Have you ever had one of those days when you wake up with a song in your head that you just can’t shake? This morning, for some strange reason, I woke up humming a tune I had not heard in a dog’s age. It was an oldie from 1963 that my sister Maureen and I use to like quite a bit as children. The song is “Sukiyaki,” by Kyu Sakamoto and it was a rather big hit in its time, reaching the number one position on Billboard’s Top 100’s in June of that year. Sakamoto was the first Asian to ever to go to number one on the American charts. His song went on to sell over 13 million copies!
It had baffled me all my life as to why the recording was named Sukiyaki. For all the times that I had listened to the song over the years, decades in fact, I had never heard the word Sukiyaki in the lyrics. Surly the song must be a catchy tune about food or at least have something to do with a meal, so after fifty-three years, I decided to investigate.
As it turns out, the song is about a man fighting back the tears of a broken heart, from a lost love. It’s actually a very tender love song, but why the name Sukiyaki? Well, it really isn’t titled Sukiyaki. The true title is, “Ue o Muite Arukou,” which translates to, “I look Up As I Walk.” Sukiyaki was simply a familiar word that Americans could easily pronounce. Why they didn’t simply use the English translation instead of Sukiaki is baffling, but that’s a whole other story.
The tender ballad is about a man who looks up to stop his tears from falling because, as he says in the song, “I am all alone tonight.”
Sadly, Kyu Sakamoto died tragically at the young age of 44 in the deadly 1985 crash of Japan Airlines flight 123. Thankfully he will be forever immortalized by his haunting melody. I have located it on YouTube complete with lyrics that have been translated, so you too can now hear and feel the song as it was truly meant to be felt.
Until next time (or should I say, Syanara?)