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Sukiyaki Song-See If You Remember It

Updated on July 19, 2014
Kyu Sakamoto
Kyu Sakamoto

If you're like most people, you're probably familiar with this 1963 song, but could never quite remember the name of it or who sang it, and you sure couldn't sing along even though you have wanted to. 

I'm referring to "Sukiyaki" by Kyu Sakamoto. Click on the video below to hear the beautiful song while you continue reading the fascinating story about the song and the artist.  I'm sure you'll recognize it if you're a Baby Boomer. 

Background on Kyu Sakamoto

Kyu Sakamoto was born Hisashi Oshima on December 10, 1941 in Kawaski, Japan.

He was the youngest of nine childeren. His nickname "Kyu" means nine.

In 1958 he joined the Japanese pop-band "The Drifters" as a singer.

In 1971 he married Yukiko Kashiwagi and they had two daughters, Hanako and Maiko.

Sukiyaki

Kyu Sakamoto's most popular song, was Ue o muite arukō ("I Look Up When I Walk") and known as "Sukiyaki" in the United States. It topped the pop charts for three weeks in 1963. it is the only song sung entirely in Japanese to do that.

The song tells the story of man who looks up while he walks and whistles to avoid letting his tears fall. The word "Sukiyaki" was chosen because it was a Japanese word known to American audiences that they thought Americans could pronounce and remember. It actually had nothing to do with the song at all. According to Wikipedia, "a Newsweek columnist noted that the re-titling was like issuing "Moon River" in Japan under the title "Beef Stew."

"Sukiyaki" has since been performed by "A Taste of Honey" in 1981. It reached #3 on the Hot 100 and remained in the Hot 100 chart for 24 weeks. It was also in the US Top 10 being performed by R&B vocal group "4 P.M. (4 Positive Music) in 1994.

Probably the most touching is solo violinist Diana Yukawa who recorded the "Sukiyaki" song on her bestselling debut album (known as Elegy in the UK and La Campanella in Japan). She has also performed it at various times on the mountainside where her father, Akihisa Yukawa, died in the Japan Airlines Flight 123 crash together with Kyu Sakamoto on August 12, 1985.

Just twelve minutes into the flight the plane experienced difficulties and signaled there was a problem. Approximately thirty minutes later the plane crashed. Before the aircraft hit the ground, Kyu Sakamoto was able to write a farewell note to his wife.

All 15 crew members and 505 out of 509 passengers died, resulting in a total of 520 deaths and 4 survivors.

It remains the deadliest single-aircraft accident in history.

Japanese Lyrics

ue o muite arukou

namida ga kobore naiyouni

omoidasu harunohi

hitoribotchi no yoru

ue o muite arukou

nijinda hosi o kazoete

omoidasu natsunohi

hitoribotchi no yoru

shiawase wa kumo no ueni

shiawase wa sora no ueni

ue o muite arukou

namida ga kobore naiyouni

nakinagara aruku

hitoribotchi no yoru

whistling

omoidasu akinohi

hitoribotchi no yoru

kanashimi wa hosino kageni

kanashimi wa tsukino kageni

ue o muite arukou

namida ga kobore naiyouni

nakinagara aruku

hitoribotchi no yoru

Americanized Lyrics

I look up when I walk

So the tears won't fall

Remembering those happy spring days

But tonight I'm all alone

I look up when I walk

Counting the stars with tearful eyes

Remembering those happy summer days

But tonight I'm all alone

Happiness lies beyond the clouds

Happiness lies above the sky

I look up when I walk

So the tears won't fall

Though my heart is filled with sorrow

For tonight I'm all alone

(whistling)

Remembering those happy autumn days

But tonight I'm all alone

Sadness hides in the shadow of the stars

Sadness lurks in the shadow of the moon

I look up when I walk

So the tears won't fall

Though my heart is filled with sorrow

For tonight I'm all alone

(whistling)

Comments

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    • Peter Kay profile image

      Peter Kay 10 months ago

      has anyone ever heard the letter he wrote to his wife?

    • profile image

      khin maung nyunt (Myanmar) 4 years ago

      I like sukiyaki when i was young,best of my life.

    • KCC Big Country profile image
      Author

      KCC Big Country 5 years ago from Central Texas

      I think you meant to say "I'll NEVER forget that song". :) Isn't it funny how songs conjure up memories from the time period you used to listen to them? Have you tried looking for Andrea on Facebook or Classmates.com?

    • profile image

      Ed. Morales, Indiana 5 years ago

      I'll forget that song, 1963 calumet high, gary, Ind.

      reminds me of Andrea Blicher my girl at the time...Andie where ever you at...I'll always remember you!

    • KCC Big Country profile image
      Author

      KCC Big Country 6 years ago from Central Texas

      Hi, Lelle! Thank you for sharing your memories of the song. I agree that it's a really nice song even though it is a sad song. All the way from Sweden, huh? Who would have thought a 40+ yr old Japanese song could bring a Texas gal and someone in Sweden together in a conversation?

    • profile image

      Lennart Löf 6 years ago

      hello my name is lelle.and my first reckord was just the suikiyaki song and my dad was a sailorman and he get it from japan in 1965 Ithink.now lam 55 and lmissing the record from my dad. it is a nice son even that is a sad song.best regards from sweden.

    • KCC Big Country profile image
      Author

      KCC Big Country 8 years ago from Central Texas

      When doing some of the research for this hub I think I found the lyrics you are talking about. I have never known the lyrics even though I've known of the song since I was small child. I need to hunt down the newer versions and listen to them. Thanks for sharing the info Cris!

