UNDERSTANDING ORICON CHARTING (AKA: the explanation, records, & brief history of KPop in Japan with a dash of politics… because why not?!)

We’ve seen some false ORICON stat information floating around recently; even from professional sites such as Soompi & Naver articles (which is really what prompted us to write this post). Things like “first ever” and “highest sales”. But it’s not entirely their fault. ORICON KPop stats can be hard to come by, especially for older records.

We’ve also seen newer fanbases confused about stats such as how many days are in an ORICON chart’s first week (six) and how ORICON charting works.

So we here at KpG are here to help.

Why Does KPop Care About ORICON?

The Japanese market is the 2nd largest music market in the world. If you can make it in either Japan or the US (the #1 market) you have a greater chance of making it globally, and even if you don’t get the global spread you’ve gained all those large market sales.

How can I Purchase for ORICON Charts?

Unless you are living in or visiting Japan… you can’t.
In mid 2014 ORICON changed the rule to no longer include foreign shipments in their charts. The removal of foreign shipment counts was partially due to the protests of “Koreans Go Home” (we’ll get to that in a minute) and due to massive purchases from foreign fans to help raise charts (we’ll get to that too).

But what we can do is understand how the charts work so we can read, record, and celebrate achievements of our faves properly.

How ORICON Works:

First thing to note: ORICON’s rules are strict, but that’s because the stated goal is to truly reflect a snapshot of Japanese interest.

  1. ORICON is to Japan what Hanteo is Korea but a with an extra oomph of strict.
    • ORICON numbers are guaranteed sales, but only for sales made in Japan for Japan. Purchases shipped outside Japan will not be reflected on ORICON charts.
    • ORICON currently uses a POS system (Point Of Sale) to track units, so even purchases made in a convenient store will count on the chart.
    • Sales made outside of an official retailer (like fanmeet/handshake events and tours) will only count for 30% of a sale. ORICON made this rule to prevent fraudulent or inflated reporting since they have no way to verify sales during such events.
    • Some retailers report once a week. These sales are added on the weekend which is why it’s not uncommon to see a weekend pop.
  2. ORICON’s thre main music charts are the Albums Charts and the Singles Chart.
    • The Singles Chart = mini albums (usually 2-4 tracks)
    • The Albums Chart = all longer albums including Korean “minis” that have 6 or so tracks.
    • The Digital Sales Chart
  3. Sales posted are a total of the previous day’s sales. For this reason, all first week sales on ORICON are calculated as just 6 days (Tuesday to Sunday).
    • Weekly charts are released on Tuesday around 17:00 JST. Daily charts are released around 19:00 JST. Digital charts reset Wednesday 12 noon JST.
    • Most artists “release” on Wednesday with albums being available for purchase in stores on Tuesday in order to get the best advantage of a first week’s chart.
    • Occasionally an artist releases on a Monday/Tuesday in hopes of grabbing a headline of getting first place charting to impress international audiences. If they release on a day other than Wednesday, their first week is shortened and ends with Tuesday’s posting to bring them back in line with the published weekly chart.
    • After the “first week” all future charting weeks will include 7 days.
  4. Combined sales
    • Oricon combines sales of all different versions of a release into one listing. Special versions are considered the same listing as normal albums.
    • As of 5 Sep 2016, boxed sets are counted as 1 album. This rule was enacted to reduce labels using gimmicks to encourage bulk buying (such as changing only the cover art for every member of the group and selling them all together as a “set”)
  5. Sales ≠ popularity
    • Having high physical sales is nice, but this doesn’t mean they are the most popular in Japan, and having low physical sales doesn’t mean they aren’t popular at all. Physical album sales make up a very small portion of how Japan consumes music. Unfortunately, ORICON did not start tracking Digital Sales until November 2016.

Oricon_Logo2017.png

A Short History Lesson

SNSD wasn’t the “First Gen” of KPop to invade Japan. The actual First Gen Hallyu Wave was BoA, Baby V.O.X (although they were much more popular in China), Ryu Si Won, and actor Bae Yong Jun. The second major Hallyu Wave in Japan began around 2010. Tohoshinki (TVXQ) is considered part of both waves since they debuted and rose to popularity between the 2.

