Source: Japan Times
Everybody talks about Michael's special affection for Japan, though no one has really tried to explain it. Some commentators claim that his Japanese fans were never as put off by his plastic surgery and his trial for child molestation. But those sideshows were covered in the Japanese media just as breathlessly as they were overseas, and I imagine a good portion of his Japanese fans found them as bizarre as people in the U.S. did. The implication is that it didn't bother them as much.
One has to remember that before Jackson turned, as gossip columnist Michael Musto put it, "from a black boy into a successful white woman," he was adorable. Even white folks thought so, despite the fact that, taken at face value (pun intended), it was weird in 1969 for an 11-year-old to be singing about sex and jealousy with such convincing passion as Michael did with his brothers in "I Want You Back." Cute has the power to overcome queasiness, and before long the Jackson 5 would be the heroes of a Saturday morning cartoon series.
The group was equally popular in Japan and definitely more so than any other American R&B act. They toured here in the early '70s, and their example was duplicated domestically by the Finger Five, a quintet of brothers from Okinawa who mimicked the Jacksons' dance steps and general stage demeanor. They were popular but, as with all idols of the time, faded fast.
One of the pundits the Japanese media has sought for quotes following Jackson's death is veteran music critic Reiko Yukawa, whose standard line is that J-Pop developed on the back of Michael Jackson's music. This sort of boilerplate reaction (Yukawa was the go-to pundit for quotes when Elvis died, too, which tells you something about the paucity of pundits) is hardly useful. One could easily say that all pop since "Thriller" developed on the back of Jackson's music.
So if there was not Michael Jackson there would be no J-Pop? I don't think J-Pop's anything like MJ's music. It's evolved over the years and it now filled with 8-girl bands squealing!
But from everyone I've heard who's been to Japan. MJ was loved by everyone!