    • Cris A profile image

      Cris A 8 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      I know the 80s and the 90s versions of this songs and that the wong is a Japanese pop song. But I think the English versions that I know have modified lyrics. I think they start with

      "It's all because of you

      I'm feeling sad and blue

      You went away and now my

      life is such a rainy day..."

      Cool, thanks for sharing this :D

    • KCC Big Country profile image
      Author

      KCC Big Country 8 years ago from Central Texas

      I haven't heard Diana's version yet. Thanks for stopping by and commenting Little Dom!

    • profile image

      Little Dom 8 years ago

      I remember this from Diana Yukawa's album, I actually dug it out to listen again - Its a very beautiful track. I hear that Diana is releasing another album later this year although i dont think its clasical from what I can see.

    • KCC Big Country profile image
      Author

      KCC Big Country 8 years ago from Central Texas

      Glad you enjoyed it Maggs! Thanks for stopping by!

    • maggs224 profile image

      maggs224 8 years ago from Sunny Spain

      loved the song I had never heard it before it was great trying to sing along in Japanese. thanks for another interesting hub.

    • KCC Big Country profile image
      Author

      KCC Big Country 8 years ago from Central Texas

      I'm glad you enjoyed it Shalini! It is beautiful, isn't it?

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 8 years ago from India

      Love the song - never knew the history or tragedy behind it - thanks KCC!

    • KCC Big Country profile image
      Author

      KCC Big Country 8 years ago from Central Texas

      Awwww...thank you, AIDY for playing it as you read. I thought it was one you could do that on since you couldn't sing along. Although, now that I've provided the words, you can. Now you know the song he was humming. But, that is sort of the point to this hub. So many of us have heard it and have never know what it is called because we don't know any of the words to look it up either. I stumbled on the video in another hub and then had enough info to do the research.

    • profile image

      Am I dead, yet? 8 years ago

      I can remember the tune to the song, my teacher used to hum it in class. I wished I had asked then, what was that song he were humming, alas, he was a meanie, and I was surprised he could even do anything other than give F's. I enjoyed this hub so, a great read, and the video was perfect, as I played the song, as you recommended, as I read.

    • KCC Big Country profile image
      Author

      KCC Big Country 8 years ago from Central Texas

      It is cool to hear something you haven't heard in a long time, isn't it Paper Moon? I might just have to write another hub about another song I just thought of.

    • Paper Moon profile image

      Paper Moon 8 years ago from In the clouds

      I remember hearing this when I was little. Far out! Thanks for sharing.

    • KCC Big Country profile image
      Author

      KCC Big Country 8 years ago from Central Texas

      LOL....it is fun to follow along in Japanese now, isn't it, Candie?

    • Candie V profile image

      Candie V 8 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

      *whistle, whistle, whistle, whistle....* This song is gonna be in my head all day.. I'm even typing in r h y t h m t o t h e s o n g . . . Yeah! Thank you for the words, now I can sing in Japanese!!!

    • KCC Big Country profile image
      Author

      KCC Big Country 8 years ago from Central Texas

      Thanks Teresa, I think many will recognize it when they hear it. I've always been curious about it. I'm glad I finally took the time to research it. Then it was too interesting not to share.

      Ethel, I'm glad you remembered it. It is a sad song and sad story. But, such a pretty song. I'm glad I was able to find the video.

      Alekhouse, I'm glad you remembered it. You have a new avatar. I like it. I completed the hub challenge last week. I agreed to 30 hubs, but had a personal goal of 35 hubs to make my 100 total. This hub is my 36th in the challenge and 101 total. Thanks for asking!

      AM Gwynn: Glad you enjoyed the hub. I learned quite a few things I didn't know either when I did the research.

      Thanks to all for stopping by and commenting.

    • profile image

      A.M. Gwynn 8 years ago

      Oh... that brings back memories! But you know, I didn't know this tragedy that happened to him. Very sad. This was a great Hub KCC Thank you!

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 8 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Sad story. Loved the song....nice to hear it in the original language. I remember it . It was very popular in the 60s. How are you doing with your Hub Challenge?

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Now I was sure I had not heard of this song but as soon as I played the yotube I remembered it. I would have been 11 at the time. Memories. Sad story also.

    • Teresa McGurk profile image

      Sheila 8 years ago from The Other Bangor

      Thanks for reminding me of this lovely song. I can't remember when or where I heard it, but it was instantly recognisable and yes -- even if we don't understand the words, it's poignant.

    • KCC Big Country profile image
      Author

      KCC Big Country 8 years ago from Central Texas

      Hopefully, that link will work for you, Elena. Until yesterday, I had no idea what the Americanized words were. I've heard the song all my life and thought it was beautiful. I found the entire story fascinating as I began to research it yesterday.

      Glad you enjoyed it Frieda!

    • KCC Big Country profile image
      Author

      KCC Big Country 8 years ago from Central Texas

      <object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/RtXQ31F1A-k&color... name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/RtXQ31F1A-k&color... type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>

    • Frieda Babbley profile image

      Frieda Babbley 8 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      Thanks for the translation! Love it.

    • Elena. profile image

      Elena. 8 years ago from Madrid

      KCC, I'd never heard of the song or the artist before, totally news to me. It like the image of walking and looking up to avoid the tears from falling, it's very poetic. Would you please post a link to the video here in the comments? Or will I find it in the official page?

    • KCC Big Country profile image
      Author

      KCC Big Country 8 years ago from Central Texas

      Really? I thought everyone knew of the song although they may not have known the lyrics or story behind the song and Kyu. I've always loved the song. It's so pretty.

    • Laughing Mom profile image

      Laughing Mom 8 years ago

      Something I've never heard of. Such a sad song.