Note: ORICON sales prior to 2009 used an approximated system. Sales were reported to ORICON by top selling stores and then the reported number was multiplied by 1.75 in order to “count” all sales. 

1995

  • SoundScan Japan launches. Based on Nielsen SoundScan and using POS (Point Of Sale) tracking; SoundScan is considered a more accurate service than ORICON but they do not have as many outlets so their data reach is smaller.

1998

  • South Korea & Japan announce a cultural exchange. The terms include SK gradually lifting the ban on Japanese imports and entertainment that has been in place since 1945 (World War II) and Japan will apologize and make public their atrocities towards Korea. Both countries expect to see economic growth in the opening of these new markets.

2001

  • SM Entertainment forms a partnership with Avex Group. Avex will be the official distributor for SM in Japan and SM will be the official distributor for Avex in Korea,

2002/2003

  • 2002 Korea/Japan FIFA World Cup
    • BoA’s Japanese debut “Listen to My Heart” enters at #1 on Oricon,  It goes Platinum within a month, ended 12th on Oricon for the year, and stayed on the chart for 91 weeks.
    • NHK airs KBS drama, “Winter Sonata” (think “Descendants of the Sun”… but bigger. Well… at least in Japan. In Korea it did okay, but in Japan it was a cultural phenomenon.) The show was aired by NHK twice. The first time in 2002 just before the Korea/Japan FIFA World Cup, and then a year later in 2003. The second airing makes all things Korean a hit and Japanese housewives can’t get enough.
  •  29 Jan 2003 — BoA’s 1st week sales of Valenti post on ORICON Weekly Album Chart as double platinum (500,000+ units) with 615,218 albums sold. (KpG Note: As of 2018 this is still the record highest first week sales)

2004

  • Korea finalizes lifting the Japanese cultural ban (including CDs & DVDs) and cultural exchange between the two countries begins in earnest. Both are seeing this partnership as beneficial.

2005

  • April  — TVXQ’s Japanese debut

2006

  • 17 November  — ORICON files a lawsuit against Hiro Ugaya for his article in Cyso that claims ORICON charting is not transparent and they were manipulating reportings in favor of Johnny & Associates and other large Japanese labels. The lawsuit went through multiple courts and dragged on for 33 months before ORICON dropped the charges.

2008

  • February — Billboard Japan launches as a competitor of ORICON. ORICON was getting raised eyebrows in the industry for approximating numbers rather than reporting actual sales. Billboard Japan also charts radio play along with sales tracking, which ORICON did not.

2009

  • 2 March — ORICON begins using POS (Point Of Sale) to track physical sales (each single or album must be recorded via bar code rather than stores phoning or faxing sales numbers). Not all stores are in the system yet including 45% of Tower Record stores. About 3,370 stores are running with the new POS system.
  • 4 April —  North Korea launches a rocket over the Pacific near Japan and boasting they could have hit Japan if they wanted to. Unified in outrage (and fear of nuclear war) South Korea and Japan scramble for common ground and renew solidarity.
  • TVXQ has their highest and lowest points of their career to date: their 4th Japanese single “The Secret Code” is a smash hit in March, but 3 members begin legal action and attempt to leave SM Entertainment in July.
  • 1 September — any sales from non authorized stores will only count for 30%.  This rule was enacted to counteract the problems with unofficial pop-up stores that were created to push bulk sales, and illegal vendors and misreporting from concerts and handshake events to inflate sales.
    • Chart manipulation and bulk buying began as a real thing in KPop. Bulk buying was a tactic fandoms (and labels) learned from the JPop market. Chart manipulation on the other hand was something KPop brought to the Jmarket table. Ranking high matters to Korea because KPop really isn’t about music to Korea – it’s an advertising gimmick used to sell all Korean goods. “If you love the band you’ll love these products the stars are advertising.”

