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Tokyo Jihen were formed by singer Shiina Ringo, who strove to make a turn in her career, abandoning the showy image and flamboyant pop she specialized in with her solo work. The new approach involved a more stripped-down sound that took cues from rock and smooth jazz, and although it featured many elements unconventional for J-pop, it still proved to hold a strong commercial appeal, even if less than that of Shiina Ringo's solo records. Shiina formed the band in 2003, after releasing three solo records, and the group featured four more members, all of whom played in Shiina's live band. Tokyo Jihen had two number two singles in the same year, and their debut album, Kyoiku (written entirely by Shiina) came out in the end of 2004, also reaching number two on the Oricon charts. In 2005 the band was slowed down by the departure of the two members: guitarist Hirama Mikio, who went to work solo, and HzM (Hiizumi Masayuki), who returned to his old band Pe'z. However, they were replaced by Ukigumo and Izawa Ichiyou, and soon Tokyo Jihen had another Top Ten hit single, "Shuraba" (tied in with the TV drama Oh Oku Hana No Ran), and their 2006 album, Adult, reached number one on the charts. Tokyo Jihen subsequently embarked on another Japanese tour and then slowed down again while Shiina was working on her solo soundtrack for the movie Sakuran, but in the second half of the year Tokyo Jihen released their third LP, Variety, for the first time transferring all the songwriting duties from Shiina to the rest of the band. ~ Alexey Eremenko

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