Blue Rangers at the EM Club in Yokosuka, ca. early 1960s | courtesy of J.T. Kanehira.


Tour the American South and explore the history of American music


On KiKO’s Musical Americana tours, we explore the origins and artists that defined American music. Join us on our music tours across Tennessee diving deep into the histories of Nashville and Memphis!

Did you know that there are more than 30 country music and honky tonk bars across Japan? How did country music gain popularity in Japan?

Country Music and Post War Japan

Don’t underestimate country music’s global influence. Country emerged in eastern Tennessee in the early 20th century with lyrics rooted in the area’s hardship and using instruments common to the working class people of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountain ranges. Through technology advances, country music’s popularity grew with RCA Victor first recording the sounds of in the 1920s. A few decades later in the 1940s, radio broadcast country music across the US on the Grand Ole Opry. The secret was out.

As the 1950s unfolded, film and radio were broadcasting American culture across the globe. As a result, western movies, jazz music, rock n’ roll, all rapidly grew in global popularity from the Spaghetti Western films in Italy to the jazz movement in France.  Artists from Hank Williams to Elvis popularized the sounds of country music. 

With the United States occupying Japan after WWII, the Far East Network (FEN), a division of the US Armed Forces Network broadcast American music across Japan. One of the most popular radio shows was “Chuck Wagon Time” and acts like Gene Autry became popular with the Japanese in addition the US soldiers stationed in Japan.  

The Nashville Sound and Japan’s History of CUltural Imports

Japan has long shown an interest in importing cultural phenomenons from the West.  Baseball was first played in Japan in the 1870s and jazz music in the early 1900s. It is easy to see how Japan was a prime market for country music in the 1950s. 

,Japanese country performers like Tomi Fujiyama was one of the first Japanese artists to gain popularity playing country music.  Since the 1960s, country and honky tonk bars have been popular from Okinawa to Hokkaido. With Japanese country music spanning across the country, the sounds vary by region and performer. 

Tomi Fujiyama at the Loveless Cafe in Nashville, 2012


Tour, Explore, and Understand the Sound

Nashville, Tennessee is the home of country music. The first recordings of country artists took place in Nashville and that started the gravitational pull of the top artists to the city from Dolly Parton to Johnny Cash to Taylor Swift. Known as Music City, Nashville is the country music equivalent of Hollywood and is now one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. 


Whether or not you consider yourself a fan of country music, our tour of the Nashville sound is not to be missed. The caliber of musicianship doesn’t get higher than those playing in the city. The music doesn’t stop. Stroll down Broadway at night and hop from honky tonk to honky tonk bar to hear up-and-comers, established artists, and street performers creating the soundtrack to your trip. 


Join our Musical Americana tours designed to immerse you in the culture of these amazing American cities through the music that built them. In Nashville, we start with an introduction to the city’s musical history at the Country Music Hall of Fame, RCA Studio B, and the mother church of country music, the Ryman Auditorium. We peel back the onion as night falls and take in live music at the city’s best venues such as Robert’s and other institutions on the Honky Tonk Highway. We will explore other institutions around the area such as the Loveless Cafe and the Bluebird Cafe.


The Story behind the Sound

We will explore the region to better understand the city’s origins and troubled history with visits to a former slave plantation, Belle Meade. Moreover, we will learn the origins of local whiskey making and indulge in food specialities such as Nashville hot chicken

Like all great stories, Nashville’s identity has grown out of the local history and became the urban epicenter of regional life. We will explore the history of the food, the people, and their stories and how they launched one of the most influential styles of music and songwriting that resonated as far away as Japan. Dive into the music scene with us on an upcoming tour and help continue the musical story of Japanese country music when you return home!

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