2010

  • Over 25,000 outlets now report to ORICON using the POS system.
  • The second Hallyu Wave has officially begun. It’s an all out war in the girl group category for who will reign queen (see chart at bottom of page)
  • 10 August — Japan officially apologizes for their colonial rule of South Korea. They did not include their World War 2 occupation and atrocities in their apology nor apologize to North Korea. The official statement from South Korea was that they “paid attention” to the apology, not that they accepted it. The Korean consensus does not feel this apology meets the terms of the 1998 agreement.
  • Popularity of girl groups; like KARA and Shoujo Jidai (SNSD/Girls’ Generation), explodes.
  • April — JYJ separates from TVXQ and is supported by Avex Group.
  • November — Avex sides with SM Entertainment, drops JYJ, and promotes TVXQ as a duo instead. From this point on JYJ are blacklisted.
  • December — Billboard Japan expands data tracking to include online store purchases and iTunes Japan.
  • December — 39,580 stores have been added to ORICON POS system (about 90% of sales)

2011

  • YG Entertainment create a label under Avex Group called YGEX to distribute YG artists in Japan.
  • Rumbling resentment across Japan of Korean entertainment in the Japanese market began. Tension between the countries over who owns Liancourt Rocks (AKA: “Takeshima” or “Dokdo”) heats up. The issue of Japan’s use of comfort women is also revived. On one hand Korea was saying “How dare you do that to us! Apologize!” and on the other they were saying “Buy our stuff. Like our products. You’re our new cash cow.” The conflicting duality was not well received by the Japanese public and anti-Hallyu rallies starred in earnest. Korea’s response? “…the best way to proceed is to ignore the protests.”
  • While Korea was accusing Japan of war crimes during occupation, they were occupying Japan in a way of their own: by absorbing and reshaping the the domestic and global market of Japan. In Japan, KPop is everywhere; constantly charting, debuting, advertising. KDramas are on television. And not only are Koreans now out advertising Japanese market in Japan, but they’re gobbling up their global sales in everything from the gaming industry to batteries.
    • KpG Note: The blow to Japan’s global gaming market was a huge financial hit. With the ban lifted, Japan was hoping Koreans would flock to fill their homes with playstations and Wii. But it didn’t happen. PC Bang culture continued to thrive, and mobile MMORPGs were more convenient. Why does this matter to KPop? Because on every entertainment front (music, film, gaming…) Korea is beating the tofu out of Japan. And Japan is getting miffed. Japanese protests start being held at record shops, television stations but Korean talent agencies chose to ignore the anger and flood the market even more.
  • Japanese began protest the overtly sexual tone of KPop and the influence it was having on their own homegrown pop which tended to be more innocent and cutesy.
  • 14 December — the 1,000th weekly protest of the Japanese draft of Korean women as “comfort” slaves by the Korean Council. This coincided with the Japanese Prime Minister, Kiichi Miyazawa, to Korea. The Wednesday protests began in January 1992.

2012

  • February — ORICON’s CEO, Koh Koike, publicly warns Korean labels that they are oversaturating the market and headed down a self destructive path if they don’t learn to pull back a little.
  • 15 August — Korean stars Song Il Gook and Kim Jang Hoon are banned from Japan for swimming a relay in protest at Liancourt Rocks on Korean Liberation Day.
  • Psy’s “Gangnam Style” is a worldwide hit, but not in Japan.

2013

  • The KPop market truly took a downturn with companies like SM posting a 70% decline from 2012. But that didn’t stop Korean labels from pressing even harder into the Japanese market. It seemed the Korean business plan was “Japan or bust” and bust it did. Now this decline wasn’t completely due to lack of public interest. The deflation of the yen (Japanese currency) was also a factor. This meant Japanese cash was worth less overseas. Great for Japanese exports but not so good for Korean goods into Japan. Korea’s answer: raise prices and add more “special editions”.
  • November — Anti-Korean protests in Japan get ugly and Korean sentiment about Japanese isn’t much better.
  • December — Billboard Japan tracks twitter track shares and other online activity in their data.
  • December — TVXQ passes 10 million sales of Korean and Japanese albums. Over 7 million of those were Japanese releases.

