1991. Its members hyde, tetsuya, ken and yukihiro are pioneers of visual kei (a gene of Japanese music similar to glam rock).
17. PasspoPasspo is a Japanese idol jpop girl group that's not under the Yasushi Akimoto (AKB48) umbrella.
18. RadwimpsA self made Japanese rock band who formed in 2003. In 2011, they had a #1 and #2 hit.
19. KaraThe first foreign (Korean) all female pop group to hit number #1 on the jpop charts. This is likely a sign of things to come — kpop (South Korean pop) is now more popular internationally than jpop.
20. Tomomi ItanoTomomi Itano was the most popular member of AKB48 in 2011. She had a solo #1 hit on the Japanese charts.
21. Jang Geun-sukA South Korean actor and kpop star.
22. ArashiAnother boy band from Johnny & Associates.
23. TohoshinkiTohoshinki is the Japanese name of the kpop boy band TVXQ. Successful kpop bands often record albums in Japanese. Japan is the World's second biggest music market.
24. YuiYui is a popular female singer-songwriter who debuted in 2007. She's also an idol who has won awards such as "Artist Guys Most Want to Marry" and "Dearest Female Artist".
25. Sandaime J Soul BrothersA jpop boy band that's been going since 1999. The members are replaced every few years for a new generation.
* Japan Talk's proprietary ranking uses factors such as number of #1 hits in the year, weeks in the number one spot, total reported single sales and social media statistics for the artist.