Historians of modern Japan often discuss the “Fifteen Years War,” referring to the period that stretches from the invasion of Manchuria in 1931 to Japan’s surrender in August 1945. Tokyo Boogie Woogie: Japan’s Pop Era and Its Discontents narrates an even longer conflict, what Hiromu Nagahara calls the “long war on popular song.” The contested object of this tumultuous struggle, an entity known as “popular song” (ryūkōka), was not a specific musical genre: it encompassed multiple styles and sounds. Rather, it was a commodity form, one defined by the new recording industry structure that produced it, by the nationwide audience saturation it achieved, and...

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