2014

  • February — the anti-Hallyu protests picks up steam. Korean storefronts and websites were shuttering. “Go Home to Korea” was a common partner to the phrase “Strong Japan”. Korean stars were everywhere in Japan. (commercials, daytime shows, weekend shows, SNL, print ads, radio…). Unlike Western artists who would come for a concert and then leave, Hallyu was making Korea their vacation spot and Japan their homestay.
  • June — TVXQ passed BoA’s sales (BoA = 8,074,606) with their drop of the single “Sweat/Answer”. (TVXQ = 8,153,846).
  • Whether due to Korean national pride or just fandom drive; a large portion of Japanese album sales were coming from international markets as bulk orders. In order to curtail chart manipulation, ORICON did what worked well for Japan in the past when facing war: shut doors to international waters. In 2014 ORICON made a major policy shift that said in order for their charts to accurately reflect Japan only domestic sales would register on the charts. International shipments were no longer counted. With this move, sales diminished even further and media hailed 2014/2015 “the death of KPop” in Japan.
  • 2014 was the year of South Korean scandals. Sewol Ferry. Macadamia nuts became the vehicle to show the world what spoiled chaebol daughters are made of, and almost every major KPop act had a massive scandal; Kim Hyun Joong’s abuse case, Jessica leaving SNSD, Park Bom’s drug thing, Sulli disappearing from f(x). Even newcomers to the market like EXO, B.A.P and ZE:A had a pile of lawsuits and drama. KPop was tainted, and this became the perfect excuse for anti-Hallyu sentiment to distance itself from Korea.

2015

  • 6 April — Oricon no longer includes Music Cards as part of the total sales count.
    BBMusicCards
    Music Cards. Even fans knew this was shady.

    (Thank you! Because the music card thing was a full mess!Music Cards were artist picture cards with a download code on the back. The cards were much cheaper than an album but were counted as a full album download when used. Many felt this system was unfair. Many claimed this problem would have been fixed ages ago if ORICON tracked digital sales.

  • June — Billboard Japan adds Japan Hot Albums Chart to their tracking list that tracks data  similarly to Japan Hot 100 singles chart (note: previously launched Japan Top Albums chart only tracks sales.)
  • Although some labels were still attempting to breathe life into Japan sales by mid 2015 most turned their eyes back to China  as their revived holy land (read: China 1990s was the first Korean Wave).

2016

  • August — China gets tired of Korean Entertainment monopolizing their market and uses THADD as an excuse to begin a ban on Korean Entertainment.
  • 5 September — Boxed sets are now counted as only one album. Many labels were releasing multiple albums with minor changes and selling as a boxed set in order to encourage fans to purchase multiple copies and inflate their ranking on the chart.
  • 1  November — ORICON 50th Anniversary
  • 9 November — ORICON (finally) adds a Digital Sales Chart. Many believe the reason ORICON took so long to get around to this is Jonnys doesn’t do digital releases.
  • 7 December — Billboard Japan expands digital sales tracking to include Apple Music, Awa, and Line Music.

2017

  • BTS and Twice chart well on ORICON and make new records. Korean labels declare the Japanese drought over and flock back to Japan chasing after another cash cow of yen (since China is obviously a bust).

2018

  • January — ORICON digital charts are a hot mess. They load, they stop, there are articles about how they will be combining digital sales with physical instead of keeping the separate charts

Getting the Records Straight

Firstly:

Secondly, let’s clear up some rumors with Oricon Fun Facts:

First Foreign Albums on Oricon:

First foreign artist (and male group): Bee Gees | “Masssachusetts” (1968)
First foreign female solo artist: Irene Cara | “Flashdance… What A Feeling” (1983)
First foreign male solo artist: Jerry Wallace | “Mandom-Lovers Of The World” (1970)
 First foreign female group: t.A.T.u (Russian duo)  | “t.A.T.u” (Mar 2003)
 First Korean artist: BoA | “Listen To My Heart” (2002)
 First Korean group: TVXQ | “Best Selection” (2010)
 First Korean female group: SNSD | “Girls’ Generation” (2011)

