All About Japan

A 77-Second Primer on Hatsune Miku

J-Pop Music Video Hatsune Miku

Designed as a 16-year-old girl with long, turquoise pigtails, Hatsune Miku is a so-called "Vocaloid" developed by Crypton Future Media, which describes the digital singing star as a "collaboratively constructed cyber celebrity."

Vocaloid is also the name of the software that allows users to synthesize singing by typing in their desired lyrics and melody. Released in 2007, Miku was created as a "spokesperson" to draw fans into engaging with the software. She's been more successful than anyone could have imagined: fans have now made more than 100,000 songs for Miku, and her popularity has reached such heights that she's played live concerts worldwide, from Asia to Europe and North America, appearing as a 3-D hologram that fans can dance along with, and even opening for Lady Gaga.

Hatsune, or 初音, means "the first sound." While her given name, Miku, is generally written in katakana as ミク, in kanji this becomes 未来, or "future" (generally read mirai, but it becomes miku as a name). So her name essentially means ,"The first sound from the future"—rather appropriate for a singing idol built purely from technology. Her actual voice, however, is very much based in the present, constructed using samples from voice actress Saki Fujita, who's provided voices for characters in a number of anime series, from Assassination Classroom (Ritsu) to Attack on Titan (Ymir).