———-<><>X<><>———-

Korean Artist Platinum Records:

 

First platinum (250,000 units): BoA | “Listen to My Heart” (2002)
First double platinum (500,000 units): BoA | “Listen to My Heart” (540K copies 4 months from release< 2002)
First double platinum in 1st week sales: BoA | “Valenti (2003) — Note: “Valenti” was also 1st Korean artist album to have 1 million sales
First group platinum: TVXQ | “Break Out” (2010)
First group double platinum: TVXQ | “Best Selection” (2010)
First group to go platinum in 1st day sales: BTS | “MIC Drop/DNA/Crystal Snow” (2017)
First girl group to get gold (100,000) in 1st day sales: TWICE | “Candy Pop” (2018)

———-<><>X<><>———-

Other Fun ORICON Facts:

  • ORICON charting began in 1967
  • “ORICON” comes from the combination of the words “original” and “confidence”
  • Ryu Si Won was the first Korean male artist to debut in ORICON’s Top 5 [“Sakura”(“Cosmos Flower”) — 2005, peaked at #4]
  • KARA was the first Korean group to chart in the top 10 [“Mister” — 11 Aug 2010– #5 Daily Singles, #9 Weekly Singles chart].
  • Jang Keun Suk was the 1st Korean male artist to top ORICON Albums Chart and the first foreign artist to top the Singles Chart with a debut. It also set the record for the most first sales for a Korean male artist with 56,923 units. [“Let Me Cry” — 27 Apr 2011].
  • SNSD is the first girl group to go platinum with both a single [“Gee” — 20 Oct 2010] and an album  [“Girls’s Generation” — 1 Jun 2011] on the Oricon charts in under a year. They were released just 8 months apart. “Gee” also went double platinum with full track ringtone downloads in Apr 2011.
    • Top both weekly Singles and Album charts = SNSD
  • KARA was the first Korean girl group top the DVD Chart [“KARA Best Clips” |132,000 units. 4 Mar 2011]. This also was the most sold music DVD of all artists at the time.
  • TVXQ was the first foreign artist to top weekly Oricon charts with 4 consecutive albums.
  • Bon Jovi was the first foreign artist to sell over 200,000 in the first week on 2 consecutive albums. TVXQ broke that record with “Tree” being their 3rd consecutive album to sell over 200,000 units in it’s first week.
  • TVXQ holds the record for the most #1 on the Weekly Charts : 12 Singles and 5 Albums.
  • There is no official “Triple Crown” for Oricon, but this phrase is used by media when an artist tops 3 charts at the same time. SNSD was the first Korean group to achieve a triple crown in October 2012 (Single Chart, Album Chart, & DVD).  Super Junior was the first male group to win an Oricon triple crown (Single Chart, Album Chart, & DVD) in November 2012.
  • SHINee is the first KPop group to rank #1 on ORICON’s Digital Album Chart. [“The Best From Now On”| 3,067 units. 18 April 2018]

Recording the Girl Group War for Posterity

girlgroupwar As mentioned above, the battle for best Korean girl group was an all out war in ORICON charting between 2010-2014. Many new kpoppers think Girls’ Generation (SNSD, Shoujo Jidai) was the main girl group in Japan because of marketing, but the first girl group in almost everything was actually KARA. First in ORICON’s Top 10 (“Mister” 2010 – #5 on Daily Singles Chart, #9 on Weekly Singles Chart), first to get gold (100,000) in the first week (“Girls Talk”, 2010), first to go platinum (Girls Talk, 2010). KARA also still holds the record for highest album sales for a girl group in the first week with 275,206 units (“Super Girl”, 2011).Although none of records came close to BoA levels (who went double platinum in first week sales with “Valenti” in 2003), the massive amount of releases published was impressive. You can see from the chart below the records, the dedication, and the turning point of the completely exhausted (and broke) market. And this was just the top 3 girl groups. This doesn’t take into account solo acts, male groups, and the rookie girl groups attempting to break into the market. With new records appearing we fear the battle scars of our 2nd gen kpoppers to help chart their faves will get lost, so we’re listing the stats here to preserve them for future generations.

DATE

GROUP ALBUM 1st DAY 1st WEEK

CHART

2010 – 08/11 KARA Mister 13,862 29,283 Single – #5
2010 – 09/20 SNSD Genie 44,907 Single – #4
2010 – 10/20 SNSD Gee 28,838 66,203 Single – #2
2010 – 11/10 KARA Jumping 30,936 54,977 Single – #5
2010 – 11/24 KARA Girls Talk 13,265 107,403 Album – #2
2011 – 04/06 KARA Jet Coaster Love 47,810 122,820 Single – #1
2011 – 04/27 SNSD Mr. Taxi/ RDR 40,194 100,461 Single – #2
2011 – 06/01 SNSD Girls’ Generation 43,583 231,553 Album – #1
2011 – 06/22 KARA Go Go Summer! 45,590 113,873 Single – #2
2011- 09/28 T-ara Bo Peep Bo Peep 20,068 49,719 Single – #1
2011 – 10/19 KARA Winter Magic 50,706 78,148 Single – #3
2011 – 11/23 KARA Super Girl 73,076 275,206 Album – #1
2011 – 11/30 T-ara yayaya 14,513 30,801 Single – #7
2011 – 12/28 SNSD The Boys (Repack) added to Girls’ Gen
2012 – 02/29 T-ara Roly-Poly 41,285 Single – #3
2012 – 03/21 KARA Speed Up/ Girls Power 43,240 99,236 Single – #2
2012 – 05/23 T-ara Lovey-Dovey 19,245 Single – #9
2012 – 06/06 T-ara Jewelry Box 23,500+ 57,102 Album – #2
2012 – 06/27 SNSD PAPARAZZI 42,252 92,576 Single – #2
2012 – 09/05 KARA KARA Collection 47,553 Album – #3
2012 – 09/26 SNSD Oh! 52,308 66,253 Single – #1
2012 – 10/17 KARA Electric Boy 31,081 57,942 Single – #2
2012 – 11/14 T-ara Sexy Love 40,835 Single – #4
2012 – 11/14 KARA Girls Forever 28,724 73,224 Album – #2
2012 – 11/21 SNSD FLOWER POWER 29,065 Single – #5
2012 – 11/28 SNSD Girls & Peace 46,031 116,963 Album – #3
2013 – 03/20 T-ara Bunny Style! 56,785 Single- #2
2013 – 03/20 SNSD Best Selection Non Stop 13,228 Album – #6
2013 – 03/27 KARA Bye Bye Happy Days 28,664 65,588 Single – #2
2013 – 06/19 SNSD LOVE & GIRLS 36,350 42,796 Single – #4
2013 – 07/10 T-ara TARGET 13,443 Single – #12
2013 – 07/24 KARA Thank You Summer Love 48,479 69,416 Single – #2
2013 – 08/07 T-ara TREASURE BOX 10,059 18,814 Album – #4
2013 – 08/28 KARA Fantastic Girls 40,680 Album – #3
2013 – 09/18 SNSD Galaxy Supernova 14,564 50,793 Single – #3
2013 – 11/20 T-ara NUMBER NINE 9,005 Album – #13
2013 – 11/27 KARA French Kiss 32,677 Single – #7
2013 – 11/27 KARA Best Girls 42.101 Album – #5
2013 – 12/11 SNSD LOVE & PEACE 37,486 129,255 Album – #1
2013 – 12/11 KARA Beautiful Night/ Love Letter Single
2014 – 03/05 T-ara Lead the way 12,688 Single – #8
2014 – 07/23 SNSD The BEST 74,921 Album – #1
2014 – 08/27 KARA Mamma Mia! 25,702 Single – #6

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